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Most Metal Deaths in Greek Mythology

Having just finished friend Alyx J. Shaw's surreal, metal novel Gryphons, I have lately found myself susceptible to certain vicious plot bunnies better suited to Metalocalypse than Greek mythology. However, I think Dethklok would probably approve of this catalog of Most Metal Deaths in Greek Myth:

  • Antinous: Most arrogant and mean-spirited of Penelope's 108 suitors, he's the first to die when Odysseus shoots him in the throat with his great bow.

  • Polydektes: King of Seriphos. Turned to stone by Perseus wielding Medusa's head.

  • Hippolytus: Son of Theseus and Antiope. Cursed by his father, caught in an overturned chariot, and dragged to death by his own team of horses.

  • Tydeus: Father of Diomedes, one of the original Seven Against Thebes.  Died munching on the brains of his opponent, Melanippus.

  • Pelias: Usurper king of Iolkos, uncle of Jason.  Cut to pieces by his own daughters at the suggestion of Medea, who tricked him into thinking being hacked up and thrown into a magic cauldron would magically restore his youth.

  • Pentheus: Torn to pieces by the madwomen of Thebes, including his own mother and aunts.

  • Glauke and Creon: This princess of Thebes and her father burn to death after a jilted, furious Medea sends her a poisoned robe. Why Medea didn't just send a lethal tunic to Jason instead boggles the mind. I guess she thought killing the kids was sufficient.

  • Minos: Scalded to death in a bath by the daughters of King Cocalus, in a trap set by Daedalus.

  • Pandarus: Renowed archer of Troy during the Trojan War.  Killed by Diomedes via a spear through the nose that severs his tongue. Basically, every single battlefield kill in the Iliad belongs on this list.

  • Agamemnon: Getting cut to pieces in your bathtub by the mother of the daughter you sacrificed and her new lover/your creepy, estranged, incestuous cousin is a pretty nasty way to go. Sensing a pattern here with asshole kings getting punctured in bathtubs by angry women? The Greeks knew a good motif when they saw it.

  • Cassandra: Princess of Troy taken as a concubine by Agamemnon.  Foresees her own terrible demise, but walks into the palace of Mycenae to be gruesomely slaughtered, anyway.

  • Clytemnestra: Killed by her own kids to avenge their father's murder.

  • Thyestes' three sons: Killed by their uncle Atreus, chopped into bits, cooked into a stew, and served to their dad. Can we just agree that most of the House of Atreus belongs on this list?

  • Orpheus: Torn to pieces by maenads in Thrace. His severed head lives on as an oracle.

  • Patroklos: Companion of Achilles, killed fighting the Trojans disguised as Achilles.  Racks up the highest body count during this one rampage than any other hero in the Iliad; he kills 27 named Trojans, and 27 unnamed ones. Tries to scale the walls of Troy three times and almost succeeds; it takes Apollo himself to stop this killing machine

  • Herakles: In agony, his skin burning and peeling off, this ultimate Greek badass gets on his own funeral pyre and has his companion Philoctetes light it up.

There are probably some deaths I missed. Also, some deaths that might seem metal aren't really. Theseus getting shoved off a cliff or Achilles getting hit in the heel: not really that metal.

The Legend of Hercules (2014)

Obviously, to judge by this post and the previous one, I enjoyed a sword and sandals weekend.

The Legend of Hercules, which bombed at the box office this past January, was somewhat better than I expected it to be, though still groanworthy in places.

First off, kudos to the writers and set designers for placing the story in its proper milieu: Bronze Age Tiryns.  I was absolutely stoked to see a Tiryns of the Great Walls that looked the way it ought to:

legend-of-hercules-still02
Compared with the real thing:

tiryns2

The megaron is even located in the right place!  That said, however, I want to bitchslap whichever graphic artist rendered the stonework.  It looks so CGI-cheap.  Hell, I've seen better masonry in my favorite video game, Caesar IV.

What made me sit up next: Amphitryon's bitchin' double axe in the climactic fight scene between him and Herakles.  Not so much along the lines of historical accuracy, because the labrys was a ritual object, unlikely to be used in combat, but it's not like this Amphitryon is big on piety, so maybe...

No.  My one thought in this scene was I needed that prop for my badass Queen Clytemnestra costume!

Okay, onto the film itself.

What's with Hollywood's obsession with Roman armies and gladiators?  Especially gladiators.  Gladiatoral combat started as a Roman funeral practice to honor the dead.  Greeks did not have gladiatorial games, though sometimes in the myths two opposing forces sent out champions to stomp the piss out of and kill each other to decide the outcome.  That's featured here at the beginning of the film, where Amphitryon body slams and stabbinates the king of Argos in single combat and takes Argos because, well, it's Tuesday, and that's what asshole kings do on Tuesdays.

