Edith Hamilton

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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.


The power of fate hangs over the lives of all the characters Hamilton describes, and even controls the gods themselves. In Greek mythology, Fate was personified as three sisters: Clotho, the spinner of life’s thread, Lachesis, the allotter of a person’s destiny, and Atropos, who cut the thread at death. These three are rarely mentioned by name, but their power seems to have control over even Zeus, the most powerful of…

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Pride and Hubris

The greatest sin in many myths is when a mortal grows too proud and claims to be the equal or superior of the gods. This arrogance, also called “hubris,” is inexplicably common and always punished horribly. The Greeks clearly felt that hubris was a terrible sin, but often in punishing it so extremely the gods showed their spiteful, jealous sides. There are even cases where the mortal’s pride is deserved, as with Arachne, who…

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Heroism and the motif of the hero’s quest are important elements in Mythology, and represent one of the highest ideals of ancient Greek culture. As she moves through the stories, Hamilton paints a picture of the varieties of Greek and Roman heroism. Theseus is the Athenian hero, and the most “heroic” seeming to the modern reader, as he slays monsters but also institutes a democracy. Hercules shows what the rest of Greece found heroic…

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Justice and Vengeance

Justice is a complicated and sometimes inscrutable concept in the Greek myths, as neither the heroes nor the gods act as infallible moral authorities. There were certain rules held sacred in Greek society, like being hospitable to guests, respecting one’s parents, or avenging a loved one’s murder, and the poets often created situations where these rules contradicted each other, which led to situations of vengeance. A famous example is Agamemnon, who sacrifices his daughter…

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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…

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