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Themes and Colors
Fate Theme Icon
Pride and Hubris Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Justice and Vengeance Theme Icon
Beauty Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Mythology, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Beauty Theme Icon

Beauty appears in many of the myths, as the Greeks elevated art, music, and physical beauty above most other virtues. Beauty is often considered more important than morality or religious piety, and becomes a valuable resource that can be used for good or evil. Indeed, physical beauty more often than not causes trouble: Narcissus is ensnared by his own reflection, many beautiful women are raped by Zeus or Apollo, and the Trojan War begins over Helen’s lovely face.

The idea of artistic beauty is also idealized, as Orpheus wins over Hades with his music and Pygmalion falls in love with the statue he created. But artistic beauty is no less troublesome than physical beauty, as the jealous Daedalus murders his nephew for his clever inventions. In whatever form it takes beauty is held up as an ideal, but it also becomes something desired and fought over by both mortals and gods.

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Beauty Quotes in Mythology

Below you will find the important quotes in Mythology related to the theme of Beauty.
Introduction to Classical Mythology Quotes

With the coming forward of Greece, mankind became the center of the universe, the most important thing in it… The Greeks made their gods in their own image. That had not entered the mind of man before.

Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Hamilton suggests in this passage that a central innovation of the "Greek miracle" was that the Greeks began to think of human beings as being important enough for their gods to be made in their own image. While in other cultures the gods had been inhuman, animal, or hybrid, the Greeks created gods who looked like humans and, more important, acted like humans--they were contradictory, fallible, and powerful. Hamilton posits this as an improvement on older mythologies that did not recognize the importance and power of humanity, but her formulation of the "Greek miracle" is not without its own biases. Hamilton writes that, "In Greece man first realized what mankind was," implying that Greek mythology reflects a truth that humans are at the center of the universe. While many people share that belief today, things like technology and the environmental movement have challenged the belief that humans are the most important and most powerful force in the universe. Furthermore, the fact that Hamilton makes these statements without really qualifying them or acknowledging alternative systems of belief seems dated and acknowledges her Eurocentric biases.


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One could never tell where Zeus’s thunderbolt would strike. Nevertheless, the whole divine company, with a very few and for the most part not important exceptions, were entrancingly beautiful with a human beauty, and nothing humanly beautiful is really terrifying. The early Greek mythologists transformed a world full of fear into a world full of beauty.

Related Characters: Zeus
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Hamilton lays out in great detail a theory that seems, in light of the myths that follow, rather dubious. For Hamilton, Greek mythology's placement of the human at the center of the universe meant that fear became irrelevant. This supposed freedom from fear relies on the concept of beauty--Hamilton proposes that "nothing humanly beautiful is really terrifying." On the one hand, she could be saying that infusing something scary with a human quality made it relatable, so things that had once seemed scary, unfamiliar, and unpredictable suddenly seemed, at the very least, rational and relatable. This would seem to be a decent explanation of Hamilton's argument, except that some of the scariest and most destructive figures in Greek myth are the most human. (For example, the several examples of humans getting revenge on someone by killing their children and serving them as food to the unsuspecting victim.) So Hamilton's theory could be generally correct--Greek myth could be less permeated by terror than mythologies that came before it, because its gods were at least humanlike, instead of natural forces or animal-like demons--but it certainly does not account for everything in Greek mythology. 

Part 4, Chapter 1 Quotes

The Goddess of Love and Beauty knew very well where the most beautiful woman on earth was to be found. She led the young shepherd, with never a thought of Oenone left forlorn, straight to Sparta, where Menelaus and Helen received him graciously as a guest. The ties between guest and host were strong. Each was bound to help and never harm the other. But Paris broke that sacred bond.

Related Characters: Aphrodite, Paris, Helen, Menelaus
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage comes as part of Hamilton's explanation of the causes of the Trojan War. Aphrodite has promised Paris the love of the most beautiful woman in exchange for proclaiming her to be the most beautiful goddess, and so Aphrodite must now deliver Paris to Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world--but Helen is married to Menelaus. This passage is culturally revealing in several ways. First, the shallowness and selfishness of the gods and mortals are equated here--Paris and Aphrodite behave equally reprehensibly, which will eventually bring vengeance upon the guilty and innocent alike. Second, this shows the complicated place of beauty in ancient Greek society. While beauty is often uncritically revered in Greek myth, here it is shown to be a mixed blessing. Because beauty is so valued and loved, it is also something that causes gods and mortals to fight and wrong one another. Of all the Greek myths, this one is, perhaps, most damning of the power of beauty. 

Part 6, Chapter 2 Quotes

Minerva did her best and the result was a marvel, but Arachne’s work, finished at the same moment, was in no way inferior. The goddess in a fury of anger beat the girl around the head with her shuttle. Arachne, disgraced and mortified and furiously angry, hanged herself. Then a little repentance entered Minerva’s heart… Arachne was changed into a spider, and her skill in weaving was left to her.

Related Characters: Pallas Athena, Arachne
Page Number: 425-426
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the end of the myth of the mortal Arachne, who is challenged to a weaving contest by Minerva (the Latin Athena) and wins. In many instances when gods punish mortals for daring to try to usurp them, the gods are unrepentant and their disproportionate punishments engender more violence rather than any sense of justice. This myth is different. Minerva does unjustly punish Arachne, which leads to her death (though she has done nothing wrong except participate successfully in a contest Minerva suggested). Minerva, in this case, does feel regret, though, and changes Arachne into a spider so that she can continue to use her weaving skills. The reasons for Minerva's repentance are left open, but it's possible that Minerva felt bad because of the ancient Greek worship of beauty. Minerva had punished Arachne for making a beautiful thing, which might have, in combination with her recognition of the excessive violence of a punishment that led to Arachne's death, changed Minerva's mind. Regardless, this is an example of vengeance that has a relatively happy ending because Minerva at least had the humility to make amends.