For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been running updates on the Hot Gossip from Heaven – feuds, fights, and sex scandals from Mount Olympus, ancient Greece’s mythological celebrity nightclub. This week, we’ll push the clock way forward to see how much our own celebrities have in common with the A-listers of Olympus. These are my top five: the sexiest stars and starlets from the ancient world, and the modern mega-celebs who could easily play them on TV. They’re ranked (of course) from hot to hottest – so read on for the good stuff.
1. Persephone: Miley Cyrus
Persephone was the original good girl gone bad. It wasn’t her fault: in her younger days she was “the girl with a face like a blossom,” blushingly beautiful and demure. But that’s exactly why Hades, the slime-bag god of death, wanted to get his grubby hands on her. He kidnapped her, trapped her in the underworld, and force-fed her magic fruit so she’d have to stay down and become his captive wife. From then on she was a dark terror, the “dreaded” queen of death who fulfilled the curses of the gods. To say she went Goth is an understatement. (Homeric Hymn 2.8; Homer, Iliad 9.457)
By now most people know the story of how Miley Cyrus went from squeaky-clean American sweetheart to twerktastic slattern. Watching the poor girl gyrate to “Blurred Lines” at the VMAs, you really could almost believe she’d been dragged out of her virginal dream-world into the pits of Tartarus to be turned into a sex object against her will. Which might make Robin Thicke… the king of the underworld? Maybe that role goes to Miley’s managers. Anyway, Persephone could definitely have sympathized with Miley – if she weren’t so busy exacting horrific justice upon the cursed souls of Hades.
2. Apollo: Justin Bieber
In ancient Greece, the divine embodiment of music looked something like a smarmy little tween heartthrob. Apollo was baby-faced, with like, the softest blonde hair you have ever. Seen. OMG he was so dreamy (is effectively a paraphrased translation of the hymns they wrote to him). He was also kind of a tool: he murdered indie artists who sang better than he did, and he was always putting sleazy moves on creeped-out girls like Daphne, who had to turn into a tree to get him to stop with the pick-up lines already. Some guys just can’t take a hint. (Pausanius, Description of Greece 9.29.6-8; Parthenius, Love Stories 15; Callimachus, Hymn to Apollo 32-42)
Biebz is emphatically not the god of song, but he seems to think he is – and he hopes Anne Frank would have agreed. He shares his self-appointed role as heaven’s gift to music with Apollo (who actually was heaven’s gift to music). And just like Apollo, Bieber’s convinced no woman doesn’t want him: his Twitter account features such delusional gems as “I look like a sex Panther.” To be fair, plenty of beliebers do go crazy over those smooth cheeks and golden locks, just like ancient groupies did for Apollo. Vapid pretty boys: entrancing oversexed worshippers since before 700 BC.
3. Artemis: Jennifer Lawrence
You always want what you can’t have. And let’s be clear: you could not have Artemis. The goddess of hunting was sworn to eternal virginity, and she wasn’t kidding. She tried to make herself man-proof by butching up, clomping around in hunting boots and getting arm-deep in blood and guts from the game she bagged. But that only gave her a forbidden-sexy-tomboy kind of vibe. So when some poor goon accidentally saw her scrubbing down naked in the woods, she had him ripped limb from limb – even though bathing in public isn’t what you’d call a recipe for virginal modesty. (Callimachus, Athena’s Bath 109-115)
With her leather boots and deadeye archery, J-Law looks a lot like the hunting goddess in The Hunger Games. Off-camera, her bro-tastic, hang-with-the-boys swagger makes FHM’s “sexiest woman in the world” as unattainably adorable as Artemis. And just like the virgin goddess, Lawrence isn’t stoked about pervy dudes stealing unauthorized peeks: when someone leaked her nude selfies, Lawrence publicly accused the hacker of “a sex crime.” Again, taking nude selfies doesn’t exactly guarantee privacy, but you can’t blame a girl for getting ticked. Now, if she had the hacker dismembered and eaten alive, that’d be another story…
4. Ares: Gerard Butler
If Apollo was heaven’s boy toy, Ares was its manly man: 100 percent beefcake, through and through. The god of war was the kind of dude who came home with blood on his hands and hair on his chest, ready to get down. And get down he did, insatiably, with more goddesses and mortals than can be enumerated in polite company. Of course, his proudest score was with Aphrodite, the universe’s dream girl. Ares was a legend: women wanted him, men wanted to be him, and no one wanted to get in his way when he picked up a spear.
(Homer, Iliad 5.349 ff.; 20.51-3)
Butler proved his chops as a guy’s guy by hacking through hordes of advancing Persian soldiers in 300 – a merciless on-screen slaughter worthy of Ares himself. But Gerard has a cinematic soft side too, as he demonstrated in the (intolerable) romance, P.S. I Love You. Maybe that’s the side he shows when, like Ares, he ushers a parade of gorgeous women into (and out of) his bedroom. Butler may not have gotten with Holywood’s Aphrodite, Scarlett Johansson (yet, that we know of), but there was a rumor about another legendary sex symbol, Jennifer Aniston. The war god would be proud.
5. Aphrodite: Scarlett Johansson
No one on Olympus was as utterly gorgeous or as catastrophically destructive as Aphrodite. A lot of ancient Greeks apparently thought that the source of most chaos and devastation was sheer hotness, embodied in the goddess of love. The insane passion Aphrodite provoked caused, among other things, the Trojan freaking War. Meanwhile, the goddess of gorgeous tore through a laundry list of glamorous, high-profile flings, including Ares (the virile stud), Hephaistos (the stable nice guy), and Adonis (the sensitive matinée idol). Aphrodite’s mythological dating history reads like one of those magazines you skim at the checkout in the grocery store.
(Homer, Odyssey 8.267 ff.; Iliad 5.349 ff.; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 3.14.3-4)
In terms of getting worshipped for sex appeal, Johansson could give Aphrodite a run for her money. Esquire crowned her the “sexiest woman alive” twice – by now her name is synonymous with sexy. In true Hollywood-superstar form, she’s been through innumerable glitzy, short-lived romances: Ryan Reynolds (the virile stud), potentially Derek Jeter (the stable nice guy), and Josh Hartnett (the sensitive matinée idol). But Hephaistos and Reynolds, the two husbands, are both history – neither Johansson nor Aphrodite has a great marital track record. Looks like the Greeks were right: that kind of force-of-nature-level hotness can’t be contained.
Okay, now have at it – who’s missing here? If you think there’s a hotter god who deserves a spot on this list, shout out a name! Anyone for Thetis? Any unlikely Hephaistos fans out there? How about Hera? Or if you think there’s a better celebrity matchup for one of these guys, let the world know about it in the comments below. This is Hot Gossip from Heaven, after all – we want to hear about all your peculiar fetishes and pet favorites, mythological and modern.