Mythology: The Role in Ancient Greece
Greek mythology clearly presents Ancient Greece’s religious beliefs and superstitions as people showed their everyday life in primarily fictional tales. Therefore, the mythical stories about human-like gods were beyond meaningful to people as they also expressed people’s values and heroism. In fact, myths tell stories that everyone can learn from since the gods and heroes either do good or evil deeds. That is why mythology was of detrimental value in Ancient Greece, considering that it expressed people’s culture and religion that was passed on to the next generations.
To begin with, the notion of a myth nowadays is perceived as fiction or an untrue story; however, most Greeks viewed every single myth as a factual account back then. Therefore, the mythology heavily influenced Greek culture, shaping public beliefs and religion to relate to the great myths about heroic gods and goddesses. What is more, the stories concerned different matters: from natural phenomena to ritual practices (Albert & Richard, 2021). The only constant thing in mythology is that they all revolve around mighty gods and heroes, as well as villains. Furthermore, mythology was mainly recognized as a source of information to answer significant questions. For instance, in some way, it could help children understand the origin of our planet and civilization as they knew it (Albert & Richard, 2021). The myths justified every phenomenon and assisted in Greeks’ understanding of everything they saw around them (History Editors, 2020). Thus, people believed in the authenticity of these stories and turned to them in case they needed to have their most concerning questions answered.
As for the origin of mythology in Ancient Greece, it started as an oral tradition. As a matter of fact, the plots of myths expressed many literature features in archaic and classical periods. The founder of initial Greek mythology was poet Hesiod, who first wrote the story about the origin of life, Theogony, in 700 BC (History Editors, 2020). The Theogony covered the emergence of the universe from eternal nothingness to humans, nature, and, most importantly, gods (History Editors, 2020). In addition, the myth revolved around the mighty creatures who created everything: Gaia was the goddess of earth, Ouranos – of the sky, Pontos created water and seas, and Tartaros ruled the Underworld (History Editors, 2020). Later, Greek mythology evolved, stemming from the original story of Hesiod. To be more particular, mythological characters appeared in the tales about “Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and the lyric poems of Pindar” (History Editors, 2020, para. 6). The literary contribution to the myths and fictional stories helped shape Greek mythology from the early times to pass the meaning of religion to Ancient Greeks and their next generations.
Most Greek myths revolved around mighty gods who ruled the humans and helped them evolve. Therefore, the mythology’s center was the powerful creatures that lived on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, where they ruled every aspect of human life. Olympian gods were also human-like and presented as equal to humans creatures, unlike other civilizations’ mythologies (Balit, 2022). In fact, they were of the same height, body, and mind, which brought them even closer to humans to help them evolve (Balit, 2022). Moreover, the Olympians were also easily controlled by their passions, usually leading them to negative situations that were so often expressed in Greek myths. What is more, Greek mythology told the stories about 12 Olympians who ruled their own elements and had their responsibilities regarding humans (History Editors, 2020). For instance, Zeus was the superior of all Olympians and a father to many of them; however, he also ruled weather and fate. In fact, Hera was his wife as well as the queen of all gods and marriage. Zeus and Hera had many children who ruled their elements and were often mentioned in numerous Greek myths.
To elaborate, Greek mythology also revolved around the humans that accomplished something significant and meaningful to the evolvement of all humankind. In addition, their achievements were presented in myths with the aim of expressing heroism and leadership traits to Ancient Greeks, who idealized them and aspired to achieve something similar. To be more exact, the myths mentioned many human heroes like Heracles, who managed to perform “12 impossible labors for King Eurystheus” (History Editors, 2020, para. 7). However, Greek myths also presented the immoral deeds that human heroes did so that Greeks could evolve, learning from their mistakes. For example, Pandora was so overwhelmed by her curiosity that she brought evil to all humanity, or Arachne, who was so arrogant that she turned into a spider (History Editors, 2020). Overall, the myths were usually based on either good or bad traits that were expressed through goods and humans to show their influence on humankind or nature.
Still, the myths were not only a matter of literature but also of other forms of art, sculptures, architecture, and paintings. Ancient Greeks crafted different elements from the fictional tales they thought to be true. For instance, Parthenon in Athens is dedicated to Athena, who was viewed as a patroness by people who lived in the city (History Editors, 2020). In fact, the Greeks did not forget about the father of all the gods, Zeus, and built the temple in Olympia as a symbol of his leadership (History Editors, 2020). At Delphi, there is a temple dedicated to Apollo, the god of music, full of sculptures representing many gods and heroes. Ancient Greeks crafted the statues for the mythological characters that were the most important and morally closest to them.
Not only did Greeks honor mythology and its prominent figures with art, but they also portrayed many mythical scenes in theatres. As a matter of fact, the origin of Greek drama primarily relied on myths and famous stories about gods (History Editors, 2020). Thus, people presented important scenes from fictional tales that taught the viewers about science, history, and nature. Notwithstanding, Greeks also connected the myths with humor as, for instance, Dionysus was always portrayed as a connoisseur of wine (History Editors, 2020). By and large, the gods and heroes were often associated with their exquisite tastes or something that made them different from others.
To sum up, mythology shaped Ancient Greece by presenting many stories that showed the consequences of sinful actions. Nevertheless, they also taught true heroism and how everyone could help humanity by doing good deeds. That is why Greek beliefs and culture were heavily influenced by their mythology as well as people, who turned to these stories to learn about life and humankind. In other words, the myths helped people see how evil can destroy many lives and how the good could bring love and gratitude.
Albert, L., & Richard, S. (2021). Greek mythology: The gods, goddesses, and heroes handbook: From Aphrodite to Zeus, a profile of who’s who in Greek mythology. Adams Media.
Balit, D. J. (2022). Treasury of Greek mythology: Classic stories of gods, goddesses, heroes & monsters. National Geographic Children’s Books.
History Editors. (2020). Greek mythology. HISTORY. Web.