Natalie Boykoff Global Lit 1 12/12/10 9a Not All Gifts Are Good Why is there evil in the world? Why are there different seasons in the year? These questions came up a lot in Ancient Greek Mythology. The Greeks were searching for answers and the only way they could come up with an explanation was to create a myth that explained the unexplainable. In Greek Mythology the paradox, a gift can be a curse, consistently appears in the myths. Many people’s greatest strength is also their weakness which can lead to their downfall.
Some curses are justified but most aren’t fair at all. In many cases, in myths, it’s better not to accept a gift because it can turn on you and make everything worse. For example, how Hercules’ strength is his gift, yet that is what kills his family. Another factor in Greek Myths is how women were never the heroes. They were often the ones who were cursed, for example Cassandra, Pandora, and Semele all had wonderful gifts such as the ability to foretell the future, a trait from every god, and the gift of Zeus himself, but they were used against them.
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In Greek Mythology, often times someone who received a gift would have to be careful because it could be turned into a curse and would lead to their downfall. One myth that shows the last message, a gift can be a curse, is the story of Pandora. Pandora was the first woman ever created to punish mankind; she was given a gift from every god making her the “gifted one”. One of Pandora’s traits, curiosity could not keep her away and she decided to open the box Zeus told her was forbidden.
She had let all the terrors and evils into the world, leaving behind only hope. In this story, it is obvious that Pandora’s gift was to be as beautiful, smart, wise and strong as a god, even though she was still a human. She had everything she could want except the knowledge of what was in the box. After she opened the forbidden box, mankind was cursed by women. In Greek Mythology you see a lot of different ways that women are treated but not many are ever heroes or are seen as valuable.
The Greek Goddesses, such as Athena who is the goddess of war and wisdom, are worshipped to a great extent yet the mortal women in these myths are never respected and are poorly treated. Cassandra has a different story that also shows how women were discriminated against in Ancient Greece and how her gift became a curse. Cassandra was well-liked by the god Apollo, who gave her the gift of prophecy. When Cassandra only accepted his gift and not his love, Apollo was furious and cursed her gift so that everyone would ignore her warnings of the future.
At the end of the Trojan War Cassandra saw the danger of the Trojan horse, but no one would listen. Cassandra was than captured as a war prize for Agamemnon. As Agamemnon was traveling back to Greece, she tried to warn him of the danger that would greet him when he got back, but he didn’t listen so she was killed along with Agamemnon. Cassandra had a wonderful gift from Apollo to foretell the future which would have been very helpful in saving herself at the end of the Trojan War.
Apollo wanted to punish her by cursing her gift and making it useless which led to the downfall of the Trojans and eventually killed Cassandra, herself. In Ancient Greece women were treated so much worse than they are treated today and the Greek myths are part of how we know so much of how the Greeks lived. In this story, it shows that Greeks thought women weren’t worth listening to and were even seen as prizes after a war. The role of a woman was never as important as a man’s role. Semele was a young woman whose lover ended up killing her because of what he turned into.
Semele was pregnant but didn’t know the father was Zeus because he never showed his true form. Hera, who was jealous, disguised herself and told Semele that she should ask him to reveal his true identity. Semele then made Zeus swear to grant her one wish and because Zeus was in love with her, he had to say yes. She asked him to reveal his true shape and Zeus could not take back his oath so he had to turn into his god form. At the sight of Zeus, Semele was burnt to a crisp. Thankfully, Zeus was able to save her baby.
Semele had the gift of the most powerful god himself, Zeus. Sadly, because of Hera’s jealousy, Semele was tricked into having her own gift kill herself. All of these stories are both similar and different. First of all, they all have wonderful gifts that are somehow used against them. In each story a god wanted the women’s gifts to be spoiled because of jealousy, fate, or anger. All three stories have many different characters and themes in them but even still, the message is the same for all; a gift can be a curse.
It was common in Greek Mythology that accepting a gift from any of the gods was always a risk because it could turn against them and lead to a downfall of that gifted person. The stories of Pandora, Cassandra, and Semele all support the idea of how they each had a wonderful gift in front of them but because of something they did and even if they hadn’t done anything at all, they were either killed or looked down upon by their own gift. Each story also illustrates how women were viewed in Ancient Greece as a piece of property or just a prize and not viewed as well as women are viewed today.
Women were unable to stand up and speak up for their selves; they had to live as if they were almost invisible. Gods don’t control our fate today and we don’t live our lives based on whatever the gods want us to do. Most of the gifts that are given or received between friends and family in the future won’t become a curse. So how is this even the slightest bit relevant to our lives today? This message can relate to our modern lives too. It explains that the great things we get in life won’t always last and we have to be prepared for the worse.