The last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the last true pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra is described as an extremely beautiful woman who was also intelligent and educated with command over numerous languages. Her romance and military alliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony have inspired numerous art works.
One of the 3 monster-like creatures from Greek mythology, known as the Gorgons, Medusa was a winged woman with a head full of snakes instead of hair and could turn people into stone with her stare. Perseus could kill her, as she was the only mortal Gorgon.
Leonidas I was the king of the Greek city-state of Sparta from 489–480 BCE. He was the son of King Anaxandridas II. He is remembered for his participation in the Second Persian War, especially for his leadership at the Battle of Thermopylae. He died at the battle, gaining legendary status as the leader of the 300 Spartans.
Greek goddess Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was abducted by Hades while collecting flowers in Nysa. She had eaten a pomegranate seed in the underworld, which meant she had to spend one-third of the year with Hades and couldn’t be freed completely. She thus became the queen of the underworld.
The ancient Greek goddess of victory, Nike was the daughter of the giant Pallas and the river Styx. While she is usually depicted as winged, she is wingless when she appears as an attendant of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, or Zeus. The Romans worshipped her as Victoria.
George I of Greece reigned as the king of Greece from 1863 until his murder in 1913. During his reign of nearly 50 years, which is the longest in the history of modern Greece, George helped expand Greece's territory significantly. During his reign, Greece also became increasingly prosperous and attained a popular place on the European stage.
The daughter of Priam and Hecuba, Cassandra was the sister of Greek Trojan hero Hector. Described as stunningly beautiful in Homer’s Iliad, she was raped by Ajax the Lesser during the fall of Troy. Her rape by Ajax later became one of the most depicted scenes in Greek art and sculpture.
The Amazons were a race of warrior women in Greek mythology. One of the tasks for Heracles, or Hercules, was to acquire the girdle of Hippolyte. Penthesilea, Hyppolyte’s sister participated in the Trojan War to fight for Troy but was killed by Achilles. They were also associated with Dionysus.
Philip II of Macedon reigned as the king of Macedon from 359 BC to 336 BC. He is credited with reforming the Ancient Macedonian army, which helped secure several victories on the battlefield. Under his reign, the kingdom of Macedonia conquered and dominated Ancient Greece. He was succeeded by his son, Alexander the Great.
The daughter of Nyx and Hesiod, Eris is the Greek goddess of strife. Eris was the only one not invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, and thus threw a golden apple, “for the most beautiful,” while Paris awarded it to Aphrodite, angering Athena and Hera. Eris thus initiated the Trojan War.
Constantine II of Greece reigned as the King of the Hellenes from 1964 until 1973 when the Greek monarchy was abolished. His reign culminated in the Greek junta and the former King of Greece was forced into exile when the countercoup against the junta failed. Constantine is also a former sailor who won an Olympic gold in the 1960 Olympics.
In Greek mythology, Styx is the river that borders the Earth and the Underworld. Charon ferried dead people’s souls across the Styx to the world of Hades. It is believed that Thetis dipped her son, Achilles, into the Styx, which made him invulnerable, except for his heels, which Thetis held while dipping him.
In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman and was created by Hephaestus on Zeus’s orders. When Epimetheus married Pandora, she opened her jar, which contained all sorts of evils and miseries, and threw them upon the Earth, barring Hope, which couldn’t escape before the lid was shut.
Greek king Pyrrhus, son of prince Aeacides, belonged to the Hellenistic period and ruled Epirus. His destructive losses in the wars that he fought gave rise to the term “Pyrrhic victory.” He fought against Rome in the Pyrrhic War and later died while fighting a street war in Argos.
Seleucus I Nicator was Alexander the Great’s right hand in his fight against Porus in India. He became the Babylonian governor after Alexander’s death and eventually formed the Seleucid empire. His conflict with Chandragupta Maurya ended with a marital alliance, and he secured his ties by sending Megasthenes to Pataliputra.
Ariadne was the daughter of Cretan king Minos and Pasiphae. Her love for Theseus made her help him escape the Labyrinth with a string of jewels. It is believed, she was later rejected by Theseus and either killed herself or married Dionysus, the god of wine.
Artemisia I was the queen of Halicarnassus in the district of Caria and also ruled Kos, Kalymnos, and Nisyros. She joined hands with Xerxes I, the ruler of Persia, during his invasion of Greece. She commanded 5 ships of the invading navy but requested Xerxes to retreat after suffering heavy losses.
