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utorak, 29. lipnja 2010.

Theseus and the Minotaur (Part 3 of 3)

Theseus and the Minotaur (Part 2 of 3)

Theseus and the Minotaur (Part 1 of 3)

Theseus and the Minotaur

Theseus’s father, Aegeus, was king of Athens. Aegeus’s younger brother, Pallas, always saw Aegeus more as a rival than a brother, and given a chance, he would gladly have taken Aegeus’s kingdom from him.

Pallas had fifty giant sons, called the Pallantids, but Aegeus, despite having been married twice, had no children at all. After his second wife died without bearing a child, Aegeus decided to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, to learn if it was his fate never to have a son. The oracle promised that some day he would indeed have a son to inherit his kingdom.

On his way back from Delphi, Aegeus stayed with his friend Pittheus. There he fell in love with Pittheus’s beautiful daughter Aethra and, with her father’s blessing, married her. They kept the marriage a secret from all others, because Aegeus feared that his jealous brother might move to seize the throne of Athens if he knew that the oracle had promised Aegeus a son, and that Aegeus had taken another wife.

When Aegeus returned to Athens, he left Aethra with her father, for he feared she would come to harm if Pallas knew she was Aegeus’s wife. Before leaving Pittheus’s kingdom, Aegeus buried his sword and sandals under a heavy rock, telling Aethra that if she bore a son, she should bring him to the rock on the day he turned sixteen. If he had the strength to move the rock, he should put on the sword and sandals and go to Athens to be recognized as Aegeus’s heir.

When the child was born, he was given the name Theseus. No one was told who his real father was—not even Aegeus himself. Pittheus and Aethra feared that if Aegeus knew he had a son, he might let the information slip out, and Pallas’s spies, who were everywhere, would inform him, putting the baby’s life in danger. Instead, Pittheus and Aethra let it be rumored that the infant’s father was Poseidon, the mighty god of the sea.

When Theseus was sixteen, Aethra took him to the rock to test his strength. He moved the rock easily. Then she told him to put on the sword and sandals, and to go to Athens to make himself known to his father. Pittheus and Aethra tried to persuade Theseus to travel by water, rather than attempting the long, dangerous overland journey, but the adventurous young man was determined to seek out and overcome challenges, to prove his mettle before presenting himself to his father in Athens.

Along the way he encountered and defeated many monsters and enemies, including the treacherous Procrustes. Procrustes would offer hospitality to weary travelers, but when they lay down to sleep, they would inevitably find that the bed was either too short or too long. If the bed was too long, the poor traveler would be stretched mercilessly until he fit the bed. If it was too short, Procrustes would cut off his feet and as much of his legs as necessary to make the traveler fit the bed.

No one knows exactly how Theseus outwitted Procrustes or what he did to punish him, but after Theseus spent the night as Procrustes’s “guest,” Theseus was as healthy as ever—and Procrustes was never heard from again.

Theseus performed so many heroic deeds along the way to Athens that by the time he reached the city people were already talking about this young hero whose deeds were beginning to rival those of Hercules himself. King Aegeus was a bit nervous about this approaching hero: What if he had come to overthrow Aegeus and take his place on the throne? But when the stranger presented himself to Aegeus, the king could scarcely contain his joy, for he realized that the young man was wearing the sword and sandals he had buried beneath the rock for his son to find one day.

Unfortunately, the king’s joy in meeting his son soon turned to sorrow—a sorrow felt by all of Athens. It was a time of year that everyone dreaded: the time when Athens must pay its yearly tribute to King Minos of Crete. This merciless king demanded not gold or trade goods from Athens, but rather seven youths and seven maidens to be offered as sacrifice to the dreadful Minotaur, a huge monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man, who fed only on human flesh. The Minotaur lived at the heart of the great Labyrinth designed by Dedalus, a maze so intricate that no one could possibly find a way out of it. Even if by some miracle one of the Athenians managed to escape being devoured by the Minotaur, he would still have no hope of surviving, for he would soon starve to death in the Labyrinth.

