The Greek myths were written or narrated thousands of years ago, but many of these stories have filtered down into today’s action movies and video games. Even Nike® trainers get their name from the mythical winged goddess of victory, and you’ll probably spot her image on the side of your Greek souvenir vase too.
In the steps of Odysseus
You can still discover some of the locations from Homer’s famous Odyssey today. Ithaca, Odysseus’ home, is just off the coast of modern Greece. Of course it took Odysseus 10 years to reach this destination – via Malta and possibly modern day Sicily – following the Trojan war. Part of the fun in using the Greek myths as your holiday guide is that no-one can actually pinpoint where an event actually took place, or whether it even happened at all.
But following in the steps of this erratic sailor gives you an excuse to stop by at some amazing destinations and enjoy plenty of fun in the sun. Just make sure you don’t encounter a modern day magician who wants to capture you and turn you into a pig – it took Odysseus a year to escape that particular spell.
Crete – the birthplace of Zeus
Zeus was the capo di tutti capi of his time, the king of the gods – now there’s a job title to envy. Zeus was born on Crete but mythologists can’t even agree on which of the two caves he might have been born in. Mount Ida, Crete’s highest mountain, in the centre of the island might be your safest bet, though you are guaranteed an intense work out climbing to the summit.
Palaces are cool
Royal palaces are part and parcel of every myth and adventure story, and Crete has an awesome palace at Knossos. If you’re staying in Malia it’s only a 30-minute drive away from this stunning location. Knossos was said to be the home of king Minos and his son, the fantasy creature, the Minotaur – half bull, half man – that roamed around the palace’s labyrinth and was eventually killed by Theseus.
Look out for wall paintings and pottery as well as other finds when you visit the palace, but sadly there is no trace of the labyrinth.
Let there be love in Cyprus
Love invigorates the soul and captures the heart. If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, visit Cyprus where – as legend has it – she rose from the waters of Paphos.
There’s still a rock dedicated to this rather wonderful goddess on the island today, and every other village claims to have some sort of connection to her. Though different storytellers tell varying accounts of her birth, as far as Cyprus is concerned this is where the goddess of love came to life.
Head to Paphos for the annual Aphrodite festival, and as 2017 will designate this town as a European Capital of Culture, you can expect some spectacular celebrations.
An island named after a nymph
The stunning island of Rhodes is actually named after a nymph from ancient mythology, Rhode, who was the daughter of Poseidon. Rhodes has plenty to satisfy the myth-seeker.
Helios, the god of the sun, was Rhode’s husband and is said to be responsible for the creation of the island of Rhodes. The ancient Colossus of Rhodes, at 30 metres tall, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was built in honour of Helios – though the statue collapsed following an earthquake in 226 BC.
Atlantis – Santorini
You don’t really need an excuse to visit the magical island of Santorini. Many claim that Santorini is the mythical Atlantis, others believe that it was connected to the island of Anaphe visited by Jason of Argonauts fame.
The latter theory suggests the island appeared as a result of divine magic from the gods to help Jason’s helmsman, Euphemus, hide from the angry father of his girlfriend. Santorini was born as a result of a volcanic eruption 3,600 years ago and stories relating to its creation vary widely. Poseidon, the god of the sea, also has connections to Santorini.
In fact, everywhere you travel around the Greek islands and other destinations in the southern Mediterranean, you’re sure to bump into myths and legends about this region. You’ll probably have a drink at Aphrodite’s bar, or savour a meal at a Zeus’ taverna. It doesn’t matter whether the myths have any basis in fact – holidays are supposed to be magical, so just go with the flow.