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Mors

(Death) Roman The goddess or personification of death. Little is known about this goddess, and scholars suspect that she was more an idea than a personality. The Greek equivalent was the god Thanatos....

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Moria

(Folly) Greek The heroine of a story of overcoming death. Moria was a woman from Lydia, a kingdom in Asia Minor. One day, as her brother, Tylus, was walking along a river bank, a snake bit him. Tylus died instantly. Moria, seeing the tragedy, called upon the powers of the giant Danasen, a son of Gaia, an ancient Greek Earth Mother. The giant answered Moria's...

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Moirae

(Moirai) Greek Greek spirits; personification of fate and destiny in an individual's life. Each person had his or her own Moirae. The spirits represented a law of nature, a sense of determination. No mortal human could overcome their power. Even the gods could not break the ruling of the Moirae without seriously jeopardizing all of existence. In Roman mythology, these spirits were known as the...

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Minthe

(Menthe) Greek A naiad, or river nymph of the Cocytus, a river that flowed to the underworld. She was beloved by Hades (or Pluto). In jealous rage, the wife of Hades, Persephone (or perhaps her mother, Demeter), stamped the nymph into the ground. Hades then transformed her into a fragrant herb, mint. The legend of Minthe was probably the result of the use of herbs, especially...

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Minotaur

Greek A mythical monster, halfhuman, half-bull, the offspring of Pasiphaë and a bull. Pasiphaë was the wife of King Minos of Crete. Minos wanted to keep the Minotaur hidden from the world. He asked Daedalus, the great inventor, to design a hiding place that would remain forever secret. Daedalus designed the labyrinth, a maze so full of tortuous passages that no one who entered could find...

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Minos

Greek Son of Zeus and Europa. When Europa arrived in Crete, she married the King Asterion, who adopted her children, including Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon. With Pasiphaë, Minos was the father of Androgeus, Ariadne, and Phaedra. Minos succeeded Asterion to the throne of Crete. He became so well known for his wisdom and sense of justice that after his death he was made a judge...

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Minerva

Roman A Goddess of Etruscan or perhaps Sabine origins. Over time, the Romans elevated Minerva to a high-ranking position and she joined with Jupiter and Juno to form the main triad of Roman worship, replacing an earlier triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus. In her earliest form, Minerva was a goddess of education and business worshiped by the Etruscans and neighboring peoples of central Italy. She...

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Midas

Greek A mythical king of Phrygia, an ancient region of central Asia Minor; son of the goddess Cybele and Gordius, from whom he inherited the throne. In Greek mythology, there are two wellknown stories about Midas: one in which everything he touches turns to gold and another in which an angry god gives King Midas donkey's ears. Midas and the Golden Touch Midas, king of Phrygia,...

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Metis

(Wisdom) Greek A Titan, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, an Oceanid, or ocean Nymph, who was counted among the Titans. According to Hesiod, Metis was the first wife of the god Zeus. She was the wisest of all among both mortals and gods. It was Metis who advised Zeus to give his father, Cronus, a drink that would make him cough up the siblings of...

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Merope

Greek Daughter of Atlas and Pleione; wife of Sisyphus; one of the "Seven Sisters" called the Pleiades. Merope was sometimes named "the lost star," the one invisible to the naked eye. It is said that she hid her light in shame for having married a mortal, and a disreputable one at that....

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Mercury

(Mercurius) Roman The god of trade and commerce and the supporter of success. Evidence of a cult to Mercury in Rome goes back to the sixth century b.c., and there is some evidence that he was a figure in early Etruscan mythology. According to Italian myth, Mercury was the father of Faunus, one of the oldest Roman gods. However, Mercury was one of the earliest...

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Mephitis

(Mefitis) Roman A goddess who protected the people of Rome and surrounding cities in Italy from the dangerous fumes of sulphur that spewed from the many volcanoes and the gaseous vents surrounding them. People believed that these fumes caused illness and plagues, as well as damage to their homes and cities, and called upon Mephitis to protect them from these evils. She became more commonly known...

