It’s a mystery why ancient Greeks worshipped their gods, because their gods were all complete dickheads. They could — and did! — steal, rape, torture, or kill pretty much anyone at any time. Of course, the kings and heroes of ancient Greece was also often terrible people, so maybe the gods were just par for the course. Here are the 13 biggest assholes in Greek myths — because a list of all the assholes would have taken forever.
Where to start with this guy? Zeus was of course the guy in charge of the gods and the universe. Everyone, both mortal and immortal, called him father — both to represent his status and because in ancient Greece there was a 30% chance that Zeus actually sired you. Zeus cheated on his wife Hera constantly, and the sex didn’t need to be consensual — once he decided to fuck a woman, he was going to fuck her, and if he had to be a swan, a bull or a golden shower of light to do it, he didn’t care. Like all the gods, Zeus could hold a grudge, so if you pissed him off once, you were completely screwed, as Prometheus found out when he gave humanity fire. Zeus chained him to a rock and had an eagle eat Prometheus’ liver every day for eternity — just for being nice to us.
To be fair, Zeus had a pretty fucked up childhood. After hearing a prophecy that one of his children would overthrow him, his dad Cronus the Titan ate all of his children — Zeus only escaped because his mom fed Cronus a rock in baby clothes, which he assumed was his kid. It takes a special kind of asshole to not just kill his own kids, but eat them (let alone be dumb enough to mistake a baby for a rock). But Cronus didn’t do things by half measures — he didn’t just overthrow his own dad, Uranus, but he castrated him, too.
Cronus’ dad wasn’t really any better a father, honestly. Uranus was essentially the sky, who made love with Gaia, the Earth — who, according to some versions of the myth, was his mother, by the way. Gaia gave birth to the Titans and a few humongous monsters; Uranus imprisoned the monsters in Tartarus, deep inside his mom, where they hurt the hell out of her (no pun), causing her to conspire with Chronus to kill and castrate Uranus (Gaia was very firm about the castrating part). Father’s Day must have been super-awkward in ancient Greece.
I didn’t mentioned the worst part about Zeus’ constant seduction and/or sexual assault of every pretty girl in Greece — his wife Hera would inevitably torture the the women, too. Like some wives, Hera blamed the women for their husband’s infidelity (admittedly, it was kind of tough to punish the king of the universe for anything), even if they had tried to refuse Zeus’ amorous advances. Hera turned them into monsters, banned them from giving birth on land, tricked Zeus into murdering them and more — any children resulting were not spared either, as Hercules learned when Hera tried to kill him for his entire life, starting when he was a baby. Of course, she wasn’t much better with her own kids; when she gave birth to the ugly Hephaestus, she threw the baby off a mountain.
Hades was the lord of the underworld and death, but he was generally a pretty chill guy. That is, until he saw Persephone, the daughter of the goddess Demeter. Like so many of the male gods, Pluto believed "why ask a woman on a date when you can just abduct her against her will," and he kidnapped her to be his bride. Not only was this a dick move to Demeter and her daughter, it was a dick move to all of humanity — Demeter was the goddess of the harvest, and she was so upset at her daughter’s disappearance that she forbade the world from producing any food. Zeus eventually forced Hades to give Persephone back to her mom, because everybody was starving to death — but not before he tricked his bride into eating some pomegranate seeds, ensuring she spent three months a year with him in the underworld.
Even the wisest and kindest could be kind of a dick sometimes. Athena was generally the most levelheaded of all the gods, but even she had a temper. When Poseidon raped the beautiful priestess Medusa in one of Athena’s temples, the goddess was so pissed off that Medusa had somehow not managed to fend off the advances of the god of the sea she turned her into a monster with snakes for hair, and then she later helped Perseus kill Medusa. Athena was one of the goddesses who helped start the Trojan war, because she was pissed off when Paris awarded Aphrodite first prize in an impromptu goddess beauty contest. And when she heard about a woman named Arachne, who boasted she was better at weaving than the goddess herself, she challenged the mortal and lost… and was so mad she turned Arcahne into a spider.
You didn’t have to be a god to be an asshole in ancient Greece (but it sure helped). Even the “heroes” managed to be pretty unheroic sometimes, especially Jason, of “And the Argonauts” fame. The story goes that he was supposed inherit Thessaly, but his uncle Pelias killed the king; when Jason arrived, Pelias sent him to go fetch the Golden Fleece to prove his claim to the throne. While this was an adventure, it was also a heist, because somebody already owned the Fleece, namely King Aeetes. Jason didn’t just steal the fleece, he stole Aeetes’ daughter Medea, whom Jason had promised to marry for helping him get it. Once Jason was back in Thessaly and one the throne, he kicked Medea to the curb — as well as the children she’d given him — and married some chick from Cornith instead. This did not go well for Jason.
