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Were Greek Mythological Heroes Real People?

By James Donahue

Archaeologists have been uncovering more and more evidence that gives credence to the ancient Greek stories long thought to be pure myths. This is because the heroes in the stories, Heracles, Zeus, Perseus, Achilles, Patroclus, Helen of Troy and Paris, the legendary prince of Troy, were all such incredible personalities.

As the stories were told, they were either gods or children of gods who possessed incredible abilities and, as in the case of Helen of Troy, great beauty. The stories were kept alive by such writings as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey which told of the great battle between and forces of Troy and Spartica. That battle has gone down in history as the Trojan War.

It was only in recent years that ruins on a hill at Hisarlik, Turkey, known as the Troia archaeological site, has been identified as the site of that historic battle, and proof that the stories in Homer’s poems were based on real events. And another recent and significant discovery has been the ruins of the fabled City of Heracleion, named for the Greek hero Heracleidae (Hercules) have been found in Egypt’s Abu Qir Bay, in 30 to 150 feet of water.

Both cities date back to about 1200 years BC.

That Heracles may have once stood on the streets of this place, as did Helen of Troy and her lover Paris, makes these mythological characters suddenly become important historical characters. According to the writings of Homer, Helen’s decision to abandon her husband, the Greek King Menelaus, and run off with Paris, sparked the Trojan War. She was the "face that launched a thousand ships."

And if you think the Greeks and Trojans didn’t have ships in those days, guess again. Underwater researchers, carefully combing their way through acres of muck to uncover secrets of Heracleion, have already found the remains of 64 ancient ships and over 700 anchors. Gold coins and weights made from bronze also have been found, giving evidence of the trade by sea that went on.

There also exists a legend that one of the many great temples at Heracleion was the place where Cleopatra was inaugurated. The city was the center of trade for the territory now known as Egypt, located at the mouth of the Nile River.

It appears that the city was located on a number of islands, and separated by canals, making it a watery and easily assessable port city. Perhaps from earthquake or some other natural cause, it sank into the sea. Alexandria replaced Heracleion as the center of commerce and education in the region.

Greek mythology is a complex web of stories that appear to link historic human characters with gods. The stories strangely seem to support those haunting verses in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 6:

"Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose . . . There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown."

Were these two different versions of the same series of events?