I completed reading a book titled "Old Greek Stories" by James Baldwin.

It features some well known Ancient Heroes such as Theseus & Perseus.

But the way it was told seemed like several nations and locations in that world (Crete/Aegean/Thebes) got their name or origin as a result of some hero's journey. Such as the Formation of Athens.

Are Greek Hero stories rooted in real Life persons ? Were they part of the narrative constructed to glorify a Ruler, or by Inhabitants of a Society to show them of superior pedigree ?

  • 1
    Hello and welcome to M&F SE, please take some time to take our tour. Looking at your question, it is indeed interesting but I think it is a bit too wide since you are basically asking about the whole mythology origins. I think you should better focus on an event or a unique character (as many of those events/characters might have many different origins).
    – Calaom
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 8:50
  • I wanted to flag this question as overly-broad, but if someone is willing to create a community answer to be improved over-time, this could be a good addition to the site instead of hundreds of character/event focused questions.
    – Calaom
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 8:52
  • Also, I wanted to ask you if your question is focused on Perseus and Theseus since you tagged them to then widen the question to all the heroes.
    – Calaom
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 8:56

2 Answers 2


The Wikipedia article for Theseus ends its introduction with this:

As the subject of myth, the existence of Theseus as a real person has not been proven, but scholars believe that he may have been alive during the Late Bronze Age possibly as a king in the 8th or 9th century BC.

This assertion is based on Classical Mythology Tenth Edition. Quoting the relevant parts:

History and Legend. Theseus of all the legendary heroes has the strongest claims to being a real person. As stated above, he was for Plutarch a historical figure and he very likely was one of the kings of Athens perhaps in the ninth or eighth century B.C. But serious historical and chronological problems arise when we try to understand how he appears as the great conqueror of the legendary Minotaur and a king of Athens in the earlier Mycenaean Age and also a later king of Athens who has more serious claims to reality. Were there two Theseuses or only one, around whom all the stories clustered? Some scholars question the traditional dates established for the Dark Age that descended upon Greece after the fall of the Mycenaean kingdoms, ca. 1100–800 B.C.; on the basis of comparative studies, they would eliminate this Dark Age altogether or at least place the chronology of the legendary Mycenaean kings of Athens much closer in time to the chronology of the later historical monarchy, thus making one historical Theseus more comprehensible.

The excavations of Sir Arthur Evans in Crete seem to confirm details of Minoan-Mycenaean and Athenian saga. For one thing, the elaborate palace at Cnossus with its complexity of levels and maze of rooms does suggest a labyrinth. For the history and archaeology of the Minoan and Mycenaean period, see MLS, Chapter 2.

Morford, Mark; Lenardon, Robert J.; Sham, Michael. "Classical Mythology Tenth Edition". Oxford University Press. Oxford University Press.

Worth mentioning too the idea of Euhemerism:

an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages. Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exaggerated in the retelling, accumulating elaborations and alterations that reflect cultural mores. It was named for the Greek mythographer Euhemerus, who lived in the late 4th century BC. In the more recent literature of myth, such as Bulfinch's Mythology, euhemerism is termed the "historical theory" of mythology.


You know , even the biggest lies have a faded sign of truth inside. Just like many other myths , I am pretty sure that these myths are an exaggerated ways of saying the truth.

  • Hi and welcome to M&F SE, please take some time to take our tour. Unfortunately, your answer seems more like a feeling than an actual answer. As @Rodia answered, we expect answer to be quoting some work or texts to support the claims pointed. We expect as well a detailed reasoning. I don't want to scare you away from this SE but please keep those points in mind next time you want to participate here!
    – Calaom
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 9:16

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