Known for his exquisite beauty, Ganymede was a mortal and the son of Tros, the founder and king of Troy. When Zeus fell in love with him, he abducted him as an eagle and made him his cupbearer in Olympus. Cretan accounts state he was taken away by Minos.
Solon was an Athenian lawmaker, statesman, and poet. He is best remembered for his efforts to legislate against the moral, economic, and political decline in archaic Athens. Although his efforts did not prove to be fruitful during his lifetime, Solon is often credited with laying the foundation for Athenian democracy.
Lamia was, according to Greek mythology, a female demon who ate children. Some accounts state she was a queen of Libya and a lover of Zeus. When a jealous Hera kidnapped and killed Lamia’s children with Zeus, Lamia became a child-eating monster. She appears as a seductress in John Keats’s Lamia.
The aegis was a shield forged by the Cyclopes and carried by Athena and Zeus. It was sometimes depicted as a piece of animal skin worn by the gods to protect themselves. Legend has it that the shield was adorned by the head of a Gorgon and also roared during battles.
Paul of Greece served as the King of Greece from 1947 to 1964. Before succeeding to the throne, Paul trained as an army officer and then worked in an aircraft factory. As the king, he helped rebuild Greece's diplomatic and trade links after the end of the Greek Civil War.
Thetis appears in Greek mythology as a sea nymph and one of the 50 daughters of Nereus, the sea god. The gods, fearful that she would bear a son who would be more powerful than his father, gave her away to the mortal king Peleus. She was the mother of Achilles.
George II of Greece was the King of Greece for two terms, from 1922 to 1924 and from 1935 to 1947. He was the eldest son of King Constantine I and his wife, Sophia of Prussia. He reigned during a tumultuous time in Greek history. Upon his death, he was succeeded by his younger brother, Paul.
A sea monster who lived in the Strait of Messina, Charybdis often appeared as a whirlpool and wrecked sailors. While she lived under a rock, Scylla, another monster, lived opposite her, and if a sailor could avoid one, he couldn’t avoid the other. They challenged heroes such as Odysseus and Aeneas.
In Greek mythology, tree nymphs or nature spirits were called dryads. They were at times specifically associated with oak trees and either appeared as exquisitely beautiful women or as human-tree hybrids. They were of different types, such as the hamadryads, which died with the trees they lived in.
Olympias served as the queen of Macedonia from 357 to 316 BC. As the mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias played an important role in Alexander's life. An extremely influential figure during Alexander's reign, Olympias was regarded as the de facto leader of Macedon during her son's conquests. Not surprisingly, Olympias is often depicted in stories that narrate Alexander's life.
The Maenads were the female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine. Since Dionysus was also known as Bacchus in Roman mythology, the Maenads were also called the Bacchantes. They often engaged in frenzied dances, and a group of Maenads even killed musician Orpheus when he refused to entertain them.
The only child of Spartan king Cleomenes I, Gorgo later married Cleomenes’s successor and half-brother, Leonidas, thus becoming the queen of Sparta. She was a child when she warned her father against Aristagoras, who tried his best to bribe Cleomenes to have him as an ally after the Ionian revolt.
Olga Constantinovna of Russia was the oldest daughter of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaievich and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg. She was married to King George I of Greece and was the queen consort of Greece as his wife. In this role, she became involved in social and charitable work and founded hospitals and schools.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes reigned over the Seleucid Empire as a Hellenistic king from 175 BC to 164 BC. The first successful usurper of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus' rise to power set an example for aspiring rulers of subsequent generations. His often eccentric behavior, such as appearing unannounced in the public bath houses, earned him the nickname, The Mad One.
Croesus reigned as the king of Lydia from 560 BC to 546 BC. Renowned for his wealth, Croesus ruled over a prosperous kingdom and is remembered for issuing the first genuine gold coins for general circulation. Croesus' defeat at the hands of Cyrus II of Persia in 546 BC had a great effect on the Greeks.
The Greek goddess of memory, Mnemosyne gave birth to the 9 Muses after Zeus, her nephew, spent 9 nights with her in Pieria. The daughter of Uranus and Gaea, she was a titaness. An Orphic inscription asks dead souls to avoid drinking from Lethe and to drink from Mnemosyne, the pool of memory.
The first wife of Heracles, Megara was also the eldest daughter of Theban king Creon. The king gave her away to Heracles for his help in winning back his kingdom, Thebes, from the Minyans. Hera, who hated Heracles, made him kill Megara and their children in a fit of rage.