Though cruel, the tribute demanded by Minos was not entirely without reason. Many years earlier, Minos’s most beloved son, Androgeus, had come to compete in the Athenian games. A superb athlete, Androgeus had triumphed in every competition. But on his way to compete in the games at Thebes, Androgeus had mysteriously disappeared. It was rumored that he had been ambushed and murdered by some of the men he had defeated and humiliated in the Athenian games.

The rumor was actually a lie deliberately spread by agents of King Aegeus. Knowing that Androgeus was very friendly with the Pallantids, Aegeus feared that Androgeus would persuade his father to support Pallas in a war against Athens. Since Minos had the most powerful navy in the known world, Athens could never withstand an attack by Pallas if he had the support of Crete. Aegeus had Androgeus waylaid on the road to Thebes, intending to have him held captive long enough to be persuaded to support Aegeus, or at least not to interfere on the side of Pallas if the two brothers should end up at war with each other. But Androgeus was a brave man. Though vastly outnumbered, he fought so fiercely that he was accidentally killed in his struggle with his would-be captors.

King Minos refused to believe the rumor that Androgeus had been killed by jealous athletic competitors. He sent his own spies to discover the real story. Once he knew what had happened to his son, his fury boiled over. He destroyed Athens’ ally Megara, and intended to destroy Athens as well. To save his city, King Aegeus had to agree to the enraged king’s bitter demands. Minos had lost his beloved son to the scheming of Athenians, so every year, he would deprive Athens of its own sons and daughters.

The victims were chosen by lot. Theseus volunteered to go in place of one of the youths, but Aegeus would not hear of it. Theseus insisted, assuring his father that he would kill the Minotaur and get Minos to remit the yearly tribute. Seeing that he could not change his son’s mind, Aegeus surrendered to the inevitable and agreed at last to allow him to face the Minotaur.

The ship the young Athenians were to travel in had black sails. Theseus also had a set of white sails made. He told his father that when the ship returned from Crete, it would hoist the white sails to let him know that his son and heir still lived.

When the Athenians arrived on the island of Crete, they were locked up, but on the way to the prison, they were paraded through the town. Minos’s two daughters, Ariadne and Phaedra, were watching the prisoners when Eros, on orders from his mother Aphrodite, who was particularly fond of Theseus, shot the elder sister with one of his arrows. Ariadne immediately fell in love with Theseus and determined to save him from the Minotaur.

She went to the prison and persuaded the guards to let her in to see the prisoners. She offered her help to Theseus, if he would promise to take her to Athens and marry her—not just because she loved him, but also because she was sure her father would have her killed once he learned she had betrayed him.

That night, as her father slept, she stole from him the key to the Labyrinth’s door. She led Theseus to the Labyrinth and handed him a ball of golden twine. She told him to tie the twine to the handle of the door and unwind it as he made his way through the Labyrinth. He would then be able to follow it back out once he had slain the Minotaur. As for that task, she explained to him that at midnight the Minotaur would go to sleep for exactly one hour, and Theseus would then have an opportunity to kill the creature.

After he had killed the sleeping Minotaur and followed the string out of the Labyrinth, Theseus rejoined Ariadne, and they returned to the prison. The guards were fast asleep, for Ariadne had supplied them with drugged wine. She released all of the Athenians, and they went down to the harbor. There they bored holes in all of the Cretan ships before setting sail in the ship that had originally brought them to Crete. When the Cretan ships attempted to pursue the Athenians, they all sank.

On the way to Athens, Theseus had the ship put in for awhile at the island of Naxos, to replenish their supplies of food and fresh water. As Ariadne slept in a field full of poppies, Theseus suddenly ordered the ship to set sail, leaving Ariadne behind. Some say he had a dream that Ariadne would one day betray him as she had once betrayed her father. Others say that Theseus believed he saw King Minos’s own ship approaching the island in pursuit of the escaped Athenians. Whatever the reason, the poor maiden was abandoned on the island, and when she awoke to her situation, she began to weep disconsolately.

