Greek MythologyMythology

5 Terrible Parents in Greek Mythology

Parents can be awful. And even the most loving ones can be mean sometimes. But parents in mythology are on a whole other level, often murdering, selling, or cooking their children. Greek mythology has its fair share of this, with kids being abducted, cooked, eaten, or just outright killed in revenge. Some people really just shouldn’t be parents. Here are 5 terrible parents in Greek mythology.

Table of Contents

1. Tantalus

Tantalus, RP-P-1999-113

Tantalus killed his son, Pelops, and served him to the gods at a banquet. The gods knew, and none of them touched the meal, except for Demeter who was distraught over the loss of Persephone and accidently ate a bit of shoulder. Tantalus was summarily punished by being sentenced to Tartarus to thirst and hunger forever, with food and water always juuuuust out of reach. The story has a semi-happy ending though. Zeus ordered Pelops to be resurrected.

2. Lycaon

Jan Cossiers - Júpiter y Licaón

For some reason, cooking and serving one’s children to the gods is a semi-recurring theme. Lycaon did the same thing. There are a couple of different versions of the story, mostly differing in who was cooked and killed, but the basic structure is that Lycaon killed one of his sons and tried to feed him to Zeus at a banquet to test his omnipotence. Spoiler: Zeus knew. Zeus responded by killing the rest of him sons, turning Lycoan into a wolf, and resurrecting the offered son.

3. Medea

Medea-Sandys

Medea was as much of a victim as anyone. Her mind was warped and twisted by the gods to help Jason on his quest, but that doesn’t excuse her at all for what she did to her children. When Jason decided that it would be a good idea to openly reject the woman who chopped her brother into pieces and threw them into the ocean to distract her father from persuing him in favor of a local princess, Medea was…mildly miffed. In addition to killing the bride with a potion-soaked garmet, she also killed the children she had with Jason and then escaped to Athens in a chariot drawn by dragons.

4. Zeus

Zeus Otricoli Pio-Clementino Inv257

Zeus was a lot of things. And he did many, many unforgivable things. But as parents go, he was usually pretty…”alright”. Mostly just distant. Except with Persephone. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Zeus gave Hades permission to simply abduct Persephone without warning. So he did. She was snatched from a field and taken to the underworld where she was basically tricked into being stuck there for a portion of the year. Before Demeter was able to find out what happened, her grief over this nearly destroyed the world.

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