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The Magnificent World of Greek Mythology
Transcript of The Magnificent World of Greek Mythology
By interpreting Greek mythology, scholars have learned a lot about ancient Greek customs, habits, beliefs, values, and institutions. In a way, the Greeks were humanities earliest scientists, seeking answers to the world's curiosities through creative and relatable observation.
Enduring Impacts - Influences on Western Culture
Even after the demise of the ancient Greeks, admiration for mythological ingenuity was shown.
Important Renaissance paintings such as Botticelli’s "Birth of Venus" and Raphael’s "Triumph of Galatea," for instance, suggest a cultural reverence for Greek wisdom.
Necessary to appreciate the works of authors Dante and Milton, as well as playwrights Shakespeare and Offenbach, is a general understanding of Greek mythology, since they allude to it so frequently in enhancing descriptions.
What is a Myth?
Derived from the Greek word "mythos," a myth refers to a story or speech often conceived from phenomena in nature.
The Magnificent World of Greek Mythology
In ancient Greece, myths served a variety of functions-
Aside from the aesthetic purpose of entertainment, they were a way to teach lessons, give guidance, and offer explanation for otherwise inexplicable natural occurrences, including the seasons, time, and the weather.
What can we Learn from Greek Mythology?
By studying Greek mythology, historians have accumulated a dazzling insight into ancient Greek history, customs, values, and religious practices.
For instance, the ancient Greek speculation that humanity is dictated by forces beyond his control is evidenced eerily by the specific gods of Fate and Destiny.
The Spread of Mythology
Originally communicated by word of mouth, myths are widely believed to have been spawned by the early Greek civilizations of Mycenae and Minoa.
From this, and with the rapid development of city-states throughout Greece, the telling of myths proliferated, creating a "body of lore" prevalent in most Greek communities.
The next development in presenting myths was reflected through the revered works of the 8th century epic poets Homer, author of "The Illiad," and "The Odyssey," and Hesiod, who wrote "The Theogony."
Around this time, interpretations of myths were also being translated through art, specifically in pottery and sculpture, and song.
The "Greek Miracle"
Many historians agree that the intellectual awakening of Greece marked the birth of a new human world.
Unlike the Aztecs and the Egyptians, the Greeks lavished support on the human image in their interpretations of the divinities, indisputable proof of a more human-centered society.
Texts like "The Odyssey" also reveal the values of law and civility. For instance, Homer's descriptions of the Cyclopes, a savage race of one-eyed monsters, recognized symbolically the ugliness of savagery
“fierce, uncivilized… the Cyclopes have no assemblies for making laws, nor any settled customs."
The Greeks, unlike other cultures, created the gods in their own image.
An In-Depth Look - The Pantheon
Derived from the Greek word “pan,” meaning all, and “theoi,” for gods, the illustrious Greek pantheon consisted of a tree of divinities who ruled absolutely over heaven and Earth.
Representing certain conditions in humanity, these divinities were often found interfering with human affairs, apart from the ordinary task of supervising the universe.
But That's Not All...
Other participants in the passing of mythology included a colorful array of heroes and monsters, each symbolic of a certain element in the essential human condition.
Encompassing a colorful eyesore of sphinxes and serpents, centaurs and Cyclopes, and the menacing Minotaur, mythological monsters are supposed to have symbolized the forbidden conditions of chaos and arbitrariness.
With fearsome and inhuman features, they often served as challenges- forcing heroes to apply and demonstrate their strength.
The Role of Monsters
The Role of Heroes
Heroes, although righteous, did not epitomize perfection, reminding listeners of an inescapable humanity, as well as the punishments that immorality could bring.
They represented ideals to aspire to- a graceful balance between the Greek values of brain and brawn.
Some of mythology's more famous heroes include:
Odysseus, whose return trip from the Trojan War was wrought with fantastical challenges.
Hercules, who satisfied twelve impossible trials.
Achilles and Jason, heroes of the Trojan War.
Perseus, who exterminated the monster Medusa.
Theseus, who killed the Minotaur and conquered the labyrinth.
All of those listed with the exception of Odysseus were known as "demigods," or the worldly kin of immortals who "bridged the gap between mortals and gods."
Minor Themes in Myths
The Two Great Gods of Earth
Also the father of heaven, he was the supreme ruler of gods and humanity
He dictated social order and law, as well as the patterns of the weather.
His defining weapons included the scepter and the thunderbolt (and a questionable temper), as well as a breastplate, the aegis, which was said to be "awful to behold."