As she wept, she was approached by an extraordinarily handsome young man, who asked her, “Why do you cry, Ariadne?” She wondered at first how he knew her name. Then she realized that this was no ordinary man, but a god. He told her he was Dionysus, the god of wine, and that he intended to make her his bride.

On the island of Delos, Theseus heard about Ariadne’s marriage to Dionysis, and dedicated a festival to them at the time of the vintage. That festival continued to be celebrated for over two thousand of years.

So much had happened, and Theseus was so exhausted and so preoccupied, that when the Athenians finally sailed into the harbor at Athens, he forgot to hoist the white sails. His father, who watched every day for a sign that his son still lived, saw the ship pull into harbor with its black sails. Believing his son had been killed, Aegeus in despair threw himself over a cliff into the sea, which to this day is called the Aegean Sea.

After he had made the proper sacrifice to the gods for his safe return, Theseus was told of his father’s death. Sorrowfully, he assumed his father’s throne, and ruled wisely and well in Athens for many years.

Dear readers!

We will continue our journey to the world of ancient greek myths with an article about Theseus and the Minotaur followed by a great documentary of the same. I have to ad that it is one of my favourite greek myths and I am enjoying doing this. So please you do the same and take a minute and enjoy the posted material.
Stay well and subscribe if you want more.

Greek Gods and Goddesses 8of9

Greek Gods and Goddesses 7of9

Greek Gods and Goddesses 7of9

petak, 25. lipnja 2010.

Greek Gods and Goddesses 2of9

Greek Gods and Goddesses 1of9

Dear subscribers!

After a few days without posting anything due to some personal issues I decided that we go on with a little series of documentarys and downloadable books for you my dear friends.
We will start today with first two parts of a nine part documentary about greek gods brought to us by history channel. Thats 20 minutes of pleasure each day for you, just the time period you can afford yourself to lose(gain)!
Ill hope you will enjoy and dont forget to visit us every day for upcoming treats!

Olympian Gods of Ancient Greek Mythology

srijeda, 9. lipnja 2010.


Cadmus Sowing the Dragon's teeth, by Maxfield Parrish, 1908

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.

The Theban Cycle deals with events associated especially with Cadmus, the city's founder, and later with the doings of Laius and Oedipus at Thebes; a series of stories that lead to the eventual pillage of that city at the hands of the Seven Against Thebes and Epigoni. (It is not known whether the Seven Against Thebes 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 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 the King) and later mythological accounts.


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 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. 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 to slay the Minotaur; Atalanta, the female heroine; and Meleager, who once had an epic cycle of his own to rival the Iliad and Odyssey. Pindar, Apollonius and Apollodorus endeavor to give full lists of the Argonauts.

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). 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 particular, caught the imagination of the tragic poets.

utorak, 8. lipnja 2010.


The age in which the heroes lived is known as the heroic age. 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, "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. In contrast to the age of gods, during the heroic age the roster of heroes 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 military events: the Argonautic expedition, the Theban War and the Trojan War.

Heracles and the Heracleidae

Herakles with his baby Telephos (Louvre Museum, Paris).

Some scholars believe that behind Heracles' complicated mythology there was probably a real man, perhaps a chieftain-vassal of the kingdom of Argos. Some scholars suggest the story of Heracles is an allegory for the sun's yearly passage through the twelve constellations of the zodiac. 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 folk-tale themes, provided much material for popular legend. He is portrayed as a sacrificier, 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 is regarded by Thalia Papadopoulou as "a play of great significance in examination of other Euripidean dramas". 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.

Hera suckling the baby Heracles, surrounded by Athena (out of view) and Aphrodite on the left and on the right, Iris, the messenger of Hera, who carries the winged staff (caduceus), detail from an Apulian red-figure squat lekythos, c. 360-350 BC

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 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, Bianor, Tlepolemus, and Telephus). These Heraclids conquered the Peloponnesian kingdoms of Mycenae, Sparta and 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.

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 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.

ponedjeljak, 7. lipnja 2010.


The Marriage of Peleus and Thetis, by Hans Rottenhammer

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 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.

