Greek mythology

"Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy." - Homer's Odyssey

greek mythology,greek myths,ancient greek mythology

Greek mythology is the body of myths that belong to the ancient Greeks and deal with the numerous Greek gods and heroes of ancient times. It was a part of the religion in ancient Greece. Greek mythology is known today primarily from Greek literature and representations on visual media dating from the Geometric period from c. 900-800 BC onward. In fact, literary and archaeological sources integrate, sometimes mutually supportive and sometimes in conflict; however, in many cases, the existence of this corpus of data is a strong indication that many elements of Greek mythology have strong factual and historical roots.

Greek mythology has changed over time to accommodate the evolution of their culture, of which mythology, both overtly and in its unspoken assumptions, is an index of the changes. The earlier inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula were an agricultural people who, using Animism, assigned a spirit to every aspect of nature. Eventually, these vague spirits assumed human forms and entered the local mythology as gods. When tribes from the north of the Balkan Peninsula invaded, they brought with them a new pantheon of gods, based on conquest, force, prowess in battle, and violent heroism. Other older gods of the agricultural world fused with those of the more powerful invaders or else faded into insignificance.

The achievement of epic poetry was to create story-cycles and, as a result, to develop a new sense of mythological chronology. Thus Greek mythology unfolds as a phase in the development of the world and of humans. While self-contradictions in these stories make an absolute timeline impossible, an approximate chronology may be discerned. The resulting mythological "history of the world" may be divided into three or four broader periods:

While the age of gods often has been of more interest to contemporary students of myth, the Greek authors of the archaic and classical eras had a clear preference for the age of heroes, establishing a chronology and record of human accomplishments after the questions of how the world came into being were explained. For example, the heroic Iliad and Odyssey dwarfed the divine-focused Theogony in both size and popularity. Under the influence of Homer the "hero cult" leads to a restructuring in spiritual life, expressed in the separation of the realm of the gods from the realm of the dead (heroes), of the Chthonic from the Olympian. In the Works and Days, Hesiod makes use of a scheme of Four Ages of Man (or Races): Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. These races or ages are separate creations of the gods, the Golden Age belonging to the reign of Cronos, the subsequent races the creation of Zeus. The presence of evil was explained by the myth of Pandora, when all of the best of human capabilities, save hope, had been spilled out of her overturned jar.

Although the Greeks had no official church organization, they universally honored certain holy places. Delphi, for example, was a holy site dedicated to Apollo. A temple built at Delphi contained an oracle, or prophet, whom brave travelers questioned about the future. A group of priests represented each of the holy sites. These priests, who also might be community officials, interpreted the words of the gods but did not possess any special knowledge or power. In addition to prayers, the Greeks often offered sacrifices to the gods, usually of a domestic animal such as a goat.

The Greek religion is quite different from today's dominant religions because in it there is no orthodoxy, and no one deity to depend upon. So more responsibility is left to the individual. It is a religion for adults, which offers responsibilities rather than rewards. It is a religion that encourages questioning of the divinities, and the oracles, because such questioning helps lead to a better understanding of human limitations.

Overall, Greek mythological stories of gods and heroes are still important and relevant today. Greek mythology has profoundly influenced Western culture. So universally familiar are its stories that words and sayings refer to them. The myth of Narcissus, for example, produced narcissism, or excessive vanity, and something that causes an argument may be called an "apple of discord," after an apple that Eris, the goddess of discord, used to start a dispute among Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera. We also refer to Greek myths when we talk about "opening Pandora's box" or about someone's "Achilles heel". Any modern person who reads or hears of Greek myths will be hard-pressed to stay unaffected. They are simply that good and this proves just how relevant they still are to this day.

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