Mythology Today
The Midas Touch
An Achilles’ Heel
A Trojan Horse
A Pandora’s Box
Halcyon Days
A Siren Song
A Herculean Task
Origins of Myths
Euhemerus’ Theory: (Greek scholar from 300s-200s B.C.)
myths are based on real facts/people
Muller’s Theory: (German scholar from 1800s A.D.) myths are
based on nature divinities, all symbolic for the sun in one of
its phases.
Tylor’s Theory: (English anthropologist from the 1800s A.D.)
myths explain the unexplainable occurrences in dreams.
Malinowski’s Theory: (Polish anthropologist from the early
1900s) myths explain the unexplainable natural phenomena.
Frazer’s Theory: (Scottish anthropologist from the turn of the
19h century) myths originated from the natural cycle of birth,
growth, decay, death, and – most important – rebirth.
Mythology & the “Greek
Myths are stories that tell of civilized man living in close companionship with nature.
First story: Homer’s Iliad (ca. 1000 B.C.) reveals the “Greek Miracle” – a revolution in
Humans are center of universe, center of all art and philosophical thought.
Gods are made in image of man (compare to Egyptian or Mesopotamian mythology – nothing
remotely human or flexible about these other gods).
Greek miracle reveals humans as “freed from the paralyzing fear of an omnipotent Unknown”
(Hamilton 7).
Real myths are not religious (11) but are scientific in nature (explaining natural
phenomena) and represent early literature as well as factual/solemn truths.
Myths also reveal a “deepening realization” of human need:
From oral tradition of fearsome or comical Zeus to Homer’s civilized Zeus of high standards
of right and wrong to Hesiod’s just Zeus who protects the weak to Dio Chrysostum’s saviorZeus – and finally to God the Father.
These solemn truths eventually become religious in nature, and as they do so, the gods
become more divine and less human in their behaviors.
Greek & Roman Writers of
Greek Mythology
Homer (ca. 900BC): wrote about civilized gods (Iliad and Odyssey)
Homeric Hymns (700s – 600s): poems in praise of gods
Hesiod (ca. 700sBC): peasant who thought deeply(Theogony)
Pindar (ca. 500s BC): odes to great heroes of Greece.
Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (500s-400sBC): the Great Tragedians
who turned myths towards religion
Aristophanes (400s-300sBC): the Great Comedian relied on myths
Herodotus and Plato (400sBC): historians and philosophers used myths as
“Alexandrian Poets” (250BC): Egyptian pastoral poets –who treat gods
more complexly and yet not as reverently.
Roman Poets (100s-200sAD): Ovid, Apuleius & Lucian (Roman poets who
treated gods lightly or satirized them); Virgil (more like Homer/Hesiod)
Dio Chrysostum (250AD): treated myths as religion with great reverence
In the beginning…
• No light/order
• Universe is born!
• Uranus (Sky) + Gaea (Earth)
• The Titans!
• Cronus + Rhea (head titans)
• The Olympians!
Creation Timeline
Mythology: Introduction
1. Explain the difference between primitive and
classical mythology.
2. How did the gods of Greece differ from the
gods of Egypt or Mesopotamia?
3. What is the “miracle of Greek mythology?”
4. How does Edith Hamilton define mythology?
5. How does the author explain the different views
of the same god?
The Titans who survived
Cronus (Saturn) – married Rhea; fled to Italy when banished by his
son Zeus (Jupiter) where he founded Golden Age
Ocean – river that was supposed to circle the earth
Tethys – wife of Ocean
Hyperion – father of the sun, the moon, and dawn
Mnemosyne – goddess of memory
Themis – goddess of justice
Iapetus – whose son Atlas bears the world on his shoulders
Prometheus – savior of mankind
The Olympians
Lesser Gods: Eros, Hebe, Iris, the Muses, the Graces, (Hymen –
marriage feast; Anteros – avenger of love)
Gods of the Waters: Ocean (& wife Tethys; children Oceanids).
Pontus (& son Nereus), Triton (Poseidon’s son), Proteus, Naiads.
Divine Ideas: Themis (divine justice), Dike (human justice), Nemesis
(righteous anger), Aidos (piety)
Greek Concept of the Soul
Eschatological (immortal soul), Psychological
(personality) and body soul (individual ego) – these
three aspects of soul didn’t merge until 500 B.C.
Homer’s soul or “Psyche” had no psychological
aspects (no personality; all immortal life
connected into groups); he focused on “ego” (the
body soul)
Fate controlled life of humans
No Free Will or Individual destiny
By 500 B.C., Greeks begin to identify individual
psyches; the soul merges into one.
The Underworld: Hades
1. Who rules the underworld?
2. What are alternative names for the underworld?
3. Who is the aged boatman who ferries the souls of the
dead across the water?
4. Who is Cerberus?
5. What happens to judged souls?
6. Who punishes evildoers?
7. What are three rivers that separate the underworld from
the world above?
Lesser Gods of the Earth
(more beast than god)
Pan: Hermes’ noisy son
Silenus: Pan’s son or brother – drunk old man
Demigods Castor & Pollux (sons of Leda and Zeus)
Satyrs & Centaurs: “goat-men” and “horse-men”
Nymphs: Oreads, Dryads
Aeolus: King of the Winds and family (Boreas, Zephyr, Notus, Eurus)
Gorgons: dragon-like creatures who turned men to stone; brothers
to Graiae (“give us back the eye!”)
