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Greek mythology is the body of
myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, or supernatural humans.Jacqueline Simpson, Simps ...
s originally told by the
ancient Greeks Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol i ...
, and a
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, m ...

genre
of
Ancient Greek folkloreAncient Greek folklore consists of the folklore of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks. The topic includes genres such as mythology (Greek mythology), legend, and Folklore genre, folktales. According to classicist William Hansen (classicist), William ...
. These stories concern the
origin Origin, origins, or original may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Comics and manga * ''Origin'' (comics), a Wolverine comic book mini-series published by Marvel Comics in 2002 * Origins (''Judge Dredd'' story), a major ''Judge Dredd ...
and nature of the world, the lives and activities of
deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatural By definition, a supernatural manifestation or event require ...
,
heroes Heroes or Héroes may refer to: * Hero, one who displays courage and self-sacrifice for the greater good Film * Heroes (1977 film), ''Heroes'' (1977 film), an American drama * Heroes (2008 film), ''Heroes'' (2008 film), an Indian Hindi film Ga ...
, and
mythological creatures A legendary or mythological creature, also called fabulous creature and fabulous beast, is a supernatural animal, generally a Hybrid beasts in folklore, hybrid, sometimes part human, whose existence has not or cannot be proven and that is described ...
, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own
cult In modern English, a cult is a social group that is defined by its unusual Religion, religious, spirituality, spiritual, or Philosophy, philosophical beliefs, or by its Followership, common interest in a particular Cult of personality, personal ...
and
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rit ...

ritual
practices. Modern
scholars A scholar is a person who pursues academic and intellectual activities, particularly those that develop expertise in an area of Studying, study. A scholar may also be an academic, who works as a professor, teacher or researcher at a university or ...
study the myths to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece, and to better understand the nature of myth-making itself. The Greek myths were initially propagated in an oral-poetic tradition most likely by
Minoan The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, flourishing from c. 3000 BC to c. 1450 BC and, after a late period of decline, finally ending around 1100 BC, during the early Greek Da ...
and Mycenaean singers starting in the 18th century BC; eventually the myths of the heroes of the
Trojan War In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Homer), Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris (mythology), Paris of Troy took Helen of Troy, Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the ...
and its aftermath became part of the oral tradition of
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was the presumed author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The ''Iliad'' is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year s ...

Homer
's
epic poems This is a list of epic poems. Ancient epics (to 500) Before the 8th century BC *''Mahābhārata'', composed by Veda Vyasa (the longest epic in the world) *''Ramayana'', composed by Valmiki *''Epic of Gilgamesh'' (Mesopotamian mythology) *Epic of L ...
, the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, ', ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Usually considered to have been written down cir ...

Iliad
'' and the ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major Ancient Greek literature, ancient Greek Epic poetry, epic poems attributed to Homer. It is one of the oldest extant works of literature still widely read by modern ...
''. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēro ...
, the ''
Theogony The ''Theogony'' (, , , i.e. "the genealogy or birth of the gods A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polyt ...
'' and the ''
Works and Days The ''Works and Days'' ( grc, Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι, Érga kaì Hēmérai)The ''Works and Days'' is sometimes called by the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
'', contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths are also preserved in the
Homeric Hymns The ''Homeric Hymns'' () are a collection of thirty-three anonymous ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is ...
, in fragments of
epic poems This is a list of epic poems. Ancient epics (to 500) Before the 8th century BC *''Mahābhārata'', composed by Veda Vyasa (the longest epic in the world) *''Ramayana'', composed by Valmiki *''Epic of Gilgamesh'' (Mesopotamian mythology) *Epic of L ...
of the
Epic Cycle The Epic Cycle ( el, Ἐπικὸς Κύκλος, ''Epikos Kyklos'') was a collection of Ancient Greek epic poems, composed in dactylic hexameter and related to the story of the Trojan War, including the ''Cypria'', the ''Aethiopis'', the so-calle ...
, in lyric poems, in the works of the
tragedians
tragedians
and
comedians A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertainment, entertain an audience by making them laughter, laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting foolish (as in slapstick), or employing prop comedy. A comedian who ad ...
of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the
Hellenistic Age The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium The Battle of Actium was a naval battle in t ...
, and in texts from the time of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings aro ...

Roman Empire
by writers such as
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46–after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (Delphi), Temple of ...

Plutarch
and
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
. Aside from this narrative deposit in
ancient Greek literature Ancient Greek literature is literature written in the Ancient Greek language from the earliest texts until the time of the Byzantine Empire. The earliest surviving works of ancient Greek literature, dating back to the early Archaic Greece, Arch ...
, pictorial representations of gods, heroes, and mythic episodes featured prominently in ancient vase paintings and the decoration of votive gifts and many other artifacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of
Heracles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera Hera (; grc-gre, Ἥρᾱ, ''Hērā''; , ''Hērē'' in Ionic and Homeric Greek) is the goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth in ancient Greek religion and ...

Heracles
. In the succeeding
Archaic Archaic is a period of time preceding a designated classical period, or something from an older period of time that is also not found or used currently: *List of archaeological periods **Archaic Sumerian language, spoken between 31st - 26th centu ...
,
Classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...
, and
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium The Battle of Actium was a naval battle in t ...
periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence.
Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture, arts, and literature of
Western civilization Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, tradition A tradition is a belief A bel ...
and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in the themes.


Sources

Greek mythology is known today primarily from
Greek literature Greek literature dates back from the ancient Greek literature Ancient Greek literature is literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to ...
and representations on visual media dating from the
Geometric periodGeometric art is a phase of Greek art Greek art began in the Cycladic and Minoan civilization, and gave birth to Western classical art in the subsequent Geometric, Archaic and Classical periods (with further developments during the Hellenist ...
from to onward.Graf, Fritz. 2009 993 ''Greek Mythology: An Introduction'', translated by T. Marier. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press The Johns Hopkins University Press (also referred to as JHU Press'' or ''JHUP) is the publishing division of Johns Hopkins University The Johns Hopkins University is a private university, private research university in Baltimore, Baltimore, Mar ...
. .
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.


Literary sources

Mythical narration plays an important role in nearly every genre of Greek literature. Nevertheless, the only general mythographical handbook to survive from Greek antiquity was the ''
Library A library is a curated collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provides physical or electronic media, digital access to material, and may be a physical l ...
'' of Pseudo-Apollodorus. This work attempts to reconcile the contradictory tales of the poets and provides a grand summary of traditional Greek mythology and heroic legends.Hard, Robin (2003). "Sources of Greek Myth". ''The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology'': ''based on H. J. Rose's "A Handbook of Greek mythology''". London: Routledge. .
Apollodorus of Athens Apollodorus of Athens ( el, Ἀπολλόδωρος ὁ Ἀθηναῖος, ''Apollodoros o Athineos''; c. 180 BC – after 120 BC) son of Asclepiades, was a Greek scholar, historian, and grammarian. He was a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon, Pana ...
lived from to and wrote on many of these topics. His writings may have formed the basis for the collection; however, the "Library" discusses events that occurred long after his death, hence the name Pseudo-Apollodorus. Among the earliest literary sources are
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was the presumed author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The ''Iliad'' is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year s ...

Homer
's two epic poems, the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, ', ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Usually considered to have been written down cir ...

Iliad
'' and the ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major Ancient Greek literature, ancient Greek Epic poetry, epic poems attributed to Homer. It is one of the oldest extant works of literature still widely read by modern ...
''. Other poets completed the
Epic Cycle The Epic Cycle ( el, Ἐπικὸς Κύκλος, ''Epikos Kyklos'') was a collection of Ancient Greek epic poems, composed in dactylic hexameter and related to the story of the Trojan War, including the ''Cypria'', the ''Aethiopis'', the so-calle ...
, but these later and lesser poems now are lost almost entirely. Despite their traditional name, the ''
Homeric Hymns The ''Homeric Hymns'' () are a collection of thirty-three anonymous ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is ...
'' have no direct connection with Homer. The oldest are choral hymns from the earlier part of the so-called Lyric age.Miles, Geoffrey (1999). "The Myth-kitty" in ''Classical Mythology in English Literature: A Critical Anthology''. Chicago:
University of Illinois Press The University of Illinois Press (UIP) is an American university press 200px, The Pitt Building in Cambridge, which used to be the headquarters of Cambridge University Press, and now serves as a conference centre for the Press. A university press ...
. .
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēro ...
, a possible contemporary with Homer, offers in his ''
Theogony The ''Theogony'' (, , , i.e. "the genealogy or birth of the gods A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polyt ...
''(''Origin of the Gods'') the fullest account of the earliest Greek myths, dealing with the creation of the world, the origin of the gods,
Titans In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...
, and
Giants Giant or Giants may refer to: Mythology and religion *Giant **Giants (Greek mythology) **Giants (Norse mythology) **Giants (Welsh folklore) **Giants (esotericism) **Nephilim, a Hebrew term loosely translated as giants in some Bibles Arts, ente ...
, as well as elaborate genealogies, folktales, and aetiological myths. Hesiod's ''
Works and Days The ''Works and Days'' ( grc, Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι, Érga kaì Hēmérai)The ''Works and Days'' is sometimes called by the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
'', a didactic poem about farming life, also includes the myths of
Prometheus In Greek mythology, Prometheus (; , , possibly meaning "forethought")Smith"Prometheus". is a Titans, Titan god of fire. Prometheus is best known for defying the gods by theft of fire, stealing fire from them and giving it to humanity in the for ...

