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A demigod (or demi-god), meaning "half-god", is a divine or supernatural being in classical mythology. The term has been used in various ways at different times and can refer to a figure who has attained divine status after death, a minor deity, or a mortal who is the offspring of a god and a human. Demi-gods include Gilgamesh and Heracles.

Greek demi-gods

Part of the dual nature of Greek heroes that gave rise to the modern "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 (Danaë, mother of Perseus), and the seed of the two fathers is mixed in her womb. 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.

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. Such "demigods" were usually mortal, but were pre-eminent among humans, and some had unusual powers. An exception was Heracles, who was accepted in the passage of time among the Twelve Olympians.

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.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Demigod" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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