In Greek and Roman mythology, Psyche was a princess of such stunning beauty that people came from near and far to admire her. In turning their adoration toward Psyche, however, they neglected to worship the goddess Aphrodite*.
In Egyptian mythology, Ptah was the chief deity of the ancient city of Memphis. He was worshiped as the creator of all things and the patron of various crafts, such as sculpting and metalworking.
In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a king of the island of Cyprus and a sculptor. He spent many years carving an ivory statue of a woman more beautiful than any living female.
Pyramus and Thisbe are young lovers in a Babylonian* story told by the Roman poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses. The lovers, who lived next door to each other, were forbidden by their parents to see or speak to each other.
For thousands of years, Quetzalcoatl was one of the most important figures in the traditional mythologies of Mesoamerica. As deity, culture hero, or legendary ruler, Quetzalcoatl appeared in some of the region's most powerful and enduring stories.
One of the most important deities in Egyptian mythology, the sun god Ra (or Re) was the supreme power in the universe. The giver of life, he was often merged with the god Amun as Amun-Ra.
According to Norse* mythology, the world will end at Ragnarok, a time of great destruction when the gods will wage a final battle with the giants and other evil forces. Ragnarok has not yet arrived, but the events leading to it have already been set in motion.
One of the most famous epics in Hindu literature, the Ramayana tells of the life and adventures of Rama, a legendary hero who is worshiped as a god in many parts of India. Probably written in the 200s B.C., the Ramayana is attributed to Valmiki, a wise man who appears as a character in the work.
In Polynesian mythology, Rangi (Father Sky) and Papa (Mother Earth) were the two supreme creator deities. They were the source from which all things in the universe originated, including other gods, humans, and the various creatures and features of the earth.
Many cultures have myths and legends that tell of heroes or other characters who die and then come back to life. When they reappear, though, it is not as their former selves but as other people, as animals, or even as plants.
One of the earliest and most important religious texts of ancient India, the Rig-Veda is the oldest of the four collections of hymns and other sacred texts known as the Vedas. These works are considered the "sacred knowledge" of the Aryans, a people who invaded India in about 1600 B.C.
Rip van Winkle, the hero of a short story by the American writer Washington Irving, was based on an old German legend. Rip was a cheerful but lazy farmer in upstate New York.
Robin Hood was the legendary bandit of England who stole from the rich to help the poor. The stories about Robin appealed to common folk because he stood up against—and frequently outwitted—people in power.
Roland was the bravest and most loyal of the 12 legendary paladins, or knights, who served Charlemagne, king of the Franks*. Although Charlemagne was a historical figure, many fanciful tales about the king and his knights appeared during the Middle Ages.
From the founding of the Roman empire to its fall in A.D. 476, Rome dominated Europe and much of North Africa, the Near East, and Asia Minor*.
In Roman mythology Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the god Mars* and the founders of the city of Rome. Their mother, Rhea Silvia, was the only daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa.
Arthurian legends* tell of a great Round Table in King Arthur's court at Camelot at which the king held meetings with his knights. Usually a king sat at the head of a royal table with his closest companions gathered around him.
Many religious ceremonies have included sacrifice, the act of giving up something of value and offering it to a deity. Worshipers may make a sacrifice to win the favor of the deity, to give thanks, or to maintain a good relationship with the god.
The sagas, a rich collection of traditional Scandinavian stories, were written down in Iceland between the late 1100s and the 1300s. They can be divided into several categories: lives of Icelandic kings and bishops, family histories, romances, and sagas of ancient times.
A sage is a wise or holy figure, often an older man, who possesses insight or understanding beyond that of ordinary people. In myths and legends, sages serve as guardians of special knowledge, helpers or advisers to heroes, and examples of wisdom, virtue, and goodness.
Samson, who appears in the Old Testament of the Bible, was an exceptionally strong hero of the Israelites of the ancient Near East. According to the story, an angel visited Samson's parents before his birth to tell them they would have a son.
A familiar symbol of Christmas in Europe and North America, Santa Claus is usually pictured as a jolly old man in a red suit who brings gifts to good children. The tradition of Santa Claus is based on a historical figure named St.
The Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions are monotheistic faiths, which means their followers believe there is only one God. That God has a powerful adversary known as Satan, or the Devil.