What is mythology? • Mythology-- A collection of stories, esp. belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition. • A myth is a traditional story belonging to a group or culture. • Purpose is to relate beliefs about creation, natural phenomena, and values held by the group. • Often reflect geographical & historical features of the group • The term myth does not imply “true” or “false”; calling a story a “myth” does NOT mean it’s fake
Foundations of Greek myth • The myths of the ancient Greeks supported the religious practices and rituals of the culture • The ancient Greeks were polytheistic—they believed in multiple gods, each of whom was believed to have power over certain realms—crops, marriage, childbirth, sailing, etc. There were many, many gods. • The “big” gods were the Olympian gods—the most powerful rulers who were believed to live on Mt. Olympus.
The Olympian gods http://www.history.com/videos/greek-gods#greek-gods
How did heroes factor in? • Not only were the gods worshipped, but heroes were worshipped, too. • Each locality would have its specific heroes which it worshipped. • The locals believed their heroes to be talismans of good fortune • They worshipped by ceremonial sacrifice (ie. A ram), prayer, song, meditation, and participation in other specific activities. http://athome.harvard.edu/programs/nagy/threads/concept/hero_cults.html
What was a “hero” to the Greeks? • The ancient Greek concept of a hero was different from our own culture's. First and foremost, the ancient Greek hero was a religious figure, a dead person who received cult honors and was expected in return to bring prosperity, especially in the form of fertility of plants (crops) and animals, to the community.
Hero in myths • A key part to the narrative of the hero's life is that s/he undergoes some sort of ordeal. The hero, who is mortal, not immortal like the gods, must suffer during his or her lifetime, and, significantly, must die. Only after death can the hero receive immortalization in cult and in song. • The hero must struggle against the fear of death, in order to achieve the most perfect death. Such a perfect moment must be recorded in song (poem, story, myth)