Hero, the word strikes a universal chord making us think of exceptional and spectacular stories or deeds that far surpass any common feat. To the Greeks and many other cultures, the birth of these heroes is important. The birth of a hero sets them, apart often even before birth, from common mortals in Greek mythology. Birth is the first of many major events in our lives, our entrance into the world (Leeming). For heroes, that entrance must be as special as their lives will prove to be. A mundane birth is simply not an option for a hero, whether by the machinations of the gods or prophecies from an oracle, even the events surrounding their conception must be spectacular. From Perseus and Danaë to Theseus and Aethra, the myths surrounding their births have different settings and details but many common threads that bind them together (Leeming).
Aethra, daughter to Pittheus king of Troezen, and wedded to Bellerophon before he was exiled to Caria in disgrace bore Theseus (Leeming). Aethra and Bellerophon did not consummate their wedding vows before his exile (Leeming). Pittheus, saddened by his daughters enforced innocence, gave his daughter to Aegeus king of Athens for the night when Aegeus visited with them after consulting the Delphic Oracle (Willis). Awoken by a dream sent from Athena, Aethra swam the short distance to the island of Sphaeria where she lay with Poseidon before returning to her bed (Leeming). Upon awakening in the morning, Aegeus told Aethra that if she were carrying his child she must raise it in secret in Troezen, telling no one who fathered the babe (Morford, Lenardon and Sham). If it was revealed Aegeus fathered the child it would risk murder by his brother, who wanted the throne (Leeming). Aegeus hid...
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...ry man be a hero but creates an ideal to strive towards. Heroes owe part of their greatness to their parentage and every part of their lives, including their birth, supported the quality of their characters and who they became. They carried traditions, conquered new lands, saved cities and brought change. The story of a hero begins with his birth and ends in a world vastly different than what came before him.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston: Back Bay Books, 1998.
Leeming, David Adams. Mythology The Voyage of the Hero. New York: Harper Collins, 1981.
McLeish, Kenneth. "Heracles." Bloomsbury Dictionary of Myth. London: Bloomsbury Ltd., 2002.
Morford, Mark P.O., Robert J. Lenardon and Michael Sham. Classical Mythology 9th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Willis, Roy. World Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.