Prometheus
,
Pandora In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature o ...

Pandora
, and the Five Ages. The poet advises on the best way to succeed in a dangerous world, rendered yet more dangerous by its gods. Lyrical poets often took their subjects from myth, but their treatment became gradually less narrative and more allusive. Greek lyric poets, including
Pindar Pindar (; grc-gre, Πίνδαρος , ; la, Pindarus; c. 518 – 438 BC) was an Greek lyric, Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes, Greece, Thebes. Of the Western canon, canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserve ...

Pindar
,
Bacchylides Bacchylides (; grc-gre, Βακχυλίδης, ''Bakkhylídēs''; c. 518 – c. 451 BC) was a Greek lyric poet. Later Greeks included him in the canonical list of Nine Lyric Poets, which included his uncle Simonides. The elegance and polished style ...
and
Simonides Simonides of Ceos (; grc-gre, Σιμωνίδης ὁ Κεῖος; c. 556–468 BC) was a Greek lyric poet, born at Ioulis on Kea (island), Ceos. The scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria included him in the canonical list of the nine lyric p ...
, and bucolic poets such as
Theocritus Theocritus (; grc-gre, Θεόκριτος, ''Theokritos''; born c. 300 BC, died after 260 BC) was a Sicilian poet and the creator of Ancient Greek pastoral poetry. Life Little is known of Theocritus beyond what can be inferred from his writings. ...
and Bion, relate individual mythological incidents.Klatt, Mary J., and Antoinette Brazouski. 1994. "Preface" in ''Children's Books on Ancient Greek and Roman Mythology: An Annotated Bibliography''.
Greenwood Press Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. (GPG), also known as ABC-Clio/Greenwood (stylized ABC-CLIO/Greenwood), is an educational and academic publisher (middle school A middle school (also known as intermediate school, junior high school, or lower se ...
. .
Additionally, myth was central to classical Athenian drama. The
tragic Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, ...

tragic
playwrights
Aeschylus Aeschylus (, ; grc-gre, Αἰσχύλος ; c. 525/524 – c. 456/455 BC) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek Greek tragedy, tragedian, and is often described as the father of tragedy. Academic knowledge of the genre begins with his work, and ...
,
Sophocles Sophocles (; grc-gre, Σοφοκλῆς, ; 497/6 – winter 406/5 BC)Sommerstein (2002), p. 41. is one of three ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, anc ...

Sophocles
, and
Euripides Euripides (; grc, Εὐριπίδης ''Eurīpídēs'', ; ) was a tragedian Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowful ...

Euripides
took most of their plots from myths of the age of heroes and the Trojan War. Many of the great tragic stories (e.g.
Agamemnon In Greek mythology, Agamemnon (; grc-gre, Ἀγαμέμνων ''Agamémnōn'') was a king of Mycenae, the son, or grandson, of King Atreus and Queen Aerope, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra and the father of Iphigenia, Electr ...
and his children,
Oedipus Oedipus (, ; grc-gre, wikt:Οἰδίπους, Οἰδίπους "swollen foot") was a mythical Greek king of Ancient Thebes (Boeotia), Thebes. A tragic hero in Greek mythology, Oedipus accidentally fulfilled a prophecy that he would end up kill ...

Oedipus
,
Jason Jason ( ; ) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek Greek mythology, mythological hero and leader of the Argonauts, whose quest for the Golden Fleece featured in Greek literature. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcos. He was marrie ...

Jason
,
Medea In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...

Medea
, etc.) took on their classic form in these tragedies. The comic playwright
Aristophanes Aristophanes (; grc, Ἀριστοφάνης, ; c. 446 – c. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme Kydathenaion ( la, Cydathenaeum), was a comedy, comic playwright or comedy-writer of Classical Athens, ancient Athens and a poet of Ancient ...
also used myths, in '' The Birds'' and ''
The Frogs ''The Frogs'' ( grc-gre, Βάτραχοι, Bátrakhoi, Frogs; la, Ranae, often abbreviated ''Ran.'' or ''Ra.'') is a comedy Comedy (from the el, wikt:κωμῳδία, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of dis ...
''. Historians
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It ...
and
Diodorus Siculus Diodorus Siculus (; grc-koi, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ''Diodoros Sikeliotes'';  1st century BC) or Diodorus of Sicily was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek historian. He is known for writing the monumental universal history ''Bi ...
, and geographers
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
and
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pres ...

Strabo
, who traveled throughout the Greek world and noted the stories they heard, supplied numerous local myths and legends, often giving little-known alternative versions. Herodotus in particular, searched the various traditions presented him and found the historical or mythological roots in the confrontation between Greece and the East. Herodotus attempted to reconcile origins and the blending of differing cultural concepts. The poetry of the
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium The Battle of Actium was a naval battle in t ...
and
Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in ...
ages was primarily composed as a literary rather than cultic exercise. Nevertheless, it contains many important details that would otherwise be lost. This category includes the works of: # The Roman poets
Ovid Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (; 20 March 43 BC – 17/18 AD), known in English as Ovid ( ), was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor, reigning from ...

Ovid
,
Statius Publius Papinius Statius (; ) was a Roman poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience. ...
, Valerius Flaccus,
Seneca Seneca may refer to: People and language *Seneca (name), a list of people with either the given name or surname *Seneca the Elder, a Roman rhetorician, writer and father of the stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger *Seneca the Younger, a Roman Stoi ...
and
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 7021 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Rome, ancient Roman poet of the Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Augustan period. He composed three o ...

Virgil
with
ServiusServius is the name of: * Servius (praenomen), the personal name * Maurus Servius Honoratus, a late fourth-century and early fifth-century grammarian * Servius Tullius, the Roman king * Servius Sulpicius Rufus, the 1st century BC Roman jurist See ...
's commentary. # The Greek poets of the Late Antique period:
Nonnus Nonnus of Panopolis ( grc-gre, Νόννος ὁ Πανοπολίτης, ''Nónnos ho Panopolítēs'') was a Greek epic poet of Hellenized Egypt in the Imperial Roman era. He was a native of Panopolis (Akhmim) in the Roman Egypt, Egyptian Thebaid a ...
,
Antoninus Liberalis Antoninus is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Re ...
, and
Quintus Smyrnaeus Quintus Smyrnaeus (also Quintus of Smyrna; el, Κόϊντος Σμυρναῖος, ''Kointos Smyrnaios'') was a Greek epic poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others ...
. # The Greek poets of the Hellenistic period:
Apollonius of Rhodes Apollonius of Rhodes ( grc, Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος ''Apollṓnios Rhódios''; la, Apollonius Rhodius; fl. first half of 3rd century BCE) was an ancient Greek author, best known for the ''Argonautica The ''Argonautica'' ( el, Ἀ ...
,
Callimachus Callimachus (; grc-gre, Καλλίμαχος, ''Kallimakhos''; 310/305– 240 BC) was a native of the Greek colony of Cyrene, Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Libya, ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Līb ...
, Pseudo-
Eratosthenes Eratosthenes of Cyrene (; el, Ἐρατοσθένης ὁ Κυρηναῖος, translit=Eratosthénēs ho Kurēnaĩos, ;  – ) was a Greek polymath: a Greek mathematics, mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theory, music t ...

Eratosthenes
, and Parthenius. Prose writers from the same periods who make reference to myths include
Apuleius Apuleius (; also called Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis; c. 124 – c. 170 AD) was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
,
Petronius Gaius Petronius Arbiter"Gaius Petronius Arbiter"
Britannica.com.
(; ; c. A ...
,
LollianusLollianus (sometimes rendered in English as ''Lollian'') is a Roman personal name which may refer to many figures of classical antiquity, including: *Lollianus ( Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus, sometimes called Lollianus Spurius), a general proclaimed ...
, and
Heliodorus Heliodorus is a Greece, Greek name meaning "Gift of the Sun". Several persons named Heliodorus are known to us from ancient times, the best known of which are: *Heliodorus (minister) a minister of Seleucus IV Philopator c. 175 BC *Heliodorus of ...
. Two other important non-poetical sources are the ''Fabulae'' and ''Astronomica'' of the Roman writer styled as Pseudo-
Hyginus Gaius Julius Hyginus (; 64 BC – AD 17) was a Latin author, a pupil of the scholar Alexander Polyhistor, and a freedman of Augustus, Caesar Augustus. He was elected superintendent of the Library of Palatine Apollo, Palatine library by Augustus ac ...
, the ''Imagines'' of Philostratus the Elder and
Philostratus the YoungerPhilostratus the Younger ( grc-gre, Φιλόστρατος ὁ Νεώτερος; fl. 3rd century AD), also known as Philostratus of Lemnos, was a Greek sophist of the Roman imperial period. He was author of the second series of ''Imagines'', which d ...
, and the ''Descriptions'' of Callistratus. Finally, several
Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It surviv ...
Greek writers provide important details of myth, much derived from earlier now lost Greek works. These preservers of myth include
Arnobius Arnobius (died c. 330) was an early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Christian Church, Church with its various Christian denomination, denominations ...
, Hesychius, the author of the ''
Suda First page of an early printed edition of the ''Suda'' The ''Suda'' or ''Souda'' (; grc-x-medieval, Σοῦδα, Soûda; la, Suidae Lexicon) is a large 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia (British Engli ...

