Beauty was probably the most valued trait amongst the ancient Greeks. Certainly, it is one of the biggest themes.
Their myths are heavily peppered with tales of beautiful Goddesses and women who often transform the fates of the everyday Greek. Be it the chaos of the Trojan War, Zeus seducing yet another hapless human, or some Greek hero rescuing a beauty from some monster or another.
In fact, it is actually tricky to narrow the most beautiful goddesses or women down to a single list. Nevertheless, that is what we have managed to do. So here is our list of beauties from Greek mythology.
The Most Beautiful Goddesses and Women in Greek Mythology
#10 – Io
Io was the daughter of Inachus, the river god, and Melia. She was a water nymph, a princess of Argos and just one of lovers of the Olympian god Zeus. Together she and Zeus would have a son called Epaphus. He would go on to become the King of Egypt and Libya.
Io was said to be one of the most beautiful mortal women of the time. She was a priestess of the Olympian goddess Hera and it was said that this is how she initially caught the eye of Zeus.
As the husband of Hera, Zeus would very often have affairs with mortal women. Io had caught the eye of Zeus and he spent a lot of time trying to seduce her. He would whisper to her in her dreams inviting her to join him. The attentions of Zeus did not escape his wife and she became suspicious. A concerned Zeus attempted to disguise Io by transforming her into a cow.
However, this did not fool Hera. She sent some gadflies to torment the cow and she commanded a 100-eyed monster called Argus to watch over Io. To make sure Zeus did not attempt to seduce her again.
Not wanting to be involved himself, Zeus sent Hermes to first put the monster to sleep and then chop off its head. The eyes of the monster would be placed by Hera on the tail of the peacock.
Zeus was then able to help Io escape across the Ionian sea, safe from Hera. She then transformed back into a human and she and Zeus had a child together.
#9 – Penthesilea
Penthesilea was the daughter of Ares, the God of War, and Otrera, the first Queen of the Amazons. She also would take the title of Queen of the Amazons. The Amazons were a legendary tribe of warrior women skilled in all manners of fighting. Penthesilea did not marry, but was said by many to be very beautiful.
The major story surrounding her involves her time in the Trojan War. The story begins with Penthesilea accidentally killing her sister Hippolyte. In order to pardon her, the King of Troy, Priam, requested her to aid his city in the Trojan War.
The Amazons accepted and fought alongside the Trojans. They were a feared opponent and were able to kill many of the Greeks coming very close to leading them to victory. It was then that Penthesilea and the Amazons came face to face with Achilles.
Penthesilea and Achilles fought viciously hand to hand. It was said that Achilles was not on his best form, so distracted was he by Penthesilea’s beauty. As was his way, he did in the end strike the fatal blow. As she lay dying in his arms, Achilles mourned the loss of some a beautiful and fearsome opponent.
Zeus, who had observed the rivalry, was so moved by the scene that he had his sculptor Hephaestus produce a carving of the final moments of Penthesilea’s life.
#8 – Polyxena
Polyxena was the daughter of Priam, the King of Troy, and his Queen, Hecuba. She was said to be one of the major beauties in the city of Troy.
The story goes that Achilles caught sight of Polyxena atop the city walls while fighting during a skirmish. He swiftly killed this opponent and began negotiations with the Trojans for her hand in marriage. Priam was keen to remove Achilles from the war through this marriage, but both Hector and Paris were not keen on the union.
Events overtook them and in a later battle Hector killed Patroclus the friend of Achilles. Achilles would then fight and kill Hector. When Priam begged Achilles for the return of the body of his son, Polyxena went with him to help persuade Achilles.
Achilles did eventually return the body and he again asked for the hand of Polyxena in marriage. Paris, still furious at the death of his brother, arranged for a meeting between Achilles and Polyxena. When they were talking he fired the arrow, guided by Apollo, which struck Achilles in the heel. With Achilles dying on the ground in front of her, Polyxena took the arrow and stabbed herself in the heart.
In some myths, it was said that Achilles and Polyxena lived together for eternity in the underworld.
#7 – Andromeda
Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus, the King of Ethiopia, and his wife Queen Cassiopeia. She was a beautiful young women and her mother would often brag about her beauty for all to hear.
One day the Queen made the mistake of boasting of her beauty in comparison to the Nereid sea nymphs. They valued for their beauty by the sea god Poseidon. When he heard this news he was incredibly angry and so he sent a terrible sea monster to attack the kingdom.
The King of Ethiopia, Cepheus, sought the advice of the Oracle and they advised him that the only way to stop the sea monster would be to sacrifice his daughter Andromeda. He felt he had no choice and so he tied her to some rocks in the ocean and left her for the sea monster to appease Poseidon.
At this very moment, the Greek hero Perseus was flying with the help of his winged sandals. He was so struck by the scene and the beauty of Andromeda that he went down to investigate.
Andromeda told him the whole terrible story of what had happened to their kingdom. Perseus was enraged and decided to fight the sea monster. With the head of Medusa he turned the sea monster to stone. Cepheus and Cassiopeia were so pleased that their kingdom had been saved that they allowed Perseus to marry their daughter.
Together Perseus and Andromeda had a total of nine children. After their deaths, the goddess Athena placed Andromeda along with her parents as constellations in the night sky.
#6 – Pandora
Pandora was the first women to be created by the Gods. She was the handy work of the Olympian god Hephaestos with a few of the other Gods giving her different gifts, abilities and skills.
A few of these being great beauty, gracefulness, a lovely singing voice, and a passion for gardening of all things. While she had a lot of positive traits she was also made to be devious and manipulating.
