When it comes to teaching our children the subject of history, fact disguised as literary fiction is an easy way to feed even the most bored child the important morsels of our bygone times. But when it comes to Hellenic mythology, can myth and legend, fairy tales and fantasy, be just as informative as historical facts?

From astronomy to chemistry, mathematics to science, so much of our education derives from the teachings of Ancient Hellas. Literal references to Hellenic mythology are everywhere from terms like ‘the Midas touch’, to ‘Achilles’ heel’. Without a basic knowledge of Hellenic mythology, these phrases would be meaningless.

For young children, Hellenic mythology is a vital way to teach them about humanity, virtues and the lifelong dichotomy of ‘good versus evil’. In more mature literature, the lines between good and evil become blurred, and different interpretations pave the way for confusion and double meanings. Stripped back, the tales of Hercules, King Midas, Jason and the Argonauts, Theseus and the Minotaur, and others, have very clear depictions of who is good and who is evil. Emotions like jealousy and anger, which can be difficult to explain to innocent minds, are addressed time and time again in Hellenic  mythology. 

Through the behavior of the characters, children are able to identify these emotions. Virtues such as wisdom, courage and a sense of right and wrong are also easily identifiable in the stories. Courage in the face of adversity, hope when all seems lost, and love in a world of hate are at the moral core of many of the Greek myths.

Greek mythology also has no barriers to equality amongst men and women. Six of the twelve Olympian Gods are men and six are women. While it is true that most of the tales feature men as the heroes, the women are portrayed as highly intelligent, skilled and cunning. It is Ariadne who helps Theseus find his way in the labyrinth of the minotaur, and the Witch-Maiden Medea saves Jason’s life on several occasions as well as helping him to retrieve the Golden Fleece. Many of the female characters are courageous warriors and huntresses, and the Goddess Athena herself embodies one of the most important of the cardinal virtues: wisdom.

Compelling and insightful, Greek mythology is not just a maze of fable and fiction. It addresses universal issues that we may all face in life, and allows for critical and philosophical thought regarding situations that we might otherwise find too complex to explain to young minds.