Suda
'',
John TzetzesJohn Tzetzes ( gr, Ἰωάννης Τζέτζης, Iōánnēs Tzétzēs; c. 1110, Constantinople la, Constantinopolis , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse), Tsarigrad (Slavs, ...
, and Eustathius. They often treat mythology from a Christian moralizing perspective.


Archaeological sources

The discovery of the
Mycenaean civilization Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features ...
by the German amateur
archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archaeologists also draw from biological, geological ...
Heinrich Schliemann Heinrich Schliemann (; 6 January 1822 – 26 December 1890) was a German businessman and pioneer in the field of archaeology. He was an advocate of the historicity of places mentioned in the works of Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ...

Heinrich Schliemann
in the nineteenth century, and the discovery of the
Minoan civilization The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the ...
in
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology i ...
by the British archaeologist
Arthur Evans Sir Arthur John Evans (8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941) was a British archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch o ...
in the twentieth century, helped to explain many existing questions about Homer's epics and provided archaeological evidence for many of the mythological details about gods and heroes. Unfortunately, the evidence about myths and rituals at Mycenaean and Minoan sites is entirely monumental, as the
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ...
script (an ancient form of Greek found in both Crete and mainland Greece) was used mainly to record inventories, although certain names of gods and heroes have been tentatively identified. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth-century  BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle, as well as the adventures of Heracles. These visual representations of myths are important for two reasons. Firstly, many Greek myths are attested on vases earlier than in literary sources: of the twelve labors of Heracles, for example, only the
Cerberus In Greek mythology, Cerberus (; grc-gre, Κέρβερος ''Kérberos'' ), often referred to as the hound of Hades, is a polycephaly, multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. He was the offsprin ...
adventure occurs in a contemporary literary text.Homer, ''Iliad'', 8. An epic poem about the Battle of Troy
366–369
/ref> Secondly, visual sources sometimes represent myths or mythical scenes that are not attested in any extant literary source. In some cases, the first known representation of a myth in geometric art predates its first known representation in late archaic poetry, by several centuries. In the Archaic (), Classical (–323 BC), and Hellenistic (323–146 BC) periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence.


Survey of mythic history

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. In Greek mythology's surviving literary forms, as found mostly at the end of the progressive changes, it is inherently political, as Gilbert Cuthbertson (1975) has argued.Cuthbertson (1975) selects a wider range of epic, from
Gilgamesh , image = Hero lion Dur-Sharrukin Louvre AO19862.jpg , alt = , caption = Possible representation of Gilgamesh as Master of Animals, grasping a lion in his left arm and snake in his right hand, in an Assyrian palace relief ( ...

Gilgamesh
to Voltaire's ''
Henriade ''La Henriade'' is an epic poem of 1723 written by the French Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment writer and philosopher François-Marie Arouet, Voltaire. According to Voltaire himself, the poem concerns and was written in honour of the life of Hen ...
'', but his central theme—that myths encode mechanisms of cultural dynamics structure community by the creation of moral consensus—is a familiar mainstream view that applies to Greek myth.
The earlier inhabitants of the
Balkan Peninsula The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, are a geographic area in southeastern Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather ...
were an agricultural people who, using
animism Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
, assigned a spirit to every aspect of nature. Eventually, these vague spirits assumed human forms and entered the local mythology as gods.Albala, Ken G, Claudia Durst Johnson, and Vernon E. Johnson. 2000. '' Understanding the Odyssey''.
Courier Dover Publications Dover Publications, also known as Dover Books, is an American book publisher founded in 1941 by Hayward Cirker and his wife, Blanche. It primarily reissues books that are out of print from their original publishers. These are often, but not always ...
. .
When tribes from the north of the Balkan Peninsula invaded, they brought with them a new
pantheon Pantheon may refer to: * Pantheon (religion), the set of gods belonging to a particular religion, mythology or tradition * Pantheon (mythical creature), a mythical or imaginary creature used in heraldry, particularly in Britain Computing *Pant ...
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. After the middle of the Archaic period, myths about relationships between male gods and male heroes became more and more frequent, indicating the parallel development of pedagogic pederasty (), thought to have been introduced around 630 BC. By the end of the fifth-century  BC, poets had assigned at least one
eromenos The word ''eromenos'' describes an adolescent boy who is the passive (or ‘receptive’, ‘subordinate’) partner in a homosexual relationship (usually between males), opposite to the word ''erastes'' (to love, the older and active partner) in A ...
, an adolescent boy who was their sexual companion, to every important
god God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or In the context of religio ...

god
except
Ares Ares (; grc, Ἄρης, ''Árēs'' ) is the Greek god of courage and war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians upright=1.8, Fragment of a relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid backg ...
and many legendary figures.Calimach, Andrew, ed. 2002. " The Cultural Background." Pp. 12–109 in '' Lovers' Legends: The Gay Greek Myths''. New Rochelle, NY: Haiduk Press. . Previously existing myths, such as those of
Achilles In Greek mythology, Achilles ( ) or Achilleus ( grc, Ἀχιλλεύς, ) was a hero of the Trojan War, the greatest of all the Greek warriors, and is the central character of Homer's ''Iliad''. He was the son of the Nereid Thetis and Peleus, k ...

Achilles
and
Patroclus In Greek mythology, as recorded in Homer's ''Iliad'', Patroclus (pronunciation variable but generally ; Ancient Greek: Πάτροκλος ''Pátroklos'' "glory of the father") was a childhood friend, close wartime companion, and, in later traditio ...
, also then were cast in a pederastic light.Percy, William A. 1999. "The Institutionalization of Pederasty" in ''Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece''. London:
Routledge Routledge () is a British multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a sov ...
. .
Alexandrian poets at first, then more generally literary mythographers in the early Roman Empire, often re-adapted stories of Greek mythological characters in this fashion. 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. Dowden, Ken. 1992. "Myth and Mythology" in ''The Uses of Greek Mythology''. London:
Routledge Routledge () is a British multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a sov ...
. .
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: # ''The myths of origin'' or ''age of gods (Theogonies, "births of gods")'': myths about the origins of the world, the gods, and the human race. # ''The age when gods and mortals mingled freely'': stories of the early interactions between gods,
demigod 250px, " Cuchulain Slays the Hound of Culain", illustration by Stephen Reid (artist), Stephen Reid from Eleanor Hull's ''The Boys' Cuchulain'', 1904 A demigod or demi-god is a minor deity, or a mortal or immortal who is the offspring of a Deity, ...
s, and mortals. # '' The age of heroes (heroic age)'', where divine activity was more limited. The last and greatest of the heroic legends is the story of ''the Trojan War and after'' (which is regarded by some researchers as a separate, fourth period). 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'' and Homeric Hymns 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 Chthonic (, ; from grc, χθόνιος, translit=khthónios , "in, under, or beneath the earth", from "earth") literally means "subterranean", but the word in English describes deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatu ...

Chthonic
from the Olympian.Burkert, Walter. 2002. "Prehistory and the Minoan Mycenaen Era" in ''Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical'', translated by J. Raffan.
Blackwell Publishing Wiley-Blackwell is an international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons. It was formed by the merger of John Wiley & Sons Global Scientific, Technical, and Medical business with Blackwell Publishi ...
. .
In the ''Works and Days'', Hesiod makes use of a scheme of Four
Ages of Man The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories conce ...
(or Races): Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. These races or ages are separate creations of the gods, the
Golden Age The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology, particularly the ''Works and Days'' of Hesiod, and is part of the description of temporal decline of the state of peoples through five Ages of Man, Ages, Gold being the first and the one during wh ...

Golden Age
belonging to the reign of Cronos, the subsequent races to the creation of
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' compos ...

Zeus
. The presence of evil was explained by the myth of
Pandora In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature o ...

