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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Irene of Athens ruled over the Eastern Roman Empire between 797 and 802. She started her political career by becoming the empress consort to Emperor Leo IV. She then served as regent during her son Constantine VI's rule before co-ruling along with him. In 797, she organized a conspiracy to gouge out her son's eyes to become the sole ruler.
Considered a Romanian hero, Helen of Greece and Denmark is remembered for her selfless act of saving Romanian Jews during World War II. The daughter of Greek king Constantine I, Helen served as the queen mother of Romania during the rule of her son, King Michael I.