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Mythology: Edith Hamilton Archetypes

Categories: MythologyTrojan War

In the myth of Dionysus there isn’t exactly a conflict between two sides of people battling for good or evil, its more as a battle between the two sides of Dionysus’ inner self. Unlike most examples of good versus evil, there isn’t a triumphant side. Just the personality switches between Dionysus being the joy-god or the heartless, savage, brutal-god. The reason for this change is due to the fact that he is the vine god; Wine is bad as well as good.

He’d bring up peoples hopes and make them believe that they were capable of anything, but once they were sober again or they became drunk, you could see his dark side begin to arise. The hopefulness would fade and then you could see the people transition into darkness.

Symbolic Archetype: Water versus Desert
In the story of Dionysus, there’s a part where he comes across a crew from a pirate ship in Greece by the sea.

The sailors tried to capture him and saw him as a mortal, rather than the son of a god. In the end, Dionysus turned into a lion and turned all but one of the sailors into dolphins and sent them into the ocean. At this point in the story it shows the first glimpse at Dionysus’ ruthless side, almost as if they’re using this scene in the book at the birth of his “second side”, setting up the second view point of Dionysus’ personality for future conflicts.

Character Archetype: The Outcast
In the myth, Dionysus was born in Thebes, he was the son of Zeus and Theban princess Semele- he was the only god whose parents were not both immortal.

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Before Dionysus’ birth he was snatched from his mother and hidden by Zeus’ side, almost as if he was ashamed by Dionysus. Dionysus was passed from person to person, his mother, Zeus, Hermes, and then to the nymphs of Nysa to be raised. As he became a man, Dionysus became a wanderer, wandering far to weird and strange places. Throughout his life he was often shunned because many didn’t see him to be as he was- a god. They treated him as a lesser being and in the majority of the myth he is set on proving that he is mighty and punishing those who face him with disbelief.

Part Two: Stories of Love and Adventure
Chosen Myth: Cupid and Psyche

Situational Archetype: The Task
Psyche was repeatedly put through seemingly impossible tests by Venus, such as sorting seeds, fetching golden wool, and going to the underworld to ask Proserpine for a box of her beauty. Venus put her through these unruly tasks in hopes to keep Psyche away from her son. But on the other hand, Psyche only completed these tasks due to the fact that she thought it would bring her to her love, Cupid. In the end, Cupid and Psyches love prevailed and Psyches ultimate goal of being with her husband was completed.

Symbolic Archetype: Light versus Darkness
The battle between light versus darkness can be seen when Psyche and Cupid are together in the cave with each other. Although to Cupid the darkness represented trust and faithfulness in his and Psyches relationship, to Psyche the darkness represented the unknown and fear of her husband being a serpent rather than the son of Venus. When Psyche was about to attack Cupid in the cave, she brought the factor of light into their relationship with the use of the candle. To Psyche, this use of light “confirmed her love” in the relationship, but also brought along the realization that she had upset Cupid with her lack of trust in the relationship. So all in all the battle of light versus darkness was really a battle of trust.

Character Archetype: The Star-Crossed Lovers
Unlike the play, Romeo and Juliet, Psyche and Cupid’s love affair didn’t end in tragedy, like the beginning of the myth would lead you to believe. In the myth, Venus’ followers began to shrink and more of the attention from her followers were focused upon Psyche because she was more beautiful than Venus. Venus ordered her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with pretty much a scumbag, but instead Cupid fell in love it Psyche. When they were together Cupid hid himself from Psyche because he knew the repercussions that their love could have. They were two people destined to not be together with every obstacle in their way, but in the end they made it work.

Part Three: The Great Heroes before the Trojan War
Chosen Myth: Perseus

Situational Archetype: Supernatural Intervention
On Perseus’ journey for Medusa’s head it was very much expected that he would fail and die, which was Polydectes goal. But in the end he prevailed and completed the mission, due to the fact that he had the luck and support of the Gods on his side. Throughout his voyage he was aided by the support of Hermes and Athena. This can be seen in Perseus’ use of Athena’s shield and Hermes’ sword that he used to attack Medusa. Also, without the help of Hermes, Perseus wouldn’t have been able to find the nymphs of the North, whose gifts (winged sandals, magic wallet, and an invisible cap) also aided him in the defeat of Medusa.

