Actaeon Surprising Diana (Artemis) in the bath by Titian. Image taken from Wikipedia
I know the feeling. You feel so let down that you think you don’t have anything to lose, or on the contrary, you feel way too confident, perhaps unstoppable. Whatever the reason is, if you ever have the chance to annoy or outsmart a God, just don’t. The stats are massively against you (these are the examples I can think of right now, though I will add some more later):
Problem: Arachne boasted she was better at weaving than Athena, so they had a contest to settle it. To make matters worse Arachne mocked the love affairs of the Gods in her tapestry
Punishment: Arachne got turned into a spider.
Outcome: Arachne’s tapestry was pretty good actually!
Human: Tantalus (some say he was the son of Titans, but others claim he was human)
God/Goddess: All of the Olympians, but mainly Zeus
Problem: Tantalus had some deep psychological problems, so he tried the following experiment: He cooked his own son (!) and gave it to the Gods for dinner, just to see if they would notice (!!)
Punishment: Zeus had him stand in a lake, with the branch of a fruit tree above his head. If he tries to reach the fruit, the wind makes it move away from him. If he tries to drink, the water recedes.
Outcome: We got the word tantalize out of that
God/Goddess: Apollo and Artemis
Problem: Niobe was telling everybody she was so much better than Leto (the mother of the twins Apollo and Artemis) since she had 14 children, whereas Leto had only two. Terrible idea.
Punishment: Apollo and Artemis had their target practice of the day with Niobe’s children.
Outcome: 2 children against 0 (you can guess who was left with zero)
Human: Marsyas (I am cheatin here since Marsyas was not a human, but a satyr)
Problem: Marsyas thought he was a better musician than Apollo, so accepted a music contest against him.
Punishment: The loser was supposed to do whatever the winner wanted. Marsyas probably thought that Apollo was going to say “dance naked in Times Square” or “slap a cop” No way, Apollo wanted him to be flayed alive
Outcome: It hurt. It really did.
Problem: She told Apollo “Sorry, you are funny and cute, but not my type”
Punishment: Apollo twisted her gift of prophecy (given to her by him) so nobody would believe her.
Outcome: Fall of Troy
Problem: During a hunting expedition Acteon found Artemis taking a bath. Instead of running for his life he just stood there, drooling.
Punishment: Acteon was turned into a deer by the Goddess
Outcome: He was killed by his own hounds
Problem: Pentheus refused to worship Dionysus .
Punishment : Pentheus was torn apart by the maenads (the women that followed Dionysus) including his own mother, who carried his head with her.
Outcome: His whole Kingdome fell apart.
I still have other examples, but I will leave that for a future post.