Men imagine not only the forms of the gods but their ways of life to be like our own.
– Aristotle Politics, 1252B
One of the best books I ever purchased for an Ancient History unit for Uni was Barry B. Powell’s Classical Myth. It’s a must have for any Ancient History enthusiast and anybody who wants to learn more about Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian Mythology. Its brings about the nature of myths, there development during ancient times, and different types of myths such as:
- Divine myths about Creation, the Olympians, Fertility and Death
- Legends and Heroic myths about Gilgamesh, Perseus, Herakles, Theseus and Athens, Crete, Oedipus, Thebes, Jason, Ioclus and Calydon, The Trojan War, the Fall of Troy and Odysseus
- Roman myths about Aeneas and Early Rome
Here are examples from Chapter 3 about The Development of Greek Myth:
Greek Myth in the Archaic Period
Myths were committed to writing during this period, even though myths had been around during the Mycenaean Age and Dark Age of Greek history. It is from these oral myths that are written that we know the most about Greek Religion. We have Homer and his Iliad and Odyssey. Then we have Hesiod and his two surviving poems, Theogony (origin of the gods) and Works and Days. It is from the Theogony that we are introduced to the Muses and their divine magic that inspired Hesiod to write his poetry (and other poets). The intervention of the Muses also explains why a poet can speak with authority about the past, present, and future: because poets are inspired by them with a mission divinely commanded.
Greek Myth in the Classical Period
Muses in the Theogony explained that they are capable of disseminating lies as easily as the truth; the gods were not necessarily a source of truth. Therefore, it is a known fact that there was a never agreed upon version of any Greek myth, there was no text with sacred authority and no organization. As a result, this led to the Greek invention of ethics, a way to tell right from wrong without divine authority, and secular law, where rules of behaviour, and punishment for misconduct, depended on human invention and not divine revelation.
Greek Myth in the Hellenistic Period
Writing beforehand had only been done to be performed, now, it was written to be read, which is where the Ancient Novel came about during the Hellenistic Age and Imperial Period of Rome. More information from my blog post on The Hellenistic Romances – Five Surviving Ancient Greek Novels https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/the-hellenistic-romances-five-surviving-ancient-greek-novels/
What are your favourite Ancient quotes, and favourite Ancient Myths? Please comment in the speech bubble near the heading. From the top of my head, mine would be Jason and the Argonauts, and Herakles (even though I haven’t read the ancient texts yet, but shall do soon) and it’s not really one of my favourites but it always gets brought up in Literary Theory about the unconscious intentions of the author, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, using the myth about Oedipus.
Enjoy, and I shall be posting soon on the creative writing I have been doing.