Pandora
, when all of the best of human capabilities, save hope, had been spilled out of her overturned jar.Hesiod, ''Works and Days''
90–105
/ref> In ''
Metamorphoses The ''Metamorphoses'' ( la, Metamorphōseōn librī: "Books of Transformations") is an 8 AD Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally ...
'', Ovid follows Hesiod's concept of the four ages.Ovid, ''Metamorphoses'', I
89–162
/ref>


Origins of the world and the gods

"Myths of origin" or "
creation myth A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) is a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it., "Creation myths are symbolic stories describing how the universe and its inhabitants came to be. Creation myths develop t ...
s" represent an attempt to explain the beginnings of the universe in human language. The most widely accepted version at the time, although a philosophical account of the beginning of things, is reported by
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēro ...
, in his ''
Theogony The ''Theogony'' (, , , i.e. "the genealogy or birth of the gods A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polyt ...
''. He begins with
Chaos Chaos or CHAOS may refer to: Arts, entertainment and media Fictional elements * Chaos (Kinnikuman), Chaos (''Kinnikuman'') * Chaos (Sailor Moon), Chaos (''Sailor Moon'') * Chaos (Sesame Park), Chaos (''Sesame Park'') * Chaos (Warhammer), Chaos ('' ...
, a yawning nothingness. Out of the void emerged
Gaia In Greek mythology, Gaia (; from Ancient Greek a poetical form of ''Gē'', "land" or "earth"),, , . also spelled Gaea , is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia is the ancestral mother—sometimes part ...
(the Earth) and some other primary divine beings:
Eros In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...

Eros
(Love), the
Abyss Abyss may refer to: * Abyss (religion), a bottomless pit, or a passage to the underworld Film and television * The Abyss (1910 film), ''The Abyss'' (1910 film), a Danish silent film starring Asta Nielsen * The Abyss (1988 film), ''The Abyss'' (1 ...
(the
Tartarus 250px, alt=Sisyphus depicted on a black-figure amphora vase , Persephone supervising Sisyphus in the Greek underworld, Underworld, Attica, Attic black-figure amphora,  530 BC In Greek mythology, Tartarus (; grc, Τάρταρος, ''Tártar ...

Tartarus
), and the
Erebus In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...
.Hesiod, ''Theogony'', 116–138 Without male assistance, Gaia gave birth to Uranus (mythology), Uranus (the Sky) who then fertilized her. From that union were born first the
Titans In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...
—six males: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion (mythology), Hyperion, Iapetus (mythology), Iapetus, and Oceanus; and six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe (mythology), Phoebe, Rhea (mythology), Rhea, Theia, Themis, and Tethys (mythology), Tethys. After Cronus was born, Gaia and Uranus decreed no more Titans were to be born. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclops, Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones, who were both thrown into Tartarus by Uranus. This made Gaia furious. Cronus ("the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia (mythology), Gaia's children"), was convinced by Gaia to castrate his father. He did this and became the ruler of the Titans with his sister-wife, Rhea, as his consort, and the other Titans became his court. A motif of father-against-son conflict was repeated when Cronus was confronted by his son,
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' compos ...

Zeus
. Because Cronus had betrayed his father, he feared that his offspring would do the same, and so each time Rhea gave birth, he snatched up the child and ate it. Rhea hated this and tricked him by hiding Zeus and wrapping a stone in a baby's blanket, which Cronus ate. When Zeus was full-grown, he fed Cronus a drugged drink which caused him to vomit, throwing up Rhea's other children, including Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, and the stone, which had been sitting in Cronus's stomach all this time. Zeus then challenged Cronus to Titanomachy, war for the kingship of the gods. At last, with the help of the Cyclopes (whom Zeus freed from Tartarus), Zeus and his siblings were victorious, while Cronus and the Titans were hurled down to imprisonment in
Tartarus 250px, alt=Sisyphus depicted on a black-figure amphora vase , Persephone supervising Sisyphus in the Greek underworld, Underworld, Attica, Attic black-figure amphora,  530 BC In Greek mythology, Tartarus (; grc, Τάρταρος, ''Tártar ...

Tartarus
.Hesiod, ''Theogony'', s:Theogony, 713–735 Zeus was plagued by the same concern, and after a prophecy that the offspring of his first wife, Metis (mythology), Metis, would give birth to a god "greater than he", Zeus swallowed her. She was already Pregnancy, pregnant with Athena, however, and she burst forth from his head—fully-grown and dressed for war. The earliest Greek thought about poetry considered the theogonies to be the prototypical poetic genre—the prototypical ''mythos''—and imputed almost magical powers to it. Orpheus, the archetypal poet, also was the archetypal singer of theogonies, which he uses to calm seas and storms in Apollonius' ''Argonautica'', and to move the stony hearts of the underworld gods in his descent to Hades. When Hermes invents the lyre in the ''Homeric Hymn to Hermes'', the first thing he does is sing about the birth of the gods.''Homeric Hymn to Hermes''
414–435
/ref> Hesiod's ''Theogony'' is not only the fullest surviving account of the gods but also the fullest surviving account of the archaic poet's function, with its long preliminary invocation to the Muses. Theogony also was the subject of many lost poems, including those attributed to Orpheus, Musaeus of Athens, Musaeus, Epimenides, Abaris the Hyperborean, Abaris, and other legendary seers, which were used in private ritual purifications and Greco-Roman mysteries, mystery-rites. There are indications that Plato was familiar with some version of the Orphic theogony.Gábor Betegh, Betegh, Gábor. 2004. "The Interpretation of the poet" in ''The Derveni Papyrus''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . A silence would have been expected about religious rites and beliefs, however, and that nature of the culture would not have been reported by members of the society while the beliefs were held. After they ceased to become religious beliefs, few would have known the rites and rituals. Allusions often existed, however, to aspects that were quite public. Images existed on pottery and religious artwork that were interpreted and more likely, misinterpreted in many diverse myths and tales. A few fragments of these works survive in quotations by Neoplatonism, Neoplatonist philosophers and recently unearthed papyrus scraps. One of these scraps, the Derveni papyrus, Derveni Papyrus now proves that at least in the fifth-century  BC a theogonic-cosmogonic poem of Orpheus was in existence. The first philosophical cosmologists reacted against, or sometimes built upon, popular mythical conceptions that had existed in the Greek world for some time. Some of these popular conceptions can be gleaned from the poetry of Homer and Hesiod. In Homer, the Earth was viewed as a flat disk afloat on the river of Oceanus and overlooked by a hemispherical sky with sun, moon, and stars. The Sun (Helios) traversed the heavens as a charioteer and sailed around the Earth in a golden bowl at night. Sun, earth, heaven, rivers, and winds could be addressed in prayers and called to witness oaths. Natural fissures were popularly regarded as entrances to the subterranean house of Hades and his predecessors, home of the dead.Keimpe Algra, Algra, Keimpe. 1999. "The Beginnings of Cosmology" in ''The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . Influences from other cultures always afforded new themes.


Greek pantheon

According to Classical-era mythology, after the overthrow of the Titans, the new pantheon (gods), pantheon of god (male deity), gods and goddesses was confirmed. Among the principal Greek gods were the Olympians, residing on Mount Olympus under the eye of Zeus. (The limitation of their number to twelve seems to have been a comparatively modern idea.)Stoll, Heinrich Wilhelm. 1852. ''Handbook of the Religion and Mythology of the Greeks'', translated by R. B. Paul. Francis & John Rivington. Besides the Olympians, the Greeks worshipped various gods of the countryside, the satyr-god Pan (mythology), Pan, Nymphs (spirits of rivers), Naiads (who dwelled in springs), Dryads (who were spirits of the trees), Nereids (who inhabited the sea), river gods, Satyrs, and others. In addition, there were the dark powers of the underworld, such as the Erinyes (or Furies), said to pursue those guilty of crimes against blood-relatives. In order to honor the Ancient Greek pantheon, poets composed the Homeric Hymns (a group of thirty-three songs).J. Cashford, ''The Homeric Hymns'', vii Gregory Nagy (1992) regards "the larger Homeric Hymns as simple preludes (compared with ''Theogony''), each of which invokes one god."Gregory Nagy, Nagy, Gregory. 1992. "The Hellenization of the Indo-European Poetics" in ''Greek Mythology and Poetics''. Cornell University Press. . The gods of Greek mythology are described as having essentially corporeal but ideal bodies. According to Walter Burkert, the defining characteristic of Greek anthropomorphism is that "the Greek gods are persons, not abstractions, ideas or concepts." Regardless of their underlying forms, the Ancient Greek gods have many fantastic abilities; most significantly, the gods are not affected by disease, and can be wounded only under highly unusual circumstances. The Greeks considered immortality as the distinctive characteristic of their gods; this immortality, as well as unfading youth, was insured by the constant use of nectar and ambrosia, by which the divine blood was renewed in their veins. Each god descends from his or her own genealogy, pursues differing interests, has a certain area of expertise, and is governed by a unique personality; however, these descriptions arise from a multiplicity of archaic local variants, which do not always agree with one another. When these gods are called upon in poetry, prayer, or cult, they are referred to by a combination of their name and epithets, that identify them by these distinctions from other manifestations of themselves (e.g., ''Apollo Musagetes'' is "Apollo, [as] leader of the Muses"). Alternatively, the epithet may identify a particular and localized aspect of the god, sometimes thought to be already ancient during the classical epoch of Greece. Most gods were associated with specific aspects of life. For example, Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty,
Ares Ares (; grc, Ἄρης, ''Árēs'' ) is the Greek god of courage and war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians upright=1.8, Fragment of a relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid backg ...
was the god of war, Hades the ruler of the underworld, and Athena the goddess of wisdom and courage. Some gods, such as Apollo and Dionysus, revealed complex personalities and mixtures of functions, while others, such as Hestia (literally "hearth") and Helios (literally "sun"), were little more than personifications. The most impressive Greek temple, temples tended to be dedicated to a limited number of gods, who were the focus of large pan-Hellenic cults. It was, however, common for individual regions and villages to devote their own cults to minor gods. Many cities also honored the more well-known gods with unusual local rites and associated strange myths with them that were unknown elsewhere. During the heroic age, the cult of heroes (or demigods) supplemented that of the gods.


