An Introduction to Greek Mythology

An Introduction to Greek Mythology


Introduction to Mythology
Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths

A usually traditional story of events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon
. Myths often involve divine, supernatural, and/or heroic characters.

OR AL collection of fictional stories involving the actions of gods, goddesses and other imaginary characters, intended to explain the unexplainable.

“Mythology” is a word used to describe all myths of a particular society.
Every culture has its own myths that help us understand its customs and ways of viewing the world.
Mythopedia: Oh My Gods! by Megan E. Bryant WHAT IS A MYTH?
 A myth is a kind of story.
 Most myths have one or more of these characteristics:
 Myths are usually about gods or supernatural beings with greater powers and abilities than ordinary humans.
 Myths explain the origins of the world and how humans came to be.
 Myths take place a long time ago, usually in the earliest days of humanity (or just before humans showed up on
 Myths were usually thought to be true by their original tellers--no matter how wild or strange they seem to be.
Mythopedia: Oh My Gods! by Megan E. Bryant TWO NAMES, POWERS THE SAME
Many gods and goddesses have both Greek and Roman names. That is because the ancient Romans adopted a great deal of Greek mythology and made it their own.
Often, they changed the names of the particular gods and goddesses. TWO NAMES, POWERS THE SAME
Generally, the deity’s powers and myths stayed the same--even though they had a new name.
As a result, the study of Greek and Roman mythology is often grouped together under the same nameclassical mythology. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MYTHS?
 Myths can…
 Explain how things came to be--like the origin of the universe or the creation of humans.
 Teach people about the values and beliefs that are important in their society.
 Contain deep religious significance to the people who tell and believe them.
Studying myths can teach us about people around the world -- their cultures and what is (or was) important to them.
Mythopedia: Oh My Gods! by Megan E. Bryant HOW DID WE LEARN THESE
 Myths were first passed down through storytelling, songs, and poetry.
 We learned the stories from written versions, mainly
Homer’s epic poems The Illiad and The Odyssey, which tell of the great deeds of heroes.
 Other sources were Hesiod’s Theogony, which describes the origins of the world and the gods, and Homeric Hymns, as collection of poems addressed to different gods.
Mythopedia: Oh My Gods! by Megan E. Bryant DO MYTHS REALLY MATTER
 YES!!!
 References to Greek mythology are all around us:
 Ever heard of Nike athletic gear? Nike was actually a goddess of personification and victory.
 What would Valentine’s Day be without Cupid?
Cupid, or Eros, is the god of love as the Greeks called him.
 Does Apollo 13 ring a bell? The first crewed US space missions were named for Apollo, the god of archery and prophecy. BOTTOM LINE
References to ancient myths are everywhere, from science to pop culture, and knowing about them will help you understand more about the world we live in. Classical Greek
A collection of stories about a set of gods, based upon oral tradition, as told and recorded by the ancient Greeks
Myths served as entertainment, a sense of national/regional pride, and religious education Oral Tradition
The practice of passing along stories, tales, and folklore by word of mouth
Oral tradition is responsible for many of the “inconsistencies” of ancient mythology. Fantasy
Highly imaginative writing that contains elements not found in real life
Many science fiction and fantasy books, movies and comic books are based upon the style and manner of myths. Legends
• Definition: fictional stories loosely based upon real/historical people and events.
• Also known as “tall-tales”
• Are rooted in facts, but stories have been changed through the years…WHY? Fables
• Definition: A brief story, often containing animal characters that teaches a lesson or moral
• Fables deal with “useful truth” “The Classicists”
Greek mythology existed for hundreds of years before these stories were ever recorded with written words.
The scholars/poets who recorded the myths are known as “classicists.”
The major classicists of Greek Mythology include Virgil, Homer, and Ovid. The Importance of Myths
Myths were critical to the ancient Greeks
These stories touched all aspects of Greek life, including art, music, architecture, military endeavors, religion, and education.
Greek myths and sunlight are represented by moral quality. Heroes are set in sunlight, monsters belong to the darkness. Categories of Myths
