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Vocabulary

The sword of Damocles: Myth idioms

There are a lot of different idioms commonly used in everyday speech that comes from Greek myths. Let’s make the acquaintance of them and soak up some Ancient Greek atmosphere ✨

Achilles heel

The term Achilles heel means a vulnerability or weakness.

It is linked to the myth of Achilles' mother dipping him in the River Styx, making his entire body invulnerable excepting the part of his foot where she held him—the proverbial Achilles heel.

Example: Physics has always been my Achilles heel.

Ariadna’s thread

In Greek Mythology when Theseus arrived in Crete to find and kill the Minotaur, Mino's daughter, Ariadne, gave him a ball of thread so he could find his way back from the Labyrinth.

These days the expression means a clue or help to get out of a hard problem.

Example: Together with these partners, we wish to spin the Ariadne's thread of women's empowerment by which humankind can emerge from the current labyrinth of global challenges.

The Pandora’s box

Pandora was, according to the myth, the first woman on Earth. She was created as a punishment to the mankind; Zeus wanted to punish people because Prometheus stole the fire to give it to them. Pandora was given a box or a jar, called “pithos” in Greek. Gods told her that the box contained special gifts from them but she was not allowed to open it. Pandora was trying to tame her curiosity, but at the end she couldn’t hold herself anymore; she opened the box and all the illnesses and hardships that gods had hidden in the box started coming out. Pandora was scared, because she saw all the evil spirits coming out and tried to close the box as fast as possible, closing Hope inside.

Nowadays Pandora’s box means something that creates a lot of new problems that you did not expect.

Example: Sadly, his reforms opened up a Pandora's box of different problem.

The sword of Damocles

The sword of Damocles was a real sword, hung over the head of Damocles in the palace of King Dionysius II, in the city of Syracouse, in Sicily, in the 4th century B.C.

Nowadays “the sword of Damocles” means any situation threatening imminent harm or disaster.

Example: The threat of a cut in funding is hanging over their startup like a sword of Damocles.

The Trojan horse

Trojan horse, huge hollow wooden horse constructed by the Greeks and filled with Greek soldiers that was used to gain entrance into Troy during the Trojan War. Greek warriors emerged from it and opened the gates to let in the returned Greek army.

Now it ‘s related to a person or thing that joins and deceives a group or organization in order to attack it from the inside.

Example: Older supporters have accused the new leadership of being a Trojan horse that will try to destroy the whole organization from the inside.