LLR Books

The Most Brutal Punishments Doled Out by the Gods

By Edira Putri

These horrible punishments in mythology will make you thankful to live in a modern world, where there is a legitimate legal system to determine the punishments people get for bad acts. However cruel or unfair you think your law system is, it’s really nothing compared to the most brutal punishments doled out by Greek and Roman gods. 
Some people believe that good deeds will bring us rewards and bad deeds will bring us punishment. Some call it karma, others call it cosmic retribution or even religious reckoning. However, no one punishes like the great Greek gods. Maybe it’s because their power is supreme and they can do just about anything, but these brutal punishments from the gods are cruel beyond common sense.
What follows are some of the worst punishments in mythology. If you believe that karma’s a b*tch, well, then these gods are even b*tchier. Vote up the punishments you really, really wouldn't want to endure.
Zeus, the king of the gods, was not a very faithful husband. In fact, many women who were ill-fated enough to be his mistress (by will or by force) got caught by Zeus’s wife, Hera. Being a powerful goddess herself, Hera didn’t hold back from destroying her husband's mistresses. That brings us to the story of the poor Libyan queen, Lamia. Upon finding out about Lamia’s affair with her husband, Hera transformed her into a gruesome creature with a craving to devour children, even her own.
Zeus resented Prometheus for giving fire to mankind and generally being willful and defiant. For his disobedience, Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock on the side of a mountain. But of course, that wasn't enough. Every night, an eagle would come and peck on his abdomen and munch on his liver. His liver would then regenerated during the day so that the eagle could have at it, again and again, every night. Eventually, he was freed by Chiron, a centaur who gave his life for Prometheus's, and Heracles, who killed that pesky eagle.
One day, Zeus was kind enough to invite Ixion to Olympus as a guest. However, when the mortal saw Hera, Zeus’s wife, he was attracted to her and made his move to seduce her. Zeus decided to test Ixion’s loyalty and made a cloud copy of his wife. Ixion fell for it and somehow impregnated the cloud-Hera, who later bore the monster Centaurus. Zeus blasted Ixion with his powerful lightning bolt and bound him to a burning wheel that would spin forever. Ixion was forced to repeat the words "Repay your benefactor frequently with gentle favors in return" for eternity.
Erisychthon was a king with a serious case of hubris. He desired a large banquet table, so naturally, he cut down trees from Demeter's grove, because goddesses definitely don't mind when you disrespect them, right? Wrong. In retaliation, she cursed him with never-ending hunger. He would yearn for anything digestible and eat it, but the hunger was insatiable. In frustration, Erysichthon ended up eating his own flesh until he died.
Tantalus was the mortal son of Zeus. The gods often welcomed him in Olympus because of his bloodline, but he didn't do much to thank them for it. In fact, he once stole nectar and ambrosia from them. Even worse, though, was his brilliant idea for a sacrifice: he killed his own son, Pelops, and served him to the gods. They were furious and brought the boy back to life.
The king was sent to the underworld, where he had to spend his afterlife standing in a pool of water with branches of a fruit tree hanging over his head. Whenever he tried to reach the branches for some fruits to eat, they would move just beyond his grasp. Likewise, the pool water would drain whenever he tried to bend down and drink. So he was left hungry and thirsty forever, tantalized by the fruit and water he would never be able to reach.
Sisyphus was a wicked king who found joy in killing his own people as well as travelers. However, no one really cared to intervene until Sisyphus caused a problem for Zeus, the king of the gods, when he reported that Zeus had abducted the nymph Aegina. Zeus sent him to the underworld, where he was received his hideous, everlasting punishment. The evil king was forced to push a massive boulder up a steep hill just to watch the boulder roll down again so he would have to roll it up back again, in vain, forever.
Actaeon was a hunter who accidentally stumbled upon the pool in which Artemis, one of the gods of Mount Olympus, was taking a bath. Just like us mere mortals, Artemis hated it when other people caught a peek of her while bathing. Unlike us, though, the goddess told Actaeon he would be transformed into a stag if he ever spoke again. Apparently, Actaeon didn't take Artemis seriously, because he called his dogs soon after and was immediately transformed. Not recognizing their master in his new figure, Actaeon’s hunting dogs chased and kill him, believing he was just another random deer.
Cassandra was a mortal who agreed to sleep with Apollo if he gave her the ability to see the future. He gave her the ability, but he did it before they had sex, so she reneged on her part of the bargain. Rather than taking her gift away, Apollo did something even crueler: he made it so no one would ever believe her visions, even though they were true. This left Cassandra to wallow in her own frustration.

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