Myths of creation: these explain the beginning of time, space, and man
Myths of explanation: these explain the great questions of the universe
Myths of morality: these teach lessons and reinforce cultural morality Why Study Mythology?
Greek myths are the foundations for the arts as we know them, including movies, television, commercial products, sports, music, and comic books.
A knowledge of Greek mythology enhances a person’s ability to understand and appreciate the world as a whole. Gods and Goddesses in
Classical Mythology
Roman Area of Power
King of the gods; the sky
The sun; music
King of the underworld
Neptune Ruler of the seas
Wife of Zeus; marriage
Agriculture; earth
Proserpine Goddess of the underworld Mythology: A Brief Timeline
The beginning: according to popular belief
• Uranus was the “First One”, and he created the universe.
• Uranus created and married Gaia, otherwise known as “Mother Earth.”
• They lived on Mt. Olympus • Uranus and Gaia had many children:
• Some were human-like giants, called the “Titans”
• Some were hideous, disfigured monsters
• The Titans lived for many years under
Uranus’s cruel reign
• Uranus’s most powerful son would soon challenge his rule. • Cronus killed his cruel father and assumed his role as “king of the Titans.”
• Before Uranus died, he predicted that
Cronus would be killed by one of his sons, just as he had been.
• What is the logical solution to this problem? • Because he feared his sons, Cronus ate his first two sons whole
• Fed up with his baby-gobbling, Rhea gave birth to her third son in secret
• Rhea dressed a boulder up as a baby and Cronus ate the rock unknowingly
• Zeus was sent as an infant to be raised in secret by human shephards •Cronus married his sister, Rhea, and had:
-Three daughters: Hestia, Demeter, Hera
-Three sons: Posiedon, Hades, and Zeus
•These offspring were considered Titans, but would later become the gods and goddesses of Greek
Mythology The Great Battle!
• Cronus is assisted in battle by his Titan brothers
• Zeus and his brothers are assisted by the monsters Cronus had abused and tortured for years in captivity.
• These monsters included the Cyclopes (3) and the Hundred-Handed Ones (3) • Zeus returned to Mt. Olympus as a young man and poisoned Cronus
• Cronus vomited up brothers Poseidon and Hades
• Zeus was celebrated as a hero
• An epic battle ensues between Cronus and his sons for the right to rule Mt. Olympus and the universe. Mythology and Classic Art
• The Battle Between the Gods and the Titans by Wtewael Art Institute of Chicago,
Chicago Cronus is Defeated!
• The three sons roll dice to divide Cronus’ kingdom
• Zeus wins, and chooses the empty sky.
• Poseidon secretly wanted the sea.
• Hades is left to bitterly receive “leftovers”
In the underworld. Enter the Gods…
• Magically and mysteriously, the children of Cronus become immortal, and become gods and goddesses.
• Mythology offers no explanation for this important transformation!
• The twelve main gods and goddesses are known as the Pantheon. The Pantheon
• There are many gods, goddesses, demigods (half-gods) and supernatural beings in Greek Mythology.
• The twelve main gods and goddesses are known as the Pantheon. Zeus Zeus:
• King of the gods, ruler of Mt. Olympus
• Also god of lightning
• Was a powerful and aggressive ruler
• Struck Earth with lightning bolt when upset
• Waged constant war with wife and sisterHera
• Cheated on wife countless times, and had numerous children with mortals, gods, and other creatures Zeus (continued)
• Was a master of disguise, which aided him in his philandering
• Was a complex character: capable of unspeakable acts of immorality and occasional acts of mercy Hera HERA
• Queen of immortals, goddess of marriage and childbirth
• Unhappy wife of Zeus
• Disapproved of Zeus’ constant cheating
• Held grudges against Zeus’ “children”
• Often punished Zeus with childish pranks and vengeful schemes Athena Athena
• Goddess of wisdom and warfare, mistress of strategy
• Taught men how to use an ax, plough, wheel, sail.
Taught women how to spin and weave (Arachne story...)
• Mother was Metis, a Titaness
• Zeus became paranoid that his child would harm him, so he eats her whole.
• Zeus developed a splitting headache
• Hephaestus split his head open with a chisel, and… The “Rebirth” of Athena
• Athena jumped out of Zeus skull, full-grown and wearing battle armor.
• One of the most popular and respected immortals
• Athens, Greece is named for her Poseidon Poseidon
• God of water
• Never had children with sea nymph-Thetis because any son of Thetis would be greater than Poseiden
• Thetis had a son from Peleus whose name was Achilles therefore the prophecy came true.
• Difficult, quarrelsome, greedy, liked jokes