Age of gods and mortals

Bridging the age when gods lived alone and the age when divine interference in human affairs was limited was a transitional age in which gods and mortals moved together. These were the early days of the world when the groups mingled more freely than they did later. Most of these tales were later told by Ovid's ''
Metamorphoses The ''Metamorphoses'' ( la, Metamorphōseōn librī: "Books of Transformations") is an 8 AD Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally ...
'' and they are often divided into two thematic groups: tales of love, and tales of punishment. Tales of love often involve incest, or the seduction or rape of a mortal woman by a male god, resulting in heroic offspring. The stories generally suggest that relationships between gods and mortals are something to avoid; even consenting relationships rarely have happy endings. In a few cases, a female divinity mates with a mortal man, as in the ''Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite'', where the goddess lies with Anchises to produce Aeneas. The second type (tales of punishment) involves the appropriation or invention of some important cultural artifact, as when
Prometheus In Greek mythology, Prometheus (; , , possibly meaning "forethought")Smith"Prometheus". is a Titans, Titan god of fire. Prometheus is best known for defying the gods by theft of fire, stealing fire from them and giving it to humanity in the for ...

Prometheus
steals fire from the gods, when Tantalus steals nectar and ambrosia from Zeus' table and gives it to his subjects—revealing to them the secrets of the gods, when
Prometheus In Greek mythology, Prometheus (; , , possibly meaning "forethought")Smith"Prometheus". is a Titans, Titan god of fire. Prometheus is best known for defying the gods by theft of fire, stealing fire from them and giving it to humanity in the for ...

Prometheus
or Lycaon (Greek myth), Lycaon invents sacrifice, when Demeter teaches agriculture and the Eleusinian Mysteries, Mysteries to Triptolemus, or when Marsyas invents the aulos and enters into a musical contest with Apollo. Ian Morris considers Prometheus' adventures as "a place between the history of the gods and that of man."Morris, Ian. 2000. ''Archaeology As Cultural History''. Blackwell Publishing. . An anonymous papyrus fragment, dated to the third century, vividly portrays Dionysus' punishment of the king of Thrace, Lycurgus (Thrace), Lycurgus, whose recognition of the new god came too late, resulting in horrific penalties that extended into the afterlife.Weaver, John B. 1998. "Introduction" in ''The Plots of Epiphany.'' Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. . The story of the arrival of Dionysus to establish his cult in Thrace was also the subject of an Aeschylean trilogy.Bushnell, Rebecca W. 2005. "Helicocentric Stoicism in the Saturnalia: The Egyptian Apollo" in ''Medieval: A Companion to Tragedy''. Blackwell Publishing. . In another tragedy, Euripides' ''The Bacchae'', the king of Thebes, Greece, Thebes, Pentheus, is punished by Dionysus, because he disrespected the god and spied on his Maenads, the female worshippers of the god.Trobe, Kala. 2001. "Dionysus" in ''iarchive:invokegods00kala, Invoke the Gods''. Llewellyn Worldwide. . In another story, based on an old folktale-motif,Nilsson, Martin P. 1940. "The Religion of Eleusis" in
Greek Popular Religion
'. New York: Columbia University Press. p
50
and echoing a similar theme, Demeter was searching for her daughter, Persephone, having taken the form of an old woman called Doso, and received a hospitable welcome from Celeus, the King of Eleusis in Attica, Greece, Attica. As a gift to Celeus, because of his hospitality, Demeter planned to make his son Demophon of Eleusis, Demophon a god, but she was unable to complete the ritual because his mother Metanira walked in and saw her son in the fire and screamed in fright, which angered Demeter, who lamented that foolish mortals do not understand the concept and ritual.''Homeric Hymn to Demeter''
255–274
/ref>


Heroic age

The age in which the heroes lived is known as the Greek Heroic Age, Heroic age.Kelsey, Francis W. (1889). ''A Handbook of Greek Mythology''. Allyn and Bacon. p. 30. The epic and genealogical poetry created cycles of stories clustered around particular heroes or events and established the family relationships between the heroes of different stories; they thus arranged the stories in sequence. According to Ken Dowden (1992), "there is even a saga effect: We can follow the fates of some families in successive generations." After the rise of the hero cult, gods and heroes constitute the sacral sphere and are invoked together in oaths and prayers which are addressed to them. Burkert (2002) notes that "the roster of heroes, again in contrast to the gods, is never given fixed and final form. Great gods are no longer born, but new heroes can always be raised up from the army of the dead." Another important difference between the hero cult and the cult of gods is that the hero becomes the centre of local group identity. The monumental events of Heracles are regarded as the dawn of the age of heroes. To the Heroic Age are also ascribed three great events: the Argonauts, Argonautic expedition, the Theban Cycle, and the
Trojan War In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Homer), Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris (mythology), Paris of Troy took Helen of Troy, Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the ...
.H. J. Rose, Rose, Herbert Jennings. 1991. ''A Handbook of Greek Mythology''. London:
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. .


Heracles and the Heracleidae

Some scholars believe that behind Heracles' complicated mythology there was probably a real man, perhaps a chieftain-vassal of the kingdom of Ancient Argos, Argos. Some scholars suggest the story of Heracles is an allegory for the sun's yearly passage through the twelve constellations of the zodiac.Dupuis, C. F. ''The Origin of All Religious Worship''. p. 86. Others point to earlier myths from other cultures, showing the story of Heracles as a local adaptation of hero myths already well established. Traditionally, Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmene, granddaughter of Perseus. His fantastic solitary exploits, with their many folklore, folk-tale themes, provided much material for popular legend. According to Burkert (2002), "He is portrayed as a sacrificer, mentioned as a founder of altars, and imagined as a voracious eater himself; it is in this role that he appears in comedy. While his tragic end provided much material for tragedy—''Heracles (Euripides), Heracles'' is regarded by Thalia Papadopoulou as "a play of great significance in examination of other Euripidean dramas."Papadopoulou, Thalia. 2005. "Introduction" in ''Heracles and Euripidean Tragedy''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . p. 1. In art and literature Heracles was represented as an enormously strong man of moderate height; his characteristic weapon was the bow but frequently also the club. Vase paintings demonstrate the unparalleled popularity of Heracles, his fight with the lion being depicted many hundreds of times. Heracles also entered Etruscan and Roman mythology and cult, and the exclamation "mehercule" became as familiar to the Romans as "Herakleis" was to the Greeks. In Italy he was worshipped as a god of merchants and traders, although others also prayed to him for his characteristic gifts of good luck or rescue from danger. Heracles attained the highest social prestige through his appointment as official ancestor of the Dorians, Dorian kings. This probably served as a legitimation for the Dorian migrations into the Peloponnese. Hyllus, the eponymous hero of one Dorian phyle, became the son of Heracles and one of the ''Heracleidae'' or ''Heraclids'' (the numerous descendants of Heracles, especially the descendants of Hyllus—other Heracleidae included Macaria, Lamos, Manto (Greek Mythology), Manto, Bianor, Tlepolemus, and Telephus). These Heraclids conquered the Peloponnese, Peloponnesian kingdoms of Mycenae, Sparta and Ancient Argos, Argos, claiming, according to legend, a right to rule them through their ancestor. Their rise to dominance is frequently called the "Dorian invasion". The Lydian and later the Macedonian kings, as rulers of the same rank, also became Heracleidae.Herodotus, ''The Histories'', I
6–7
Other members of this earliest generation of heroes such as Perseus, Deucalion, Theseus and Bellerophon, have many traits in common with Heracles. Like him, their exploits are solitary, fantastic and border on fairy tale, as they slay monsters such as the Chimera (mythology), Chimera and Medusa. Bellerophon's adventures are commonplace types, similar to the adventures of Heracles and Theseus. Sending a hero to his presumed death is also a recurrent theme of this early heroic tradition, used in the cases of Perseus and Bellerophon.