Why did this not go well for Jason? Because Medea was CRAZY. She betrayed her father and helped Jason steal the Fleece for love, that’s fine. But she helped Jason to escape by distracting her dad by murdering her own brother, cutting him into pieces because she knew her dad would need to find them all to give his son a proper burial. And when she and Jason made it back to Thessaly, she used her magic to trick King Pelias’ daughters into thinking they could make their dad young again by cutting him into pieces and making soup out of him. That’s fucked up. But it — and Medea — gets worse; when Jason abandoned her, Medea gave his new bride a dress that set her on fire when she put it on, then she killed the kids she had with Jason.
Antaeus was a more traditional asshole. The son of Poseidon and his grandmother Gaia, the half-giant Antaeus literally just hung out by a road and killed anyone stupid enough to agree to fight him in a wrestling match. He took all their skulls with the intent of turning them into the world’s creepiest shrine to his dad. Thanks to his mother, Antaeus was undefeatable whenever he was touching the ground. He just killed a lot of travelers until Hercules wandered by, picked him up, and crushed him to death.
First of all, King Minos of Crete had the labyrinth built, and stuffed it with the murderous minotaur. No one has ever built a giant maze and put a monster in it with good intentions. He imprisoned the master builder Daedelus to make it, which wasn’t nice either. Minos tricked Scylla, the daughter of the king of Megara, into helping kill her father — and then afterwards, he decided to drag her behind a boat until she drowned for the crime he talked her into committing. But the best-known story of Minos’ assholery is when he sent his son Androgenous to fight in the Pan-Athenaeic Games, where he won. The King of Athens got pissed, and tricked the kid to fighting a bull, which killed him. Obviously, Minos was shitty to even to people he liked, so he kicked the hell out of Athens and demanded a sacrifice of seven completely innocent Athenian boys and girls every nine years to throw in the labyrinth. When Poseidon sent him a great white bull out iof the sea, Minos promised to sacrifice it to the god, but then switched it out — so Poseidon “punished” Minos by making his wife fall in love with the bull. Because Poseidon was also an asshole.
When Ixion married Dia, he didn’t pay the bride price, the traditional gift grooms gave to their fathers-in-law. Dia’s dad Deioneus was rightly offended at this, and in retaliation — not so rightly — stole a few of Ixion’s horses. Ixion’s response: Pushing his father-in-law into a bed of burning hot coals, murdering him instantly. But it gets worse! Ixion went insane, as the first (mortal) kinslayer in Greek mythology. Somehow, Zeus actually felt bad for the guy, and brought him to Mount Olympus where he immediately started trying to have sex with Zeus’ wife Hera. Zeus no longer felt bad for the guy. After creating a cloud that looked like Hera — which Ixion did fuck (his semen falling down the mountain and creating the centaurs, because why not) thus proving his guilt, Zeus strapped him to a burning wheel of fire in Hades for the rest of eternity.
Tantalus was hosting a barbecue for the gods when he decided it was be super-funny to murder his own son, cook him, and then secretly feed him to his divine guests. This did not fool the gods — well, it didn’t fool anyone besides Demeter, who was so busy mourning her recently kidnapped daughter she accidentally ate a piece of shoulder. Zeus immediately sent Tantalus to Hades, where he was placed in a knee-deep pool with an apple tree right overhead. It sounds all right until you remember that Tantalus was cursed with an eternal hunger and thirst, and the water and the apples shrank away from him, so he could never drink or eat. The gods resurrected the boy, along with a snazzy new ivory shoulder, and took him to Olympus. And then at some point, Zeus was still so mad as Tantalus he threw the kid off the mountain, because Zeus is an asshole.
Sisyphus was a king who had a bad habit of murdering his guests, which was a major no-no back in ancient Greece (admittedly, it’s still kind of frowned upon). But what really pissed off the gods is how clever Sisyphus was. When he was first taken to Hades to be punished for his sins, he managed to trick Death into the chains intended for him, and then he escaped, while no one on earth died. And then when he was caught, he had his wife toss his naked body into the town square instead of giving it a proper burial; he complained about this to Persephone, and asked if he could go topside to scold his wife. Persephone said yes, and Sisyphus escaped again. Eventually he was caught and chained in hell, where he was forced to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity.