Term Paper: Greek Mythology Is a Collection of Stories

Pages: 7 (2211 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Topic: Mythology  ·  Buy for $19.77

Greek Mythology is a collection of stories by ancient Greeks about their gods and heroes (World News 2007). These stories include myths of the origin of the world, an attempt to understand and interpret the universe and the origin of the world in human terms. Many of these stories have passed down from ancient times and in more than one version (Wickersham, ed 2000). The origin of mythology itself dates back to two civilizations before 1100 BC. These were the Mycenean in the Greek mainland and the Minoan in the proximate island of Crete. Ancient beliefs eventually mixed with legends from Greek kingdoms and city-states and myths from other tribes. Together, they evolved into this body of stories accepted by most Greeks. Ancient Greece was never a unified empire. It was, instead, made up of small kingdoms, which became city-states after about 800 B.C. These myths were transmitted from generation to generation for hundreds of years in the form of spoken tales. It was not until the Classic Period that these stories were put down in written form (Wickersham).

The chief sources for the Greek Mythology are the works of Hesiod and Homer, which date back from 700 B.C (Wickersham 2000). Hesiod's Theogony attempts to relate and explain the creation and beginning of the universe and the gods and their relationships. Homer's epics, "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," show how the gods influence and even control human actions and destiny. The Romans adopted elements of Greek mythology. The Roman poet Ovid's poem retells Greek myths (Wickersham). The most widely accepted story of the beginning of everything was the account given by Hesiod (World News 2007, Wickersham 2007, Sheppard 2007, MSN Encarta 2007). It is about Chaos, a yawning nothingness, the start of all things. From nothing, Ge or Gaia, representing the Earth, and other primary beings, emerged. These other beings were Eros or Love, the Abyss or the Tartarus, and the Erebus. Gaia gave birth to Uranus asexually. Uranus united with her sexually and they produced the first 12 offspring of six males and six females, called Titans. These were Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys and Cronus. They also produced the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecantonchires or Hundred-Handers. The youngest and the most wicked of Gaia's children, Cronus, castrated his father and took over his leadership. He.reigned with his sister-wife Rhea over the other Titans. This take-over was repeated when Cronus' son, Zeus, later challenged him to battle for kingship. The Cyclopes helped Zeus to win over Cronus. Cronus and the Titans were cast into prison in Tartarus (World News, MSN Encarta, Wickersham, Sheppard).

A new set of gods and goddesses emerged after the defeat and elimination of the Titans (World News 2007). The principal Greek deities were the 12 Olympians who lived on top of Olympus before Zeus. Others were the goat-god Pan, Nymphs, Naeads, Dryads, Nereids, and Satyrs. There were also the powers of the underworld, who hounded the guilty conscience, such as the Furies. The Theogony's interpretation of the origins of the gods was of birth and not of creation (Sheppard 2006). The first ruler of the universe was Uranus or Ouranus, the sky god, after Gaia or the Earth gave birth to him asexually. The first presence was that of Chaos, or gaping nothingness, until Gaia or the Earth suddenly appeared in the scene (World News, Sheppard).

The first and well-known family of gods living in Mount Olympus in Northern Greece consisted of the 12 Olympian gods (Sheppard 2006). The leader was Zeus, the god of the sky, the weather, thunder, lightning, and the father of all mortals and immortals. His wife and sister was Hera. Poseidon, his brother, was god of the seas and shaker of the earth or earthquakes. Athena was the goddess of war, of crafts and of wisdom, the wisest of the gods and goddesses. Apollo was the god of light and order, of both plague and healing who foretold the will of Zeus, his father. His twin sister, Artemis, was goddess of childbirth and all wild animals. Aphrodite, a daughter of Uranus, was the goddess of erotic love. Hermes was the guide of souls in the underworld and the god of sleep and dreams. Demeter, the symbol of Gaia, was goddess of the earth and vegetation. His mother Persephone was a sister of Zeus. Dionysus was th god of madness, frenzy, of wine and the theater. Hephaestus was the god of fire and of the crafts. And Ares was the god of war and the only son of Zeus and Hera. Hades was not among the 12, but he was the ruler of the underworld. His other name was Pluto or Plouton, giver of wealth (Sheppard).