Sirens: lured men to death; mermaids?
Two Great Gods of the
Earth: Demeter & Dionysus
1. Why are D & D considered the givers of good
gifts of earth? What are their gifts?
2. How are D & D suffering gods?
3. How do both D & D become symbols of
4. Explain the connection between Dionysus
and Greek theater.
“How the World Was
1. What gifts did Prometheus give to man?
2. What gift did Zeus give to man? Why?
3. What was Prometheus’ punishment for his misdeeds?
4. Explain the different creation myths of the Greeks (5
Ages of Man, Pro/Epi-metheus, Rock People).
5. Writing Assignment: Compare the similarities and
differences between the Greek myths and the creation
stories in other traditions – the Judeo-Christian tradition,
the traditions of Eastern religions, Native Americans, etc.
Creation Myth Comparison
Your writing assignment requires you to choose one of those Greek creation of mankind stories we discussed
in class and compare it to the creation myth of another ancient religion: either one in the Bible or perhaps a
story from the Native Americans, or one from Egypt.... You get to choose! Your first sentence will look like this:
The Greek Creation Myth can easily be compared to the ——— Creation Myth in several ways. They both
feature ——, depict ——— and also have ———.
Obviously, you’ll want to fill in the blanks with your ideas and then continue the paragraph by explaining each of
those ideas. Don’t forget a concluding sentence! Your paragraph should fill a page.
You do not need direct quotes -- paraphrasing the story is fine enough (but if you borrow someone else’s words,
use quotation marks). Just make sure you list the source for your information at the end of your paper and
identify any ideas taken from someone else with an in-text citation. For example: The Hebrews describe a great
flood caused by God to cleanse the earth (Genesis 7:1-10). Or see this example: The Miao believed a great
flood wiped out all the earth but for two people (Holloway).
Try to use correct MLA citations for this (go to OWL at Purdue or use your Writer's Reference). You can also
simply list the website you used or identify the bible. See below:
Works Cited
Hamilton, Diana. Mythology. NY: Grand Central P, 1942.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan House, 1984.
--or-Holloway, April. "Gun-Yu and the Chinese Flood Myth." Ancient Origins. Web. 30 September 2014.
Zeus’ Love-life, Polyphemus
& The Flower Myths
1. What was Io turned into and where did she end up?
2. Where did Europa land?
3. Describe Polyphemus’ bad luck in love.
4. Who is Narcissus and what was his major flaw?
5. Who is Echo and what was her fate?
6. What was Narcissus’ fate?
7. What is the story of Hyacinthus?
8. Who is Adonis and what was his fate?
Mythology & Fairy Tales
Cupid & Psyche
Can you find the similarities between
these myths and Grimms’ Fairy Tales?
Pyramus & Thisbe
Orpheus & Eurydice
Ceyx & Alcyone
Beauty & the Beast
Pygmalion & Galatea
Baucis & Philemon
Alpheus & Arethusa
Snow White
The Sleeping Beauty
Hansel & Gretel
The Frog Prince
The Princess and the Pea
Four Great Adventures
Phaëton in the Palace of the Sun
How does the Sun’s oath by the river Styx turn out to be
Why must Zeus put an end to Phaeton’s ride?
Bellerophon’s ride on Pegasus
Why does Proteus want Bellerophon dead?
How does Bellerophon eventually anger the gods?
Otus and Ephialtes vs. Artemis’ vengeance
Dedalus and Icarus: “Don’t fly too high!”
The Great Hero Search
How to identify a hero (Greek or otherwise):
Mysterious origin
Not invincible
Given a quest or must take a journey
Unclear path that is beset with dangers, loneliness and temptation
Help through sidekicks: friends, servants, or disciples
Help through guides or divine aid
Must descend into darkness to return changed (death-rebirth)
Goal is symbolic of what they really find
Mostly male (women provide protection, guidance and knowledge for hero; they give him
secrets of life; hence, women are already heroic and don’t need to prove themselves)
Can King Acrisius outwit fate?
How does Perseus fit the profile of a hero?
Describe some of his difficulties, his helpers,
and his transformation.
What three magical gifts does Perseus receive?
Explain how justice and fate work in this hero’s
story. Consider the fates meted out to Acrisius,
Danae, Polydectes, and Perseus.
What must Theseus do before he can journey to Athens and claim
Aegeus as his father?
Why does Theseus refuse to go to Athens by way of the sea? And
what does he accomplish in his travel to and from his mother’s city?
What is Theseus’ idea of justice?
What is the history of the Tribute of the 7 Maidens and 7 Youths?
Who helps Theseus in his quest?
What new style of government does Theseus introduce in Athens?
How does Phaedra become the downfall of both Theseus and his
son, Hippolytus?
Is Hercules more brain than brawn? Give three
examples of his intelligence, or lack thereof.
How does Hera torment Hercules?
How does Hercules react when he realizes he
has murdered his wife and children?
Explain his 12 Labors.
Describe the death of Hercules; does he really
deserve Mt. Olympus?
How is Atalanta a hero?
Compare Medea, Psyche and Atalanta – how are
they similar? What character flaws create
obstacles for them? How do they overcome

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