Symbolic Archetype: The Whirlpool
In the beginning of the myth, Perseus’ grandfather, King Acrisius, was told by a priestess that his daughter would have a son and that her son would kill him. So Acrisius goes out of his way to rid himself of his daughter. He locks her in a castle in hopes that she won’t come across other people and become pregnant. Once he finds out that his daughter does have a son, Perseus, he locks them both into a chest and throws them into the sea. And even though King Acrisius goes through all of this to avoid his death, he learns that fate is unavoidable. In the end Perseus still kills him but rather on accident, not like Acrisius had imagined. So no matter what you do to avoid fate, it’ll happen.

Character Archetype: The hero/heroine
Throughout Perseus’ journey for Medusa’s head he experienced fluctuations in his motives for the head. He didn’t set himself onto the path of killing Medusa to be a hero, he did it in hopes of making Polydectes happy and giving his mother a nice engagement gift. But when he came back to the island after the mission and realized that it was in shambles, he used the gifts he got from the gods and Medusa’s head to bring happiness to the island. By turning Polydectes and his followers into stone he freed the people and rid them of their tyrant leader. Thus becoming the hero to the islanders.

Part Four: The Heroes of the Trojan War
Chosen Myth: The Trojan war

Situational Archetype: The Unhealable Wound
In the Trojan War the unhelable wound represents both physical and psychological wounds. The first was the start of all of the rest, the kidnapping of Helen from Menelaus, her father, by Aphrodite and Paris. The loss of his daughter brought an unbelievable amount of pain onto the King, driving him to drastic measures, such as war. Also, this archetype can be seen in the sacrificing of Iphigenia, the eldest daughter of the Commander in Chief, Agamemnon. By having to kill his own beloved daughter it brought grief upon him that would linger throughout the war. When the Greek ships reached the rivers of Troy there was a man named Protesilaus, he was the first man to leap ashore, and also the first man to die.

His wife, Laodamia, was so sickened with sadness at the loss of her husband that she killed herself just so she could go to the underworld with him; Showing that she felt that she could never be happy without her husband. Another example is when the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon sparked over Agamemnon’s prize of honor, Chryseis. Agamemnon’s prize of honor had to be returned and then he ordered his men to steal Briseis, Achilles’ prize of honor. Achilles became so upset over the turning of his own men that he spent his days in his tent wrapped in sorrow. Throughout this myth there were countless of other examples of unhelable wounds like the loss of Hector, the relationships between the gods, the loss of Patroclus, and the abuse of Hectors dead body. Symbolic Archetype: Haven versus Wilderness

This archetype can be seen in the comparison of the war versus taking refuge in the tents. You’d think after Achilles’ prize of honor taken away from him and he stayed back at camp rather than fighting in the war that his haven would be the tents and the wilderness would be the war. But it was just the opposite of that. When Achilles was in the tents he was consumed with despair. When he finally got vengeance for Patroclus death, he was himself once again. Bringing him back into battle made him whole again and brought balance back to the war. Character Archetype: The Damsel in Distress

The Trojan War was centered around two sides, the Greeks and the Trojans, fighting over one person- Helen. Helen was the fairest woman in the world, and Paris was promised her as his wife by Aphrodite. The problem with that being that the role of Helen’s husband was already being championed off by her father, Menelaus, to powerful families in the area. Paris was then responsible for kidnapping Helen, thus causing Menelaus to call the Greeks together and start a war with the Trojans to save the damsel in distress, his daughter. In the view of Menelaus, the heroes were the Greeks fighting to save his daughter and the villains were the Trojans.

Part Five: The Great Families of Mythology
Chosen Myth: The Royal House of Thebes

Situational Archetype: The Fall
In the start of the city of Thebes, it was blessed with prosperity and wisdom by the gods, but by its “end” it had experienced some of the worst hardships known to man. When Cadmus and Harmonia, the founders of Thebes, fled from the city to Illyria, the couple was turned into serpents by the gods. They were turned due to their fate, not because of punishment. Their fate was proof of that the innocent suffered as much as the guilty. They turned from the rulers of a great city into serpents. This archetype is also seen in the sub story of Oedipus. In the beginning Oedipus kills the Sphinx and is then made the King of Thebes. In the end, after the truth is revealed about his life, he begins a transition from light to darkness. He becomes blind and then his uncle/brother in law and his sons expel him from the city and he lives the rest of his life in penalty for crimes he wasn’t aware he was committing.

