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Lecture 3

CLAS 203 Lecture 3: CLAS 203 - Lecture 2 - Myth Classification and Geography

Course Code
CLAS 203
Margaret Palczynski

of 3
CLAS 203 Lecture 2 What is myth? Myth classification, the study of myth,
Types of myth by character/myth classification
1. Divine myth (true myth) : focus on supernatural beings , gods and goddesses
-personifications of natural forces e.g. Sea
-abstractions, e.g. Love (Eros)
-superior to humans in power
-control forces of nature
-supernatural characteristics: size, power, appearance
-events in unreal time and place
2. Legend (Saga) focus on human beings
-hero: more than human because they accomplished something more than the
average human  more like the gods
-extraordinary qualities: courage, strength, beauty, skill
-divine parent/frequent divine input
-doers of great deeds
>great wars
>great quotes
>slaying of monsters
>founding of cities
-assumed by Greeks to have really lived
-set in distant past/unreal place
-may contain element of historical truth
3. Folktale e.g. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast: focus on human beings
-ordinary men and women
-low social status
-victims, persecuted
-has some unrecognized virtue
-often has happy ending, just reward, moral to the story
-supernatural present as magic, spirits, etc.
-great variety of tales
-distinctive aspects: motif (regularly appearing identifiable narrative pattern)
-type: larger pattern of motifs
*most Greek myths: mix of legend/folktale
4. Etiology myths (Greek aition = cause)
-divine myths: explain the way the world is
>the origins/destruction of the elemetns of the universe
>e.g. “creation myths”
-legends: explain events in the human past
>explain and justify human present
-folktales: explain patterns of human behaviour
>entertain, teach
-divine myth: explain the way the world is
>the origins/destruction of the elements of the universe e.g. creation of myths
-legends: explain events in the human past
>explain and justify human present
>related to rituals, which came first, (chicken or egg)
-folktales: explain patterns of human behaviour
>entertain, teach
MYTH-OLOGY: The Study of Myth
1. Recording and compiling the myths of a given culture
>Linear B tablets
>Boustrophedon inscription
-recorded by members of the culture for goals other than that of study/preservation of
-many variants: confusing, incomplete
-primary source: literation
-oral and written works differ significantly
-written text is not necessarily a true record of oral tale – may reflect previous literary
-archeology: artifacts and art clues to myth – who told them, when/where they were told
2. Analysis of the role specific myths played within culture
-examine functions of specific myths in context of a given society
-myths told by/to someone on some occasion: identify teller, audience: gender, status,
-function: etiological? enhanced prestige of teller/listener? justified order of society?
-what made the myth interesting?
3. Study of how the myths of one culture are related to the myths of other cultures
-examine migration patterns
-examine transformations and adaptations of myth to the needs and traditions of the
4. Assessment of the deeper human significance of myth (myth interpretation)
-long history of interpretation dating back to antiquity
-allegorical, philosophical, psychological, structural, etc
-never conclusive
-never exhaustive
*become familiar with the places that are most prominent in lectures and reading materials
*associate places with persons/gods, stories, why these locations are important, etc
1. The Ancient Mediterranean
2. Greece, the Aegean Sea and Western Asia (Minor: back cover of textbook)
3. Southern and Central Greece