Argonauts

The only surviving Hellenistic epic, the ''Argonautica'' of Apollonius of Rhodes (epic poet, scholar, and director of the Library of Alexandria) tells the myth of the voyage of
Jason Jason ( ; ) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek Greek mythology, mythological hero and leader of the Argonauts, whose quest for the Golden Fleece featured in Greek literature. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcos. He was marrie ...

Jason
and the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the mythical land of Colchis. In the ''Argonautica'', Jason is impelled on his quest by king Pelias, who receives a prophecy that a man with one sandal would be his nemesis (mythology), nemesis. Jason loses a sandal in a river, arrives at the court of Pelias, and the epic is set in motion. Nearly every member of the next generation of heroes, as well as Heracles, went with Jason in the ship ''Argo'' to fetch the Golden Fleece. This generation also included Theseus, who went to
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology i ...
to slay the Minotaur; Atalanta, the female heroine, and Meleager, who once had an epic cycle of his own to rival the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, ', ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Usually considered to have been written down cir ...

Iliad
'' and ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major Ancient Greek literature, ancient Greek Epic poetry, epic poems attributed to Homer. It is one of the oldest extant works of literature still widely read by modern ...
''.
Pindar Pindar (; grc-gre, Πίνδαρος , ; la, Pindarus; c. 518 – 438 BC) was an Greek lyric, Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes, Greece, Thebes. Of the Western canon, canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserve ...

Pindar
, Apollonius of Rhodes, Apollonius and the ''Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus), Bibliotheca'' endeavor to give full lists of the Argonauts.Apollodorus, ''Library and Epitome'', 1.
16
Although Apollonius wrote his poem in the 3rd century BC, the composition of the story of the Argonauts is earlier than ''Odyssey'', which shows familiarity with the exploits of Jason (the wandering of Odysseus may have been partly founded on it).Grimal, Pierre. 1986. "Argonauts." P. 58 in ''The Dictionary of Classical Mythology''. Blackwell Publishing. . In ancient times the expedition was regarded as a historical fact, an incident in the opening up of the Black Sea to Greek commerce and colonization. It was also extremely popular, forming a cycle to which a number of local legends became attached. The story of
Medea In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...

Medea
, in particular, caught the imagination of the tragic poets.


House of Atreus and Theban Cycle

In between the Argo and the Trojan War, there was a generation known chiefly for its horrific crimes. This includes the doings of Atreus and Thyestes at Argos. Behind the myth of the house of Atreus (one of the two principal heroic dynasties with the house of Labdacus) lies the problem of the devolution of power and of the mode of accession to sovereignty. The twins Atreus and Thyestes with their descendants played the leading role in the tragedy of the devolution of power in Mycenae.Yves Bonnefoy, Bonnefoy, Yves. 1992. "Kinship Structures in Greek Heroic Dynasty" in ''iarchive:greekegyptianmyt00bonn, Greek and Egyptian Mythologies''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. . p. 103. The Theban Cycle deals with events associated especially with Cadmus, the city's founder, and later with the doings of Laius and
Oedipus Oedipus (, ; grc-gre, wikt:Οἰδίπους, Οἰδίπους "swollen foot") was a mythical Greek king of Ancient Thebes (Boeotia), Thebes. A tragic hero in Greek mythology, Oedipus accidentally fulfilled a prophecy that he would end up kill ...

Oedipus
at Thebes; a series of stories that lead to the war of the Seven against Thebes and the eventual pillage of that city at the hands of the Epigoni. (It is not known whether the Seven figured in early epic.) As far as Oedipus is concerned, early epic accounts seem to have him continuing to rule at Thebes after the revelation that Jocasta, Iokaste was his mother, and subsequently marrying a second wife who becomes the mother of his children—markedly different from the tale known to us through tragedy (e.g. Sophocles' ''Oedipus Rex'') and later mythological accounts.


Trojan War and aftermath

File:The Rage of Achilles by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.jpeg, upIn ''The Rage of Achilles'' by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1757, Fresco, 300 x 300 cm, Villa Valmarana, Vicenza)
Achilles In Greek mythology, Achilles ( ) or Achilleus ( grc, Ἀχιλλεύς, ) was a hero of the Trojan War, the greatest of all the Greek warriors, and is the central character of Homer's ''Iliad''. He was the son of the Nereid Thetis and Peleus, k ...

Achilles
is outraged that
Agamemnon In Greek mythology, Agamemnon (; grc-gre, Ἀγαμέμνων ''Agamémnōn'') was a king of Mycenae, the son, or grandson, of King Atreus and Queen Aerope, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra and the father of Iphigenia, Electr ...
would threaten to seize his warprize, Briseis, and he draws his sword to kill Agamemnon. The sudden appearance of the goddess Athena, who, in this fresco, has grabbed Achilles by the hair, prevents the act of violence. Greek mythology culminates in the Trojan War, fought between Greece and Troy, and its aftermath. In Homer's works, such as the ''Iliad'', the chief stories have already taken shape and substance, and individual themes were elaborated later, especially in Greek drama. The Trojan War also elicited great interest in the culture of ancient Rome, Roman culture because of the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero whose journey from Troy led to the founding of the city that would one day become Rome, as recounted in Virgil's ''Aeneid'' (Book II of Virgil's ''Aeneid'' contains the best-known account of the sack of Troy). Finally there are two pseudo-chronicles written in Latin that passed under the names of Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygius. The Epic Cycle, Trojan War cycle, a collection of epic poetry, epic poems, starts with the events leading up to the war: Eris (mythology), Eris and the golden apple of Apple of Discord, Kallisti, the Judgement of Paris, the abduction of Helen of Troy, Helen, the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Avlida, Aulis. To recover Helen, the Greeks launched a great expedition under the overall command of Menelaus's brother, Agamemnon, king of Argos, or Mycenae, but the Trojans refused to return Helen. The ''Iliad'', which is set in the tenth year of the war, tells of the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, who was the finest Greek warrior, and the consequent deaths in battle of Achilles' beloved comrade
Patroclus In Greek mythology, as recorded in Homer's ''Iliad'', Patroclus (pronunciation variable but generally ; Ancient Greek: Πάτροκλος ''Pátroklos'' "glory of the father") was a childhood friend, close wartime companion, and, in later traditio ...
and Priam's eldest son, Hector. After Hector's death the Trojans were joined by two exotic allies, Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, and Memnon (mythology), Memnon, king of the People of Ethiopia, Ethiopians and son of the dawn-goddess Eos. Achilles killed both of these, but Paris then managed to kill Achilles with an arrow in the heel. Achilles' heel was the only part of his body which was not invulnerable to damage by human weaponry. Before they could take Troy, the Greeks had to steal from the citadel the wooden image of Pallas Athena (the Palladium (mythology), Palladium). Finally, with Athena's help, they built the Trojan Horse. Despite the warnings of Priam's daughter Cassandra, the Trojans were persuaded by Sinon, a Greek who feigned desertion, to take the horse inside the walls of Troy as an offering to Athena; the priest Laocoon, who tried to have the horse destroyed, was killed by sea-serpents. At night the Greek fleet returned, and the Greeks from the horse opened the gates of Troy. In the total sack that followed, Priam and his remaining sons were slaughtered; the Trojan women passed into slavery in various cities of Greece. The adventurous homeward voyages of the Greek leaders (including the wanderings of Odysseus and Aeneas (the ''Aeneid''), and the murder of Agamemnon) were told in two epics, the Returns (the lost ''Nostoi'') and Homer's ''Odyssey''. The Trojan cycle also includes the adventures of the children of the Trojan generation (e.g., Orestes (mythology), Orestes and Telemachus). The Trojan War provided a variety of themes and became a main source of inspiration for Ancient Greek artists (e.g. metope (architecture), metopes on the Parthenon depicting the sack of Troy); this artistic preference for themes deriving from the Trojan Cycle indicates its importance to the Ancient Greek civilization. The same mythological cycle also inspired a series of posterior European literary writings. For instance, Trojan Medieval European writers, unacquainted with Homer at first hand, found in the Troy legend a rich source of heroic and romantic storytelling and a convenient framework into which to fit their own courtly and chivalric ideals. Twelfth-century authors, such as Benoît de Sainte-Maure (''Roman de Troie'' [Romance of Troy, 1154–60]) and Joseph of Exeter (''De Bello Troiano'' [On the Trojan War, 1183]) describe the war while rewriting the standard version they found in ''Dictys'' and ''Dares''. They thus follow Horace's advice and Virgil's example: they rewrite a poem of Troy instead of telling something completely new. Some of the more famous heroes noted for their inclusion in the Trojan War were: ''On the Trojan side:'' * Aeneas * Hector * Paris ''On the Greek side:'' * Ajax (there were two Ajaxes) * Achilles * King Agamemnon * Menelaus * Odysseus


Greek and Roman conceptions of myth

Mythology was at the heart of everyday life in Ancient Greece. Greeks regarded mythology as a part of their history. They used myth to explain natural phenomena, cultural variations, traditional enmities, and friendships. It was a source of pride to be able to trace the descent of one's leaders from a mythological hero or a god. Few ever doubted that there was truth behind the account of the Trojan War in the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey''. According to Victor Davis Hanson, a military historian, columnist, political essayist, and former classics professor, and John Heath, a classics professor, the profound knowledge of the Homeric epic poetry, epos was deemed by the Greeks the basis of their acculturation. Homer was the "education of Greece" ('), and his poetry "the Book".Victor Davis Hanson, Hanson, Victor Davis, and John Heath. 1999. ''Who Killed Homer'', with translations by R. Karakatsani. Kakos. . p. 37.