Symbolic Archetype: Numbers
In the House of Thebes you repeatedly see the use of numbers in the work, such as the numbers five and seven. The number seven is seen in the amount of champions that attack the gates and the seven champions that protect it. The number seven represents the completion of the cycle, and throughout the myth the importance of the seven is burying the seven dead warrior’s bodies. By burying their bodies it brings peace to the community and restores the balance.

Character Archetype: Young person from the provinces
The hero, Oedipus, was separated from his family as an infant because an oracle had told his father that someday his son would kill him. He was raised away from Thebes, by King Polybus in Corinth. As an adult Oedipus returned to Thebes and overnight became their hero. In Thebes there was an issue with a Sphinx, and for the Sphinx to surrender and kill herself a riddle had to be solved. Seeing the riddle in a new light, Oedipus solved the riddle and freed the people of Thebes from the Sphinx. They made Oedipus their king and for quite some time he ruled the area peacefully.

Part Six: The Less Important Myths
Chosen Myth: Midas- And Others

Situational Archetype: The Initiation
In the myth about Pomona, all she cares about are her fruits and orchids. Rather than her coming to a realization about her problems, she came to a realization about love. No matter the man, she was never interested in them because she felt that her plants were enough. She encountered the epiphany when Vertumnus finally revealed his true identity after kissing her and telling her how much he loved her. Once she saw him in the light of who he really was she saw her calling, to be with him and garden together.

Symbolic Archetype: The Crossroads
The Danaids were the daughters of Danaus, and in the myth his fifty daughters were being forced to marry their 50 cousins, Danaus’ brother, Aegyptus’, fifty sons. Throughout the myth they sisters were trying to avoid marrying their cousins, but at some point the wedding between them arrived. The crossroads, symbolizes their fathers decision to tell the girls to kill their husbands after they got married. Because of this decision all but one of his daughters were sentenced to life in hell. And Danaus punished the one daughter who didn’t follow his orders. Because of this one choice the daughters fate was changed forever.

Character Archetype: The Temptress
Usually when you think of a temptress you imagine a hero falling for a girl, and then the girl is the source of his wrong doings, almost as if she urged him to do it. But in this case, it was a little different. Glaucus was a fisherman who was then turned intoa sea-god. Glaucus was in love with a nymph, Scylla. He did everything in his power to try and make her love him. But one day, he went to Circe for a love potion in hopes that it’d make the wonderful Scylla fall for him. But instead, Circe fell in love with him and used a vile of potion to turn Scylla into a monster. So because of Scylla’s beauty and Glaucus’ love for her, his downfall was the jealousy of others centered around love. It’s almost as if you combined Circe and Scylla’s characters into one and it’d form the perfect temptress.

Part Seven: The Mythology of Norsemen
Chosen Myth: The Stories of Signy and Sigurd

Situational Archetype: The Quest
Brynhild was a Valkyrie that was punished and put to sleep until some man shall crawl through the flaming fire and awake her. Brynhild wanted a man that was brave to rescue her and the man responsible for that was Sigurd, the son of Sigmund. He completes the journey of having to make his way through the flames with his horse. Once he reaches his end goal, awakening Brynhild, she gives herself to him because he had proved his worthiness and bravery through awakening her.

Symbolic Archetype: Fire versus ice
In the myth, fire is a reoccurring element. It first shows up when Signy’s children and husband are being burned and she allows herself to burn to death. It pops up again Brinhild’s couch is surrounded with fire, a task for Sigurd to save her from. And again when Gudrun kills herself and prays to be laid on her husbands funeral pyre. So as you can see, fire is very much linked to life, rebirth, and death. Rebirth and death in the first scenario, birth of opportunities and love in the second, and death in the third.

Character Archetype: Hunting Group of Companions
Signy made such an effort to make sure she remained close to her family….extremely close. She had a child with her brother, Sinfiotli. The three of them were most often very close together, a close knit family. Through their plans of revenge to avenge the dead they completed the deeds with one another. They were very support of one another and loving.

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Mythology: Edith Hamilton Archetypes. (2016, May 11). Retrieved from

Mythology: Edith Hamilton Archetypes
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