Zeus' sister and wife, she was the queen of the gods and goddess of marriage, childbirth, and kings.
She was often characterized as condemning, for Zeus' infidelity often lead her to punish the many mortal women with which he fell in love.
Zeus' s Brothers
God of the sea, he was attributed with giving the first horse to man.
His weapon was the three-pronged trident, and he was often associated with causing earthquakes, floods, and other maritime storms.
God of death and ruler of the Underworld, he was often depicted with the three-headed dog Cerberus.
Perhaps his most famous act in mythology was the wedding of his wife, Persephone, whom he stole from the Earth and made Queen of the Underworld.
God of warfare, violence, destruction, and (ironically enough) civil order.
Many mythological artifacts suggest that he was detested throughout Greece, a fitting motivation for is connection to the vulture.
God of music, poetry, healing, truth, and prophecy, he was the figure to which most ancient Greek oracles were dedicated.
His name, Phoebus, means "brilliant" or "shining," and he was often regarded as the epitome of the Greek human image.
Apollo’s twin sister and goddess of the hunt, she is often connected with the title "Lady of Wild Things."
Zeus's Children cont.- Oddities in Birth
Said to be born from sea foam, she was the goddess of love and beauty.
She had many symbols, including the apple, the myrtle wreath, the scallop shell, and the dove.
Born spontaneously from Zeus’ head, she was the virgin goddess of strategic warfare, wisdom, and justice.
She was favored by Zeus, as evidenced in his entrusting of her to carry his armor, including the awful aegis, and his weaponry.
Unlike Ares, she treated war as a civilized necessity for protecting the home, and detested the blood lust that it created.
Her city was Athens, and she was honored as its protector.
Other Important Divinities
Son of Zeus and messenger of the gods, he also spirited ready souls to the realm of Hades.
Goddess of nature and fertility, her daughter was the maiden whom Hades made his partner.
God of fire and industry, he was often characterized as lame and ugly.
Goddess of the hearth, the household, and harmony, she at some point left Mount Olympus out of spite for the divinities constant disagreement.
Translating lessons through myths was an integral part of myth telling.
With stories that captivated the mind and soul, presenters passed on ideas that could be maintained for generations.
Take, for example, the myth of Icarus, who "gains the ability to fly but soars so close to the sun that his wings melt.” In this, Icarus “points out the dangers of tempting fate and rising above one's proper place in life," an idea worthy of telling since it could never detach from the human element.
Significant Myths Translated Through Writing.
Believed to be the first accounts of written mythology are the 8th century B.C.E. works of Homer and Hesiod.
In both tales, these authors captured the very essence of Greek mythology- to provide an explanation for the surrounding world.
Written in roughly 700 B.C.E., Hesiod's "Theogony" tells of the genesis of the world. In addition, it offers a monumental explanation for the existence of the human race.
In summary, it recalls a race of divinities, the Titans, who preceded the gods, and how Zeus overthrew his tyrannic father Cronus to become lord of the universe.
The Illiad and The Odyssey
Written around the same time as the "Theogony" were Homer's epics "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey."
"The Illiad" describes the final climactic stages of the Trojan War, while "The Odyssey" recounts the fantastic voyage home of the hero Odysseus, who fought in the Trojan War.
Common themes in both works are the intervention of gods, allegorical subtleties, and the heeding of lessons both general and cultural.
Enduring Impacts- Linguistic Influences
Many of the words, adages, and cliches found in modern English are derived from Greek mythology:
Botticelli's "Birth of Venus"
Even in popular commercial brands is mythology alluded to:
Sports-wear producer “Nike,” for example, is a suitable reference to the goddess of victory.
Additionally, the sight "Amazon.com" alludes to a mythical race of female warriors.
Achilles Heel of Two-Factor Authentication.
Gluu.com, 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
Ancient Greek Legends.
n.p., 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
The Birth of Venus.
1485. Uffizi Gallery Museum, Florence.
Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
Daedalus and Icarus.
Tumblr, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
Greece’s Sisyphean Task.
Reinventing Greece Media Project, 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
The Coraline Theme, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
Nike and Hercules and a Centaur Quadriga.
n.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
Procession of Twelve Gods and Goddesses.
Walters Art Museum, Maryland.
Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
Savage, Steele, illus.
By Edith Hamilton. New York: Mentor, 1942. Print.
Ulysses Giving Wine to Polyphemus.
Yesterday’s Classics, 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.