The evicted and imprisoned Titans possessed inventive intellect, but Zeus' was based on wisdom, a higher philosophical form (Sheppard 2006). Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, sometimes was included among the Olympian gods instead of Dionysus. She protected the home and kept it warm. She burned the sacred flame of the home. Ancient Greeks saw fire as the connection between the mortal and immortal worlds. Man was created from the ashes of the Titans after Zeus struck them with a thunderbolt in sending them to Tartarus. This was the Greeks' explanation for man's intelligence, inventiveness, curiosity and inclination to arrogance, which the Greeks hated very much (Sheppard).

Greek mythology appealed through the ages for a number of reasons. It explains the world; it explores events and meanings; it legitimizes a claim, an action or a relationship; and it entertains (MSN Encarta 2007). It explains the structure and order of the world and how things came to be. Hesiod's other poem pointed to Pandora as the source of all the troubles and diseases of the world when she opened a forbidden box. It inferred that women accounted for the evil in the world, hence the origin of gender discrimination. It also helped worshipers sort their beliefs and practices out as to how these practices began and evolved. One was the ritual of offering a domesticated animal to the gods, as that of the Titan Prometheus' offering of two meals to Zeus to choose from. This example demonstrated that even the gods could be cheated by their creatures (MSN Encarta).

Greek mythology attempts to investigate situations and examine contradictions and ambiguities (MSN Encarta 2007). An example was the situation of Achilles when Greek leader Agamemnon deprived him of his prize, a female slave. Achilles got confused as to how to react to it. This epic, Homer's "The Iliad," dealt with the limits of honor and what Achilles' decision should be. Tragedy most clearly demonstrated this purpose of Greek mythology. Great Greek playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides posed and explored extreme social conflicts within the mythical context. Sophocles' character, Antigone, for example, was caught between burying her murdered but traitorous brother Polynices and abandoning him to the city authorities. Polynices was killed by another brother while attacking the city (MSN Encarta).

Greek mythology confirms a search, act or a relationship (MSN Encarta 2007). Greek families were accustomed to discover and establish their links to heroes or gods. For example, the Greek poet Pindar associated and linked the excellence of winners in Olympic games to the attributes of the gods themselves. The two Greek city-states, Micenean and Minoan, could forge their bonds with mythological deities. And Greek mythology was and has been a source of entertainment and enjoyment then and now. Audiences all over the world and throughout history have delighted over the songs of bards, Homer's poems, and the Greek tragedies, which can draw as many as 15,000 spectators in a single performance (MSN Encarta).

Roman mythology has its own but comparable set of gods and goddesses. However, both sets not only possessed human qualities but were also often dealt and compromised with human being (Meeks 2002). The gods and goddesses shared human frailties and flaws. Zeus had supreme power, even over the weather, but like human beings, engaged in adulteries. These acts made Hera very jealous and mad. As a result, she became the goddess of revenge and marriage. The personalities of Zeus and Hera were infused into the Roman Jupiter and Juno. The trait of trickery passed on to Hermes, the god of thieves and messengers of the gods and the guide of the dead. The Roman god Vulcan was the god of the forge, smiths and armorers and artisans. Blacksmiths were valued by ancient Greeks and they were crippled to prevent them from migrating to other villages. This attitude was reflects in the concepts of both Greek and Roman systems towards blacksmiths (Meeks).

The Roman pantheon adapted the Greek system of gods and goddesses but with different names (World News 2007). The names of Roman gods were the names of planets in many cases. The Roman gods and goddesses and their parallels in Greek mythology were: Jupiter or Jove for Zeus, the king of the gods, the god of… [END OF PREVIEW]

Greek Mythology - Atlas Thesis


Origins of Greek Mythology for the Heart Term Paper


Traditional Folk or Fairy Tale Term Paper


Monotheism Atomism Zarathustrism Judaism Term Paper


Choices Portrayed in Sequential Arts Term Paper


View 76 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Greek Mythology Is a Collection of Stories.  (2007, October 28).  Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/greek-mythology-collection-stories/5957

MLA Format

"Greek Mythology Is a Collection of Stories."  28 October 2007.  Web.  17 November 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/greek-mythology-collection-stories/5957>.

Chicago Format

"Greek Mythology Is a Collection of Stories."  Essaytown.com.  October 28, 2007.  Accessed November 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/greek-mythology-collection-stories/5957.