The story goes that she was made at the bidding of Zeus as revenge for the titan god Prometheus giving humans the gift of fire. Pandora was created and along with her box was given to Epimethius, the brother of Prometheus, as a wife.
Prometheus had actually told his brother not to accept any gifts from Zeus but Epimetheus was a bit of an idiot and took no notice. He and Pandora were married and they began living together for a number of weeks.
However, one day curiosity got the better of Pandora and she opened the box. From the box escaped disease, poverty, crime and a whole host of other troubles to plague mankind.
#5 – Psyche
Psyche was a mortal and the third youngest daughter of a powerful King. She was also the wife of the god Eros and the mother of Hedone, the god of pleasure and sensation.
It was said that er beauty outshone all others. Even the Goddesses themselves. This claim made it to the ears of Aphrodite, a famed beauty herself, and she became consumed by jealousy.
She hatched and plan, to make Psyche fall in love with a pig. She sent sent Eros, also known as Cupid, to fire an arrow at her. Thus making her fall in love with the swine. The plan however fell apart. Eros accidentally scratched himself with the arrow, and he himself fell in love with Psyche.
He decided to marry Psyche, however mortals could not look upon gods in their true form. So Eros could only visit Psyche as night in complete darkness. The couple were happy for a time with this arrangement, but eventually curiosity got the better of Psyche. One evening when Eros was asleep she lit a torch and shone the light from the flame upon his body.
At this moment he awoke and while he was not angry with Psyche, he was unable to continue to be with her. The next morning he disappeared and left Psyche alone. Psyche would wander the world looking for Eros and complete an endless series of different task. At last she Psyche and Eros were reunited together.
#4 – Helen
Helen was the daughter of Zeus and Leda. Zeus had seduced Leda one night by taking the form of a swan. The story goes that Leda gave birth to an egg, from which hatched Helen. Helen had the stature and radiance of a goddess, the muscularity of a swan and the beautiful blue eyes of her mother. It was said that her beauty was with equal in the whole of Greece.
Many men fought for the hand of Helen in marriage. In the end her foster father chose the King of Sparta, Menelaus, and made all the other suitors promise to unite against anyone who would try to take Helen from Menelaus.
When Paris of Troy visited Sparta, he fell in love with Helen and with the help of Aphrodite he made Helen fall in love with him. Together they escaped Sparta and returned to Troy.
The kings of Greece united under Agamemnon, the brother of Menelaus, and they set sail for Troy. For 10 years the armies of Greece and Troy fought. In the end the city of Troy was destroyed and Menelaus and Helen reunited.
Menelaus had vowed to kill Helen but this idea melted when he gazed upon her beauty again. Instead they returned back to Sparta. Back in Greece the other kings all too came to forgive Helen. In one of the myths, however, the son of Agamemnon was so angry that Helen had take his father from Greece and caused so many issues in his family that he killed Helen.
#3 – Hera
Hera was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She was said to be goddess of marriage and family. She is often is depicted with a cow, lion, and peacock as a protector of married women. She was the wife of Zeus. Hera plays a very important role in Greek mythology and is said to be the Queen of the Gods.
In many myths she is said to be the most beautiful goddesses, lovelier by far than any goddess, nymph, or mortal. Zeus, had of course chosen her to be his wife above all others.
She did however have a particularly jealous side to her. This was brought about by the countless instances of Zeus having affairs with other goddesses, titans, nymphs and mortals. She would very often take her jealousy out on the women or children of the women.
There was Echo, who Hera cursed to only be able to say the last few words spoken to her. Or when Paris chose Aphrodite over Hera as the fairest. As revenge she caused in part the Trojans to lose the Trojan War.
But probably the most harassed was Heracles, the son of Zeus and Alcmene. Hera sent two snakes to kill him when he was a baby, later in life she made him go mad and kill his wife and children.
#2 – Gaia
Gaia was the goddess of the Earth. She both created and then was wife to the sky god Uranus. Together they had many children including the 100-handed giants, the 1-eyed giants and the Titans including Cronus.
When Uranus imprisoned her giant sons she conspired with Cronus to overthrow him. Cronus, together with 4 of his brothers, held down Uranus and castrated him. Cronus then became the king of the Titans. Cronus was himself overthrown by Zeus. Throughout this time Gaia continued to steward the earth through the crisis.
Gaia was the embodiment of all natural beauty and the Greeks looked on her with great respect and reverence.
#1 – Aphrodite
Aphrodite did not really have parents, rather she was born from the severed genitals of the sky god Uranus. She married Hephaestus but would have many affairs with countless other Gods, heroes and mortals. She was the goddess of beauty and love. Her role was to represent beauty, sexuality, and love.
In one of the more significant stories of Greek mythology, the question of Aphrodite’s beauty is kinda settled. The story begins with Eris. the goddess of discord not being invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Nevertheless she turned up anyway but was refused entry. She was very angered by this turn of events. So, as revenge she threw an apple into the wedding amongst the goddesses with the words to the fairest written on the apple.
Three of the Olympians demanded that the apple was of course for them, Athena, Hera and Aphrodite. The Gods couldn’t settle the question, so Zeus said they should ask Paris of Troy to decide once and for all.
All three tried to persuade Paris to choose them, Athena promised victory in war, Hera promised to make him King of all men and Aphrodite promised to make Helen fall in love with him. He chose Aphrodite.
So there you have 10 of the most significant beauties in Greek mythology.
Over the course of researching this list I came across countless other characters that should pique your interest. To be honest, we are only just getting started. Thanks!