Myths and legends are both receptacles and transmitters of cultural mores, societal traditions, and human knowledge. They have existed with us since the dawn of time and have served a wide variety of purposes including educational. In this post, I share with you this handpicked collection of popular Greek myths which have shaped and continue to shape our perceptions of various phenomena. These myths are available as TED Ed video lessons that you can easily incorporate into your teaching.
The writing, narration, and animation of these myths have been designed by a dedicated team of TED Ed’s teachers, educators, and graphic designers. TED Ed Greek mythology is therefore a playlist of short video animations depicting and impersonating those popular Greek (and non-Greek) myths, stories, and legends that have left an indelible mark on human psyche.
From learning about Psyche (the incarnation of the goddess of love) and her plight with her lovers, the myth of Prometheus and his courageous sacrifice to help gods fight against Titans, the myth of Hercules and his struggle with the curse of madness that befell him, or the love story between the sun god and moon goddess, these and several other Greek myths will enrich students repertoire of imagination, help them contextualize knowledge they read across different subjects, develop their sense of creativity, nurture within them a love for human cultural heritage, and make them cherish and appreciate the things that bond us together as humankind.
To introduce students to popular myths from around the world check out this TED Ed list titled 5 myths from around the world. For popular riddles, check out top TED Ed riddles to share with students.
1. The myth of Zeus’ test – Iseult Gillespie
“It was dark when two mysterious, shrouded figures appeared in a hillside village. The strangers knocked on every door in town, asking for food and shelter. But, again and again, they were turned away. Soon, there was just one door left: that of a small, thatched shack. Would the owners help the visitors — or spurn them? Iseult Gillespie shares the myth of Baucis and Philemon.”
2. The myth of Cupid and Psyche – Brendan Pelsue
“Psyche was born so beautiful that she was worshipped as a new incarnation of Venus, the goddess of love. But human lovers were too intimidated to approach her, and Apollo recommended her father abandon her on a crag where she would marry “a cruel and savage, serpent-like winged evil.” But Psyche’s story ended up being much more interesting. Brendan Pelsue shares the myth of Cupid and Psyche.”
3. The myth of Prometheus – Iseult Gillespie
“Before the creation of humanity, the Greek gods won a great battle against a race of giants called the Titans. Most Titans were destroyed or driven to the eternal hell of Tartarus. But the Titan Prometheus, whose name means foresight, persuaded his brother Epimetheus to fight with him on the side of the Gods. Iseult Gillespie shares the myth of Prometheus.”
4. The myth of Arachne – Iseult Gillespie
“From sailors who were turned into pigs, nymphs that sprouted into trees, and a gaze that converted the beholder to stone, Greek mythology brims with shape-shifters. The powerful Gods usually changed their own forms at will – but for mortals, the mutations were often unwanted. Iseult Gillespie shares how one such unnerving transformation befell the spinner Arachne”.
5. The myth of Thor’s journey to the land of giants – Scott A. Mellor
“Thor – son of Odin, god of thunder, and protector of mankind – struggled mightily against his greatest challenge yet: opening a bag of food. How had the mighty god fallen so far? Scott Mellor tells the myth of Thor’s journey to Utgard.”
6. The myth of Icarus and Daedalus – Amy Adkins
“In mythological ancient Greece, Icarus flew above Crete on wings made from wax and feathers, defying the laws of man and nature. To witnesses on the ground, he looked like a god, and he felt like one too. But, in his society, the line that separated god from man was absolute, and the punishment for mortals who attempted to cross it was severe. Amy Adkins explains the myth of Icarus and Daedalus. “
7. The tragic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice – Brendan Pelsue
“The marriage of Orpheus, the greatest of all poets and musicians, to Eurydice, a wood nymph, was heralded as the perfect union. Anyone could tell the couple was deeply in love. So when their wedding ceremony ended in Eurydice’s untimely death, Orpheus had no choice but to venture into the underworld to try to reclaim his lost love. Brendan Pelsue shares the tragic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.”
8. The myth of Sisyphus – Alex Gendler
“Sisyphus was both a clever ruler who made his city prosperous, and a devious tyrant who seduced his niece and killed visitors to show off his power. While his violation of the sacred hospitality tradition greatly angered the gods, it was Sisyphus’ reckless confidence that proved to be his downfall — resulting in Zeus condemning him for all eternity. Alex Gendler shares the myth of Sisyphus. “
9. The myth of Hercules: 12 labors in 8-bits – Alex Gendler
“Hercules — son of Zeus and champion of humankind — stricken with a temporary curse of madness, has just committed the most unspeakable crime imaginable. Seeking to atone for the deaths of his family, Hercules must complete twelve impossible tasks that pit him against invincible monsters and unfathomable forces. Alex Gendler retells this epic series of adventures.”
10. The Greek myth of Talos, the first robot – Adrienne Mayor
“Hephaestus, god of technology, was hard at work on his most ingenious invention yet. He was creating a new defense system for King Minos, who wanted fewer intruders on his island kingdom of Crete. But mortal guards and ordinary weapons wouldn’t suffice, so the visionary god devised an indomitable new defender. Adrienna Mayor dives into the myth of Talos: the first robot. “
11. The tragic myth of the Sun God’s son – Iseult Gillespie
“Every morning, Helios unleashed his golden chariot, and set out across the sky. As the Sun God transformed dawn into day, he thought of his son, Phaethon, below. To prove to Phaethon that he was truly his father, Helios decided to grant him anything he wanted. Unfortunately, what Phaethon wanted was to drive Helios’ chariot for a day. Iseult Gillespie shares the tragic myth of the charioteer.”
12. The myth of Hades and Persephone – Iseult Gillespie
“One day, Persephone was frolicking in a meadow with the nymph, Cyane. As they admired a flower, they noticed it tremble in the ground. Suddenly, the earth split, and a terrifying figure arose. It was Hades, god of the underworld. He wrenched Persephone from Cyane, dragged her into his inky chariot, and blasted back through the earth. Iseult Gillespie shares the myth of the goddess of spring.”
13. The myth of the moon goddess – Cynthia Fay Davis
“The sun god was in love with the moon goddess, Ix Chel. But the goddess’ grandfather was very possessive, and would not let the sun god anywhere near his beloved granddaughter. Desperate to be together, they escaped and were ready to light up the sky with their powerful rays. Unfortunately, their love story doesn’t end happily ever after. Cynthia Fay Davis details the Maya myth of Ix Chel. “
14. The myth of Narcissus and Echo – Iseult Gillespie
“One day, Echo was drifting through the woods and fell in love with a handsome young hunter named Narcissus. Cursed by Hera to only repeat the last words spoken by another, Echo was unable to converse with him and was soon cruelly rejected. Heartbroken, she died. Seeing this, the goddess Nemesis decided it was time for retribution. Iseult Gillespie details the myth of Narcissus’s punishment.”