• Thought up creature...octopus, squid, jellyfish, swordfish, dolphin, etc.
• Was trying to perfect the horse for Demeter and that is why we have the camel, hippo, giraffe, donkey, and zebra •Ruled over seas, oceans, rivers and all the sea creatures
•Did not live in the lost city of Atlantis
•Invented many of the fish and sea monsters of mythology
•Created the horse for Demeter (*) Hades HADES
• God of the Underworld
• Greeks buried their dead with a coin so that when they entered "Hades" they could pay the fare on their way to the river Styx
• Cerberus- 3 headed dog that guarded the gate
• 3 judges awaited the dead - Minos, Rhadamanthys and Aeacus.
• if judges were displeased - bad punishments
• if judges were pleased - Elysian Fields
• Palace grounds were called Erebus- deepest part of the underworld Hades (continued)
• Lived with his kidnapped wife, Persephone
• The Eumenides or the " kindly ones" would wander the earth in search of evil-doers and ones that escaped punishment and their attention persuaded people to suicide Demeter Demeter
• Goddess of the cornfield, mistress of planting and growing things
• One of Zeus’ favorite females (also sister)
• Had a daughter named Persephone
• Demeter's daughter Persephone was kidnapped by
• Responsible for the winter and summer seasons, since Persephone ate the 6 pomegranate seeds, she will have to stay in the underworld with Hades for 6 months, and nothing will grow on earth because
Demeter will mourn. Artemis Artemis
• Born of Zeus and Leto (a nymph)
• Zeus granted her whatever she wanted: remain a maiden, many names, silver bow and arrow, deerskin tunic, 50 ocean nymphs, 20 wood nymphs, hounds, mountains, and one city
• Was Zeus’ favorite daughter
• Went by Goddess of the Moon, Maiden of the Silver
Bow, Lady of the Wild Things, Huntress, Maiden Apollo Apollo
• God of the sun, patron of music, math, medicine and poetry. Preached moderation
• Artemis’ twin brother
• Hunted python who hunted his mother
• Showed no mercy against the musician
Marsyas ( unfair competition) The Flaying of Marsyas Hermes Hermes
• Precocious
• Stole Apollo's cattle and named himself the 12th god
• Taught Apollo to play the lyre and traded Apollo pipes for his herdsman's golden staff
• Apollo took Hermes to meet Zeus
• Hermes became Zeus's messenger and known as the patron of liars, thieves, and gamblers, God of Commerce, framer of treaties, guardian of travelers, took newly dead to Tartarus
• Invented the alphabet, scales, playing cards and card games
• Told Zeus to disguise himself and join in on many adventures of the mortals Hermes
• Messenger god, god of gambling, theivery and trickery
• Has a sketchy creation:
–Zeus child with a nymph
–Zeus child with a goddess (unnamed)
–Son of two enchanted mortals
*Oral tradition is contributed to the many different creations of Hermes Hephaestus Hephaestus
• Son of Zeus and Hera
• Was born ugly and fitful
• Hera kicked him from Mt. Olympus
• Was reinstated by Hera for his masterful skill of jewelry-making
• Hera gave him Cyclops for helpers and Aphrodite for a bride Hephaestus Strikes
• Married to Aphrodite, the most beautiful of all goddesses
• Had no children with his wife
• Endured Aphrodite’s many affairs and constant flirtations
• Was emotionally scarred by Aphrodite’s affair with Ares, the god of war 62 Aphrodite
• Goddess of love and beauty, desire
• Never distracted from her duties
• Born out of primal murder - when Cronus killed his father Oranus/Uranus a body floated up from the foam and taken to Olympus
• Hera wanted her married immediately,
Aphrodite chose Hephaestus because he worked late ( though she planned to meet her other suitors) Aphrodite’s Creation
• Version #1: Aphrodite was the son of Zeus and a Dione
• Version #2: Aphrodite was born of Zeus and the daughter of one of his arch enemies
But both of these stories are less-thanaccurate twists on the real version… Aphrodite (con’t.)
• Discovered by fishermen and taken to Mt.
Olympus as a gift to Zeus
• Hera, fearing a relationship between Zeus and Aphrodite, insisted that she marry
Hephaestus, her ugliest child
• Aphrodite serves as a constant temptation for gods and mortals alike.
• Her name literally means “from the foam” The Real Creation of Aphrodite
• Aphrodite was born from the death of Uranus
• Cronus castrated his father before death, and threw the “part” into the ocean
• From the bubbling, boiling, bloody foam,
Aphrodite appeared
• She was accompanied at birth by sea nymphs and doves
• Often depicted as having hatched from a seashell Ares Ares

God of warfare
Was violent, aggressive, and unlikeable
Was Hera and Zeus’s most despised son

Had an awkward love affair with

Was actually a coward (traitor)
Was feared, but not respected by