(Argos is on a high hill, by the way, so those horses dashing toward the gates at the beginning?  No.  Although I did say to myself: damn, now if those horses were Mycenaean chariots, this scene would be badass awesome).

But gladiator combat such as Herakles (I refuse to use the Latin version of his name) and Sotiris are consigned to?  Absolutely not.  If you want to excuse yourself to use the bathroom or get some more popcorn during these scenes, you're not missing anything, except maybe the sight of Herakles waving around an anemic-looking club.

(By the way, this film could have used Liam McIntyre's Spartacus, because I just wasn't feeling his Sotiris.  It could have used Crixus and Gannicus, too.  And hell, Agron and Saxa and Oenomaus and that Syrian kid with the hots for Agron--Nasir?  Oh, yeah, and throw in some Ashur, too.)

Amphitryon was never this big an asshole in the myth that he is in this movie.  The son-in-law of the king of Tiryns, he accidentally killed his father-in-law, King Elektryon of Mycenae and had to be cleansed of his blood guilt by King Creon of Thebes.  Who among the heroes didn't kill a relative and have to be purified?

Myth-Amphitryon never had the issues with Alkides/Herakles that he has in this movie, probably because he had no idea Alkides wasn't his son; Zeus appeared to Alkmene in the form of her husband the same night she had sex with Amphitryon.  And Alkides himself never had the strained relationship with his brother Iphicles that this film portrays.  Why, Iphicles's son Iolaus was Herakles's charioteer, and maybe something more, according to the legends.  Well, if Iolaus was as hot as Reece Ritchie's take on him in Dwayne Johnson's Hercules, who could blame the big guy?

But if you walk into your bedchamber and your wife is writhing around and moaning with pleasure to the sight of bedsheets fluttering and the sound of a disembodied thunderclap getting it on, and nine months later...well, you just don't mess with that.  You slowly back away from the god getting his rocks off and make sure you're very, very nice to his divine offspring.

Princess Hebe in the myth was not a princess of Crete but a daughter of Zeus and Hera to whom Herakles was married upon his ascension to Olympus.  Yeah, he married his half-sister.  The immortals were apparently okay with incest among themselves, but woe to the stupid, inbreeding mortal who tried to emulate them.

Please, Hollywood, stop with the slow-motion 300-style fight graphics.  It's been done, and overdone.  The sight of Kellan Lutz whipping around lightning and some very fake looking rocks at the ends of his chains didn't thrill me so much as have me wondering how Herakles managed to avoid taking out his own guys.

The ending with Herakles and Hebe cuddling baby prince in connubial bliss?  Was I the only one who kept thinking, enjoy it now, Megara Hebe, before hubby goes nuts and kills you and the kids?

Having said that, what's with Hebe's distinct lack of servants/chaperones, etc?  A princess of Crete gets to ride around unattended in the woods where satyrs and other horndogs might be waiting to rape her?  And by other horndogs, I mean her betrothed's hot but thickheaded brother who keeps making moogly eyes at her.  I'm not sure I could even trust myself alone in the woods with Kellan Lutz.  Please, it's not like I'm interested in his intellect or anything.  If he's going to open his mouth, he might as well put it to good use.

No, I have to say, poor, dear Kellan isn't very charismatic in the role of Herakles.  I mean, it's not like I would drop everything and follow him into battle.  Dwayne Johnson's Herakles, definitely--especially if I could hang out with Mr. McHottiePants Rufus Sewell (Autolycus) and Junior McHottiePants Reece Ritchie (Iolaus).  What?  Keven Sorbo's Hercules, maybe, if I didn't have anything better to do that day.  Kellan Lutz's Herakles?  Oh, hell, no.

Greek Heroes and Hollywood Fail

The current Hercules film featuring Dwayne Johnson is that rarity in Hollywood: a genuinely good movie about Greek mythology, even though it debunks the myth it's set around. January's Legend of Hercules was a dud, as was 2011's Immortals and the Clash of the Titans reboot.

Part of the problem is the difference between the ancient Greek hero and the modern idea of a hero.  Modern-day heroes are ideally selfless and self-effacing in the Judeo-Christian tradition; they're usually ordinary people who perform with class and distinction in extraordinary circumstances.  Athletes, too, are often considered heroes, though they should more properly be defined as role models.  By contrast, the ancient Greek hero was most often the fruit of the union between a mortal and god, or a man favored by a god/goddess who could perform feats beyond the capabilities of ordinary men.  Greek heroes were not modest.  Far from it, they boasted of their deeds as a form of ancient PR.  They killed monsters and took on enemies not out of altruism but to enrich themselves and amass kleos, or personal glory.