Dionysus with satyrs. Interior of a cup painted by the Brygos Painter, Cabinet des Médailles

The second type (tales of punishment) involves the appropriation or invention of some important cultural artifact, as when Prometheus steals fire from the gods, when Tantalus steals nectar and ambrosia from Zeus' table and gives it to his own subjects—revealing to them the secrets of the gods, when Prometheus or Lycaon invents sacrifice, when Demeter teaches agriculture and the 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". An anonymous papyrus fragment, dated to the third century, vividly portrays Dionysus' punishment of the king of Thrace, Lycurgus, whose recognition of the new god came too late, resulting in horrific penalties that extended into the afterlife. The story of the arrival of Dionysus to establish his cult in Thrace was also the subject of an Aeschylean trilogy. In another tragedy, Euripides' The Bacchae, the king of Thebes, Pentheus, is punished by Dionysus, because he disrespected the god and spied on his Maenads, the female worshippers of the god.

Demeter and Metanira in a detail on an Apulian red-figure hydria, c. 340 BC - Berlin Museum

In another story, based on an old folktale-motif, 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. As a gift to Celeus, because of his hospitality, Demeter planned to make his son 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.


The Twelve Olympians by Monsiau, circa late 18th century.

According to Classical-era mythology, after the overthrow of the Titans, the new pantheon of gods and goddesses was confirmed. Among the principal Greek gods were the Olympians, residing atop Mount Olympus under the eye of Zeus. (The limitation of their number to twelve seems to have been a comparatively modern idea). Besides the Olympians, the Greeks worshipped various gods of the countryside, the goat-god 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). Gregory Nagy regards "the larger Homeric Hymns as simple preludes (compared with Theogony), each of which invokes one god".

In the wide variety of myths and legends that Greek mythology consists of, the gods that were native to the Greek peoples 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.

Zeus, disguised as a swan seduces Leda, the Queen of Sparta. A sixteenth century copy of the lost original by Michelangelo.

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 was the god of war, Hades the god of the dead, 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 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 demi-gods) supplemented that of the gods.

nedjelja, 6. lipnja 2010.


The bust of Zeus found at Otricoli (Sala Rotonda, Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican)

"Myths of origin" or "creation myths" represent an attempt to render the universe comprehensible in human terms and explain the origin of the world. The most widely accepted version at the time, although a philosophical account of the beginning of things, is reported by Hesiod, in his Theogony. He begins with Chaos, a yawning nothingness. Out of the void emerged Eurynome, or Gaia (the Earth) and some other primary divine beings: Eros (Love), the Abyss (the Tartarus), and the Erebus. Without male assistance, Gaia gave birth to Oranos (the Sky) who then fertilized her. From that union were born first the Titans—six males: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Oceanus; and six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, Themis, and Tethys. After Cronus was born, Gaia and Oranos decreed no more Titans were to be born. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones. Cronus ("the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia's children") castrated his father and became the ruler of the gods 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. 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 grown, he fed his father a drugged drink which caused Cronus to vomit, throwing up Rhea's other children and the stone, which had been sitting in Cronus' stomach all along. Then Zeus challenged Cronus to 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.

Zeus was plagued by the same concern and, after a prophecy that the offspring of his first wife, Metis, would give birth to a god "greater than he"—Zeus swallowed her. She was already pregnant with Athene, however, and they made him miserable until Athene burst forth from his head—fully-grown and dressed for war. This "rebirth" from Zeus was used as an excuse for why he was not "superseded" by a child of the next generation of gods, but accounted for the presence of Athene. It is likely that cultural changes already in progress absorbed the long-standing local cult of Athene at Athens into the changing Olympic pantheon without conflict because it could not be overcome.

