Greek Mythology forms part of the religions and rituals of the ancient Greeks. The telling of myths was used to explain the world and their own practises. The myths were related to gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines as well as fantastic animals and creatures and was depicted in stories, arts and the culture of the time. Although now understood to be stories and tales, mostly fictional, in ancient Greece the myths were told as true stories. The amazing artworks, poems and narratives are still an inspiration today and are often studied to gain insight in to the politics and religion of ancient Greece.
See in related article the most important greek gods and goddeses.
Most of the Greek myths have been taken from ancient writings of poets such as Homer and Hesiod, from visual media such as pottery, paintings and so forth as well as books recovered from the Pseudo-Apollodorus Library. Hesiod’s Theogony details the making of the world (creation), the origin of the first gods, tales of Giants and Titans as well as the genealogies and stories. His other works also include stories such as the myths of Pandora and Prometheus. The myths fell in to 3 categories, the origins of the gods, the interaction between mortals and gods and the time of heroes which was focussed more on the human side of things.
Origin of the gods and the world
Creation myths put in to human terms a concept of how the world began and the subsequent birth of the gods from this same act. In Greek mythology Gaia (The Earth) came from Chaos (a void containing nothing), along with Primordial beings Eros, Erebus and the Abyss (Tartarus). Gaia gives birth to the sky (Uranus) who then joins with her to create Titans. There were 12 Titans in total, 6 males and 6 females. The next beings brought to life were Hecatonchires (100 handed) and Cyclopes. Chronos was convinced by his mother Gaia to castrate his father Uranus when his father cast the Hecatonchires in the the Abyss. Chronos and his sister Rhea then became the rulers over everything. Chronos would go on to eat all of his children, in fear of betrayal. His wife Rhea managed to save his son Zeus by giving Chronos a stone in a blanket to eat instead. Later Zeus will feed his father an emetic to bring up his brothers and sisters and challenge him to war for the leadership. Zeus, his siblings and the Cyclops beat Chronos and the Titans are hurled down in to the Abyss, leaving Zeus to rule.
Zeus and his fellow gods and goddesses resided on Mount Olympus and were worshipped by the ancient Greeks. There were also a number of nature gods worshipped during this period, such as the nature god Pan who was a satyr, the Dryads (tree spirits), Naiads, Nymphs, Nereids and so forth. There was also an opposite side containing the Furies who were said to punish those who sinned against blood relatives, amongst other gods of the underworld. The gods were immortal beings, immune to disease and only able to be wounded under special conditions. Each of the Olympian gods had a specific special aspect associated with them. For example : Ares was associated with war, Athena with courage and wisdom, Aphrodite represented beauty and love while Hades was cast as the leader of the underworld. The original Olympians were Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Hades, Athena, Hera, Hephaestus, Poseidon, Hestia and Zeus.
The Creation of Man
Prometheus and Epimetheus did not take part in the war between Chronos and his son Zeus and were spared when the other Titans were thrown in to the Abyss. There were believed to have created man from clay and Athena breathed life in to their creation. Epimetheus gave all the animals their special characteristics such as feathers, fur, swiftness, cunning and so forth. He ended up with nothing of use to give to the man they had created, so Prometheus decided to give them the ability to stand upright, as the gods did. Zeus created Pandora as the first woman, who opened a jar with all the evils and unleashed it upon the earth, with only hope being left behind when she was done. Prometheus was punished by Zeus for loving his creation more than the Olympians and he was chained to a rock and his body ripped to pieces by eagles on a daily basis until he was finally rescued by Hercules.
Gods and Mortals
For the most part, the Olympians ruled with minimal interaction between gods and the mortals who worshipped them. Then came an age where there was more direct interaction, which was depicted as something to be avoided. Gods were shown as creating heroes by raping mortal women or a female deity mates with a human male after seducing him. He was later struck by lightning when he boasted of their liaison. The gods would also offer humans inventions such as agriculture and fire but would also punish humans who did not show them due deference.
Heroes and Heroines
A number of heroes begin to emerge in Greek mythology, detailing superhuman exploits by various men and women. These stories include the life of Hercules (Heracles) who some believe were based on an actual person. In the myth Hercules is believed to be the son of Zeus and Alcmene and was said to be exceedingly strong. Jason and the Argonauts were another myth involving an epic journey to retrieve the golden fleece along with most of the heroes of the time period. Some of the heroines included Cassandra who was able to prophesy the future, and of course Helen of Troy who was exceedingly beautiful and rumoured to have been the cause of the Trojan War.
The Trojan War
The ancient Greek myths seem to reach their culmination after the Trojan war which was fought between Greece and Troy. The Trojan War inspired many stories and myths, some of which had some basis in fact. Some of the better known heroes during the war would include Odysseus, Achilles, Hector and Paris. The most popular myth of the Trojan War is the story of the Trojan Horse, built with Athena’s help which resulted in the destruction of the city of Troy.
The ancient Greeks used myths to explain concepts in their daily lives such as differences in culture, natural phenomenon as well as traditional friendships and enmities. In later years, around the 5th Century BC, myths began to wane in the face of Greek philosophers and historians who sought to exclude anything supernatural from their concept of history.
In this section are descriptions of Greek Mythology and mythological beings described in the encyclopedia and greek gods and goddesses.This new section is being constructed.
The following articles are presented:
Cronus (or Kronos)
Gaea (or Gaia)
Hercules (or Heracles)
Uranus (or Ouranus)