Greek heroes also killed and preyed upon those around them.  Herakles was temperamental and violent, and the world's first House Guest From Hell.  Odysseus got all his men killed first because he decided to pillage elsewhere after the Trojan War, and underestimated his would-be victims, and then because in a foolish, boastful mood he antagonized Poseidon.  Theseus deserted the lovely Ariadne after she saved him from a gruesome death in the Labyrinth (and presumably after he had his way with her).  Perseus turned to stone pretty much anyone who pissed him off, including Andromeda's fiance, his great-uncle Proitus, and practically everyone on Seriphos not named Danae or Dictys.  Jason dumped Medea for a younger woman.  Achilles withdrew from the Trojan War to sulk in his tent over a personal insult while thousands of Greeks and his own boyfriend paid the price.  Bellerophon's head grew so large with hubris that he tried to fly to Olympus.

Greek heroes, in short, were assholes who would find themselves on Death Row if they were alive today.

There were also local heroes with hero cults: Agamemnon, Menelaus, Pelops, Orestes, Oedipus (at Athens, not Thebes), Orpheus, Amphiaraus, Diomedes, Erechtheus, etc.

Aside from the fact that most of the Greek heroes were unrepentant assholes, most of them don't have happy endings.  Theseus forgot (or did he?) to switch the sails of his ship from black to white, thereby causing his father Aegeus to commit suicide by throwing himself off the Athenian Acropolis.  Odysseus might have rescued his wife and property from 108 unscrupulous suitors, but had to flee Ithaca shortly thereafter because the families of the suitors wanted revenge.  Agamemnon was a Class A asshole who killed his own daughter, pissed off his wife, and was murdered in his bathtub by said wife.  Orestes killed his mother and went crazy.  Bellerophon was thrown by Pegasus and ended up a blind, crippled hermit.  Herakles was shot by a poisoned arrow and immolated himself to escape the pain. Perseus was killed by a rival kinsman.  Diomedes was driven out by his unfaithful wife and her lover.  Jason's rejected wife Medea killed their kids, and he died when a bulkhead from the rotting Argo fell on him.

So you see what I mean in terms of translating the Greek myths into Hollywood blockbusters.  When it's done, as in the case of Hercules, the hero has to be whitewashed, the authentic part of his ancient Greek heritage retooled to suit modern audiences.  The various versions of the Clash of the Titans films center around the Perseus-Andromeda romance, leaving out the unpleasant business of Perseus impetuously killing anything or anyone other than Medusa and the Kraken, Cetus the sea monster.  Odysseus gets his happy ending with Penelope because the film versions of his legend end short of the last books of The Odyssey.  Theseus has never had a truly faithful version of his story told because neither Hollywood writers nor moviegoers can reconcile his actions after he kills the Minotaur.  Achilles comes across as a whiny, homicidal diva.  Bellerophon is irredeemable.  Jason deserves his fate because, frankly, you do NOT dump a woman like Medea.  Agamemnon is nowadays cast as a power-grabbing villain versus the OTP of Helen and Paris.  Even Menelaus gets the villain/abusive husband treatment, never mind that in Homer he's a perfectly nice guy, if a second-rate warrior.

So while the success of Hercules might encourage more Hollywood films featuring Greek heroes, don't expect them to hew very closely to the legends that spawned them.

Heroes

The ancient Greek definition of a hero does not match the Judeo-Christian definition of a hero.  Generally, in the Western world, heroes should be brave yet humble, inspiring yet self-effacing.  Suggest to an ancient Greek hero that perhaps he shouldn't boast so much, or that he should be a bit more altruistic, he would have laughed in your face--or ripped it off, depending on his mood.

In fact, the heroic culture to which figures like Herakles, Achilles, and Odysseus belonged encouraged such wholesome activities as looting, rape, and boasting.  In the absence of permanent armies and coinage, raiding and pillaging was the equivalent of the defense budget for the Mycenaean world.  The king had to lead his fighting aristocracy against some neighboring kingdom or tribe every once in a while to let them blow off steam and reap some material reward, or he would very quickly find himself a king without followers, a kingdom, and a pulse.  As for boasting, in an age before Facebook and CNN, heroes had to see to their own PR, and hope that some prestigious bard would pick up the story and spin it into Late Bronze Age ratings gold.

It's worth keeping in mind that most of the Greek heroes, if they were alive and committing atrocities working today, would most likely find themselves on Death Row or in a maximum security State Penitentiary.

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