Philosophy and myth

After the rise of philosophy, history, prose and rationalism in the late 5th century BC, the fate of myth became uncertain, and mythological genealogies gave place to a conception of history which tried to exclude the supernatural (such as the Thucydides, Thucydidean history).Jasper Griffin, Griffin, Jasper. 1986. "Greek Myth and Hesiod" in ''The Oxford Illustrated History of Greece and the Hellenistic World'', edited by John Boardman (art historian), J. Boardman, J. Griffin, and Oswyn Murray, O. Murray. New York: Oxford University Press. . p. 80. While poets and dramatists were reworking the myths, Greek historians and philosophers were beginning to criticize them. By the sixth century BC, a few radical philosophers were already beginning to label the poets' tales as blasphemous lies: Xenophanes of Colophon complained that Homer and Hesiod attributed to the gods "all that is shameful and disgraceful among men; they steal, commit adultery, and deceive one another." This line of thought found its most sweeping expression in Plato's ''The Republic (Plato), Republic'' and ''Laws (dialogue), Laws''. Plato created his own allegorical myths (such as the vision of Er in the ''Republic''), attacked the traditional tales of the gods' tricks, thefts, and adulteries as immoral, and objected to their central role in literature. Plato's criticism was the first serious challenge to the Homeric mythological tradition, referring to the myths as "old wives' chatter."Plato, ''Theaetetus''
176b
/ref> For his part Aristotle criticized the pre-Socratic quasi-mythical philosophical approach and underscored that "Hesiod and the theological writers were concerned only with what seemed plausible to themselves, and had no respect for us ... But it is not worth taking seriously writers who show off in the mythical style; as for those who do proceed by proving their assertions, we must cross-examine them." Nevertheless, even Plato did not manage to wean himself and his society from the influence of myth; his own characterization for Socrates is based on the traditional Homeric and tragic patterns, used by the philosopher to praise the righteous life of his teacher:Plato, ''Apology''
28b-d
/ref> Hanson and Heath estimate that Plato's rejection of the Homeric tradition was not favorably received by the grassroots Greek civilization. The old myths were kept alive in local cults; they continued to influence poetry and to form the main subject of painting and sculpture. More sportingly, the 5th century BC tragedy, tragedian Euripides often played with the old traditions, mocking them, and through the voice of his characters injecting notes of doubt. Yet the subjects of his plays were taken, without exception, from myth. Many of these plays were written in answer to a predecessor's version of the same or similar myth. Euripides mainly impugns the myths about the gods and begins his critique with an objection similar to the one previously expressed by Xenocrates: the gods, as traditionally represented, are far too crassly anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic.


Hellenistic and Roman rationalism

During the Hellenistic period, mythology took on the prestige of elite knowledge that marks its possessors as belonging to a certain class. At the same time, the skeptical turn of the Classical age became even more pronounced.Gale, Monica R. 1994. ''Myth and Poetry in Lucretius''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . Greek mythographer Euhemerus established the tradition of seeking an actual historical basis for mythical beings and events. Although his original work (''Sacred Scriptures'') is lost, much is known about it from what is recorded by Diodorus and Lactantius. Rationalizing hermeneutics of myth became even more popular under the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings aro ...

Roman Empire
, thanks to the physicalist theories of Stoicism, Stoic and Epicureanism, Epicurean philosophy. Stoics presented explanations of the gods and heroes as physical phenomena, while the Euhemerists rationalized them as historical figures. At the same time, the Stoics and the Neoplatonism, Neoplatonists promoted the moral significations of the mythological tradition, often based on Greek etymologies.Chance, Jane. 1994. ''Medieval Mythography''. University Press of Florida. . p. 69. Through his Epicurean message, Lucretius had sought to expel superstitious fears from the minds of his fellow-citizens.Walsh, Patrick Gerald. 1998. ''The Nature of the Gods''. New York: Oxford University Press. . Livy, too, is skeptical about the mythological tradition and claims that he does not intend to pass judgement on such legends (fabulae). The challenge for Romans with a strong and apologetic sense of Religion in ancient Rome, religious tradition was to defend that tradition while conceding that it was often a breeding-ground for superstition. The antiquarian Marcus Terentius Varro, Varro, who regarded religion as a human institution with great importance for the preservation of good in society, devoted rigorous study to the origins of religious cults. In his ''Antiquitates Rerum Divinarum'' (which has not survived, but Augustine of Hippo, Augustine's ''City of God (book), City of God'' indicates its general approach) Varro argues that whereas the superstitious man fears the gods, the truly religious person venerates them as parents. According to Varro, there have been three accounts of deities in the Roman society: the mythical account created by poets for theatre and entertainment, the civil account used by people for veneration as well as by the city, and the natural account created by the philosophers. The best state is, adds Varro, where the civil theology combines the poetic mythical account with the philosopher's. Roman Academic Cotta ridicules both literal and allegorical acceptance of myth, declaring roundly that myths have no place in philosophy. Cicero is also generally disdainful of myth, but, like Varro, he is emphatic in his support for the state religion and its institutions. It is difficult to know how far down the social scale this rationalism extended. Cicero asserts that no one (not even old women and boys) is so foolish as to believe in the terrors of Hades or the existence of Scyllas, centaurs or other composite creatures,Cicero, ''Tusculanae Disputationes'',
11
/ref> but, on the other hand, the orator elsewhere complains of the superstitious and credulous character of the people.Cicero, ''De Divinatione'',
81
/ref> ''De Natura Deorum'' is the most comprehensive summary of Cicero's line of thought.


Syncretizing trends

In Ancient Rome, Ancient Roman times, a new Roman mythology was born through syncretization of numerous Greek and other foreign gods. This occurred because the Romans had little Roman mythology, mythology of their own, and inheritance of the Greek mythological tradition caused the major Roman gods to adopt characteristics of their Greek equivalents. The gods
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' compos ...

Zeus
and Jupiter (mythology), Jupiter are an example of this mythological overlap. In addition to the combination of the two mythological traditions, the association of the Romans with eastern religions led to further syncretizations. For instance, the cult of Sun was introduced in Rome after Aurelian's successful campaigns in Syria. The Asiatic divinities Mithraic Mysteries, Mithras (that is to say, the Sun) and Ba'al were combined with Apollo and Helios into one Sol Invictus, with conglomerated rites and compound attributes. Apollo might be increasingly identified in religion with Helios or even Dionysus, but texts retelling his myths seldom reflected such developments. The traditional literary mythology was increasingly dissociated from actual religious practice. The worship of Sol as special protector of the emperors and the empire remained the chief imperial religion until it was replaced by Christianity. The surviving 2nd-century collection of Orphism (religion), Orphic Hymns (second century AD) and the ''Saturnalia'' of Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius (fifth century) are influenced by the theories of rationalism and the syncretizing trends as well. The Orphic Hymns are a set of pre-classical poetic compositions, attributed to Orpheus, himself the subject of a renowned myth. In reality, these poems were probably composed by several different poets, and contain a rich set of clues about prehistoric European mythology. The stated purpose of the ''Saturnalia'' is to transmit the Hellenic culture Macrobius has derived from his reading, even though much of his treatment of gods is colored by Egyptian and North African mythology and theology (which also affect the interpretation of Virgil). In Saturnalia reappear mythographical comments influenced by the Euhemerists, the Stoics and the Neoplatonists.


Modern interpretations

The genesis of modern understanding of Greek mythology is regarded by some scholars as a double reaction at the end of the eighteenth century against "the traditional attitude of Christian animosity", in which the Christian reinterpretation of myth as a "lie" or fable had been retained. In Germany, by about 1795, there was a growing interest in Homer and Greek mythology. In Göttingen, Johann Matthias Gesner began to revive Greek studies, while his successor, Christian Gottlob Heyne, worked with Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and laid the foundations for mythological research both in Germany and elsewhere.