Prometheus (1868 by Gustave Moreau). The myth of Prometheus first was attested by Hesiod and then constituted the basis for a tragic trilogy of plays, possibly by Aeschylus, consisting of Prometheus Bound, Prometheus Unbound, and Prometheus Pyrphoros

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. 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, Epimenides, Abaris, and other legendary seers, which were used in private ritual purifications and mystery-rites. There are indications that Plato was familiar with some version of the Orphic theogony. 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 Neoplatonist philosophers and recently unearthed papyrus scraps. One of these scraps, the Derveni Papyrus now proves that at least in the fifth century BC a theogonic-cosmogonic poem of Orpheus was in existence. This poem attempted to outdo Hesiod's Theogony and the genealogy of the gods was extended back to Nyx (Night) as an ultimate female beginning before Eurynome, Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus. Night and Darkness could equate with Chaos.

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. Influences from other cultures always afforded new themes.

Plaque with figures from the religious rituals of the Eleusinian Mysteries - Musée archéologique national, Athènes

subota, 5. lipnja 2010.


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, is inherently political, as Gilbert Cuthbertson has urged.

The earlier inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula were an agricultural people who, using Animism, assigned a spirit to every aspect of nature. Eventually, these vague spirits assumed human forms and entered the local mythology as gods. When tribes from the north of the Balkan Peninsula invaded, they brought with them a new pantheon of gods, based on conquest, force, prowess in battle, and violent heroism. Other older gods of the agricultural world fused with those of the more powerful invaders or else faded into insignificance.

After the middle of the Archaic period, myths about relationships between male gods and male heroes become more and more frequent, indicating the parallel development of pedagogic pederasty (Eros paidikos, παιδικός ἔρως), thought to have been introduced around 630 BC. By the end of the fifth century BC, poets had assigned at least one eromenos, an adolescent boy who was their sexual companion, to every important god except Ares and to many legendary figures. Previously existing myths, such as those of Achilles and Patroclus, also then were cast in a pederastic light. Alexandrian poets at first, then more generally literary mythographers in the early Roman Empire, often readapted 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. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The age when gods and mortals mingled freely: stories of the early interactions between gods, demigods, and mortals.
  3. 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 from the Olympian. In the Works and Days, Hesiod makes use of a scheme of Four Ages of Man (or Races) : Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. These races or ages are separate creations of the gods, the Golden Age belonging to the reign of Cronus, the subsequent races the creation of Zeus. Hesiod intercalates the Age (or Race) of Heroes just after the Bronze Age. The final age was the Iron Age, the contemporary period during which the poet lived. The poet regards it as the worst; the presence of evil was explained by the myth of Pandora, when all of the best of human capabilities, save hope, had been spilled out of her overturned jar. In Metamorphoses, Ovid follows Hesiod's concept of the four ages.


The discovery of the Mycenaean civilization by the German amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, in the nineteenth century, and the discovery of the Minoan civilization in Crete by British archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans, 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 myth and ritual at Mycenaean and Minoan sites is entirely monumental, as the Linear B script (an ancient form of Greek found in both Crete and Greece) was used mainly to record inventories, although the names of gods and heroes doubtfully have been revealed. 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. For one, many Greek myths are attested on vases earlier than in literary sources: of the twelve labors of Heracles, for example, only the Cerberus adventure occurs in a contemporary literary text. In addition, 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 (c. 750–c. 500 BC), Classical (c. 480–323 BC), and Hellenistic (323–146 BC) periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence.


Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece. Modern scholars refer to the myths and study them in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece, its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself. Greek mythology is embodied explicitly in a large collection of narratives and implicitly in representational arts, such as vase-paintings and votive gifts. Greek myth explains the origins of the world and details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and other mythological creatures. These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition; today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature. The oldest known Greek literary sources, the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, focus on events surrounding the Trojan War. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, 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 also are preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias. Archaeological findings provide a principal source of detail about Greek mythology, with gods and heroes featured prominently in the decoration of many artifacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of Heracles. In the succeeding Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence. Greek mythology has exerted an extensive influence on the culture, the arts, and the literature of Western civilization 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 these mythological themes.


I would like to welcome you to my new created blog containing lot of information about greek and roman myths and legends.

I am a student of archaeology and my interest in history, especially mythology, is huge so I decided to make an effort and try to make this subject close and easy to find to everyone that is interested to hear about it.

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