From Academic Kids

For other uses of the term "Demigod", see Demigod (disambiguation).

A "demigod", a "half-god," is a modern distinction, often misapplied in Greek mythology. A "demigod" is meant to identify a person whose one parent was a god and whose other parent was human, such as the heroes of Greek mythology. Nineteenth-century popularizers of classical mythology like Thomas Bulfinch used the term "demigod" freely, and its definition has passed into popular dictionaries [1] ( Greeks had no such category, however, which consequently introduces unnecessary confusion. For the Greek concept, see Hero.

Part of the dual nature of Greek heroes, that gave rise to the "demigod" conception of them, a repeated theme in the story of their birth, is a double paternity: one father is a "king" of some kind, and another is a god. The hero's mother manages to lie with king and god in the same night (mother of Theseus) or to be visited secretly by the god (Dana, mother of Perseus), and the seed of the two fathers is mixed in her womb (not a modern biological possibility, but one that was firmly established in Antiquity). Thus the heroes have liminal qualities that enable them to have great strength, to cross the threshold between the worlds of the living and the dead yet return safely, and to mediate long after their death between human and divine. (Ruck and Staples 1984, part 3; Kerenyi 1959).

Zeus became the father of many heroes as a result of his dalliances, and after death they were accorded honors, especially among those Greeks who claimed to be their descendants and, through them, to have claims on the protection and patronage of a god. The veneration of heroes was part of chthonic rites in the religion of Greece. An exception was Heracles, who was accepted in the passage of time among the Twelve Olympians. Such "demigods" were usually mortal, but were pre-eminent among humans, and some had unusual powers.

Structurally, mythic narratives of such heroic figures falls into the genre of Romance, as Northrop Frye defined and described it. Alexander the Great encouraged the mythmakers in his retinue to spread the legend of his "secret" Olympian paternity. His legend survived the end of Antiquity; a cycle of medieval romances developed around his legend.

In the following list of "demigods", however, the range from deified historic figures, to culture-heroes and city founders, to minor primeval chthonic deities, illustrates the limitations of "demigod" applied to Greek mythology:


Applied to Hinduism and Buddhism

The term "demigod" is sometimes used to refer to minor gods, and devas in Hinduism, though this is not the proper definition of the term here either.

"Demigod" is sometimes used to translate the term asura in the context of Buddhism and devas in ja:半神 nl:Halfgod


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