Comparative and psychoanalytic approaches

The development of comparative philology in the 19th century, together with ethnological discoveries in the 20th century, established the science of myth. Since the Romantics, all study of myth has been comparative. Wilhelm Mannhardt, James George Frazer, James Frazer, and Stith Thompson employed the comparative approach to collect and classify the themes of folklore and mythology. In 1871 Edward Burnett Tylor published his ''Primitive Culture'', in which he applied the comparative method and tried to explain the origin and evolution of religion.Allen, Douglas. 1978. ''Structure & Creativity in Religion: Hermeneutics in Mircea Eliade's Phenomenology and New Directions''. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. . Tylor's procedure of drawing together material culture, ritual and myth of widely separated cultures influenced both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Max Müller applied the new science of comparative mythology to the study of myth, in which he detected the distorted remains of Aryan natural theology, nature worship. Bronisław Malinowski emphasized the ways myth fulfills common social functions. Claude Lévi-Strauss and other Structuralism, structuralists have compared the formal relations and patterns in myths throughout the world. Sigmund Freud introduced a transhistorical and biological conception of man and a view of myth as an expression of repressed ideas. Dream interpretation is the basis of Freudian myth interpretation and Freud's concept of dreamwork recognizes the importance of contextual relationships for the interpretation of any individual element in a dream. This suggestion would find an important point of rapprochement between the structuralist and psychoanalytic approaches to myth in Freud's thought. Carl Jung extended the transhistorical, psychological approach with his theory of the "collective unconscious" and the archetypes (inherited "archaic" patterns), often encoded in myth, that arise out of it. According to Jung, "myth-forming structural elements must be present in the unconscious psyche." Comparing Jung's methodology with Joseph Campbell's theory, Robert A. Segal (1990) concludes that "to interpret a myth Campbell simply identifies the archetypes in it. An interpretation of the ''Odyssey'', for example, would show how Odysseus's life conforms to a heroic pattern. Jung, by contrast, considers the identification of archetypes merely the first step in the interpretation of a myth."Segal, Robert A. (1990).
The Romantic Appeal of Joseph Campbell
" The Christian Century, ''Christian Century'' (April 1990):332–5. Archived from th
original
on 7 January 2007.
Károly Kerényi, Karl Kerényi, one of the founders of modern studies in Greek mythology, gave up his early views of myth, in order to apply Jung's theories of archetypes to Greek myth.


Origin theories

Max Müller attempted to understand an Proto-Indo-European religion, Indo-European religious form by tracing it back to its Indo-European (or, in Müller's time, "Aryan") "original" manifestation. In 1891, he claimed that "the most important discovery which has been made during the nineteenth century concerning the ancient history of mankind ... was this sample equation: Sanskrit Dyaus Pita, Dyaus-pitar = Greek Zeus = Latin Jupiter (mythology), Jupiter = Old Norse Týr, Tyr". The question of Greek mythology's place in Indo-European studies has generated much scholarship since Müller's time. For example, philologist Georges Dumézil draws a comparison between the Greek Uranus (mythology), Uranus and the Sanskrit Varuna, although there is no hint that he believes them to be originally connected.H.I. Poleman, ''Review'', 78–79 In other cases, close parallels in character and function suggest a common heritage, yet lack of linguistic evidence makes it difficult to prove, as in the case of the Greek Moirai and the Norns of Norse mythology. It appears that the Mycenaean religion was the mother of the Ancient Greek religion, Greek religion and its pantheon already included many divinities that can be found in classical Greece. However, Greek mythology is generally seen as having heavy influence of Pre-Greek substrate, Pre-Greek and Near Eastern cultures, and as such contains few important elements for the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European religion. Consequently, Greek mythology received minimal scholarly attention in the context of Indo-European comparative mythology until the mid 2000s. Archaeology and mythography have revealed influence from Asia Minor and the Near East. Adonis seems to be the Greek counterpart—more clearly in cult than in myth—of a Near Eastern "dying god". Cybele is rooted in Anatolian culture while much of Aphrodite's iconography may spring from Semitic goddesses. There are also possible parallels between the earliest divine generations (Chaos and its children) and Tiamat in the ''Enûma Eliš, Enuma Elish''.L. Edmunds, ''Approaches to Greek Myth'', 184 According to Meyer Reinhold, "near Eastern theogonic concepts, involving divine succession through violence and generational conflicts for power, found their way…into Greek mythology." In addition to Indo-European and Near Eastern origins, some scholars have speculated on the debts of Greek mythology to the indigenous pre-Greek societies:
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology i ...
, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes, Greece, Thebes and Orchomenus (Boeotia), Orchomenus. Historians of religion were fascinated by a number of apparently ancient configurations of myth connected with Crete (the god as bull, Zeus and Europa (mythology), Europa, Pasiphaë who yields to the bull and gives birth to the Minotaur, etc.). Martin P. Nilsson asserts, based on the representations and general function of the gods, that a lot of Minoan religion, Minoan gods and religious conceptions were fused in the Mycenaean religion. and concluded that all great classical Greek myths were tied to Mycenaean centres and anchored in prehistoric times. Nevertheless, according to Burkert, the iconography of the Cretan Palace Period has provided almost no confirmation for these theories.


Motifs in Western art and literature

The widespread adoption of Christianity did not curb the popularity of the myths. With the rediscovery of classical antiquity in the Renaissance, the poetry of Ovid became a major influence on the imagination of poets, dramatists, musicians and artists.L. Burn, ''Greek Myths'', 75 From the early years of Renaissance, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, portrayed the Paganism, Pagan subjects of Greek mythology alongside more conventional Christian themes. Through the medium of Latin and the works of Ovid, Greek myth influenced medieval and Renaissance poets such as Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Boccaccio and Dante Alighieri, Dante in Italy. In Northern Europe, Greek mythology never took the same hold of the visual arts, but its effect was very obvious on literature. The English imagination was fired by Greek mythology starting with Geoffrey Chaucer, Chaucer and John Milton and continuing through William Shakespeare, Shakespeare to Robert Bridges in the 20th century. Jean Racine, Racine in France and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe in Germany revived Greek drama, reworking the ancient myths. Although during the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment of the 18th century reaction against Greek myth spread throughout Europe, the myths continued to provide an important source of raw material for dramatists, including those who wrote the libretto, libretti for many of George Frideric Handel, Handel's and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Mozart's operas.l. Burn, ''Greek Myths'', 75 By the end of the 18th century, Romanticism initiated a surge of enthusiasm for all things Greek, including Greek mythology. In Britain, new translations of Greek tragedies and Homer inspired contemporary poets (such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson, John Keats, Keats, Lord Byron, Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley) and painters (such as Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, Lord Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema).l. Burn, ''Greek Myths'', 75–76 Christoph Willibald Gluck, Christoph Gluck, Richard Strauss, Jacques Offenbach and many others set Greek mythological themes to music. American authors of the 19th century, such as Thomas Bulfinch and Nathaniel Hawthorne, held that the study of the classical myths was essential to the understanding of English and American literature. In more recent times, classical themes have been reinterpreted by dramatists Jean Anouilh, Jean Cocteau, and Jean Giraudoux in France, Eugene O'Neill in America, and T. S. Eliot in Britain and by novelists such as James Joyce and André Gide.


References


Notes


Citations


Primary sources (Greek and Roman)

* Aeschylus, ''The Persians''. ''See original text i
Perseus program
'. * Aeschylus, ''Prometheus Bound''. ''See original text i
Perseus program
'. * Apollodorus, ''Library and Epitome''. ''See original text i
Perseus program
'. * Apollonius of Rhodes, ''Argonautica'', Book I. ''See original text i

'. * Cicero, ''De Divinatione''. ''See original text in th
Latin Library
'. * Cicero, ''Tusculanae resons''. ''See original text in th
Latin Library
'. * Herodotus, ''Histories (Herodotus), The Histories'', I. ''See original text in th
Sacred Texts
'. * Hesiod, ''Works and Days''.

by Hugh G. Evelyn-White''. * * Homer, ''Iliad''. ''See original text i
Perseus program
'. * ''Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite''.

by Gregory Nagy''. * ''Homeric Hymn to Demeter''. ''See original text i
Perseus project
'. * ''Homeric Hymn to Hermes''. ''See the English translation in th

'. * Ovid, ''Metamorphoses''. ''See original text in th
Latin Library
'. * Pausanias, ''Description of Greece'' ''See original text i
Perseus program
'. * Pindar, ''Pythian Odes'', Pythian 4: For Arcesilas of Cyrene Chariot Race 462 BC. ''See original text in th
Perseus program
'. * Plato, ''Apology (Plato), Apology''. ''See original text i
Perseus program
'. * Plato, ''Theaetetus (dialogue), Theaetetus''. ''See original text i
Perseus program
'.


Secondary sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * * * * * * * William Smith (lexicographer), Smith, William (1870),
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
'. * *


External links

* *
Library of Classical Mythology Texts
translations of works of classical literature
LIMC-France
provides databases dedicated to Graeco-Roman mythology and its iconography. * Martin P. Nilsson
The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology
on Google books
Greek mythology, the age of gods, myths and heroes
Hellenism.Net {{Authority control Greek mythology,