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Menoetius

Greek A second-generation Titan; son of Iapetus and Clymene, who was a daughter of Oceanus; brother of Atlas, Prometheus, and Epimetheus. Menoetius was said to be the god of anger and harshness and was himself said to be brutal and arrogant. During the battle between the Titans and the Olympian Gods, Zeus hurled a lightning bolt at Menoetius. Some sources say he was killed, others that he...

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Menelaus

Greek King of Sparta; brother of Agamemnon; husband of Helen. The Trojan prince Paris stole the beautiful Helen from Menelaus. This act was a leading cause of the Trojan War. In some accounts, Menelaus and Helen were happily reunited after the fall of Troy....

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Meleager

Greek Son of King Oeneus of Calydon, and of Althea. A great javelin thrower, Meleager is most famous for killing the Calydonian Boar (see under Calydonian Boar hunt). A few days after his birth, the three Fates appeared before Althea. They told her that the child would die when a certain log in the fireplace burned. Althea at once snatched the wood from the fire,...

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Melanion

Melanion Greek A prince of Arcadia who won the hand of the renowned virgin huntress Atalanta. Atalanta did not want to get married, but she could not disobey the command of her father, Iasus, king of Arcadia, in the central Peloponnesus. A great athlete, Atalanta put a condition on her acceptance of a suitor: he must beat her in a footrace, or die. Many died...

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Melampus

Greek A descendant of Aeolis and a cousin of Jason. Melampus was a seer, taught by the god Apollo, and perhaps the first mortal in Greek mythology to possess prophetic powers. One story has it that Melampus saved the lives of a nest of young snakes. In gratitude they "cleaned out Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) created this bust of the witch Medusa and...

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Medusa

Medusa Greek One of the three Gorgons, the only one who was not immortal; her sisters were Stheno and Euryale. Medusa was once a beautiful maiden, wooed by the sea god, Poseidon, in a temple of Athene. The goddess was angry at the violation of her shrine and turned Medusa into a monster so hideous that anyone who looked upon her was turned to stone....

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Medea

Medea Greek A sorceress; daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis (Asia Minor); niece of Circe, the witch of the Odyssey. In his quest for the Golden Fleece, Jason fell in love with Medea, who helped him capture the precious fleece. As Jason and Medea fled with the prize, they were pursued by Aeetes, the father of Medea and her brother, Absyrtus. In one version of...

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Mars

Roman The god of war who, in his earliest forms, was a god of agriculture and prosperity. Mars was the second most powerful god in early Roman mythology, after Jupiter. With Jupiter and the god Quirinus, Mars shared a position of prominence in the religious lives of the people of rome. While Mars remained a prominent god, he and Quirinus were replaced as part of...

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Manes

Manes (Good Ones) Roman The spirits of the dead. They were greatly feared and were called "Good Ones" to placate their anger. (Similarly, the Greek Furies were called the Eumenides, "good ones" or "good-tempered ones.") Whenever a town was founded, people first dug a pit at the site and then covered the pit with a stone. The hole represented a gateway to the Underworld (2) through...

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Maia

Maia (1) Greek Daughter of Atlas and Pleione, the eldest and most beautiful of the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters). Maia was the mother of Hermes, whose father was Zeus. She bore Hermes in a grotto on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. Maia's only appearance in Greek mythological writings is in the works of Hesiod. Maia (2) (Maiesta) Roman A very early and now little-known Roman goddess...

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Magna Graecia

(Great Greece) Greek The collective name given to Greek colonies founded by settlers in southern Italy and the island of Sicily. The cult of the Greek hero Heracles, and of other personages in Greek mythology, found their way into Roman mythology through the Greek colonists of Magna Graecia. This influence of Greek culture on other cultures is called Hellenization....

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Lydia

Greek A wealthy kingdom of western Asia Minor (now northwestern Turkey). In Greek mythology, Lydia was the home of Arachne, the skillful weaver who rashly pitted her talents against those of the goddess Athene....

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Luna

(Moon) Roman An ancient Italian goddess of the Moon, probably of a lesser rank than the great Roman goddesses, such as Minerva and Juno. Very early in Roman religion, Luna took on the stories and myths of the ancient Greek moon goddess, Selene, and even some of the mythology of the Roman goddess Diana, the huntress. A temple to Luna stood on the Aventine Hill...

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