Lecture 2 – Sources
No longer possible to deconstruct myths in their original oral formats. Myths were able to pass onto
us because they were written at some point.
Pseudo-Apollodoros – Bibliotheke (composed AD 100-800): He lived in the 2 c. BC and the
work was clearly written much later and attributed to him; Only known surviving
compilation of myths.
When reconstructing written myth we are faced with diverse genres
Some hints of oral traditions exists only in the tiniest of fragments (e.g. Homer - Odyssey)
The records of myths that have come down to us are confusing, contradictory, incomplete
Myths were not the ideas of individuals (they were not copied or stolen)
Moses, Jesus, Romulus & Remus: All have a near death experience at birth; A wicked person
finds out about the prophecy of their greatness and plots to kill them; Their mothers send
them down a river in a basket; But just because all of them have near these common
themes, this does not mean they are an early version of plagiarism…These grand themes of
myths (abused younger sibling, the beautiful who is cunning at the same time) do not have
just one author…They were used to show that these characters exists in the same world as
others; Claims that the Greeks stole their myths from the Egyptians.
Authors rarely recorded myths for their own sake, but for a greater purpose.
Euripides - Hippolytos
Seneca - Phaidra is based on Euripides; Seneca also has a biased agenda (Stoicism) and may
have been for the Emperor Nero; This could be done, however, because myths are not
Aeschylus: Message to Athenians to not take the law into your own hands but to accept the
decision of the court
In terms of other sources (painting, sculptures): Can pose just as many questions as they answer;
The subjects are not always readily identifiable; Into Roman times we have another problem: a
character made in the disguise of another
Oral traditions varied from place to place, but most people were familiar with the basic, popular
myths; Myths stthted to be recorded from the 8 c. onwards, but this process was small until drama
took place in 5 c. Athens; Popular versions are the Athenian variance of these myths
Hesiod (8 c. BC) – Theogany: A farmer from Boiotia, but not a peasant; Half of the DMs are from
him; He covers the birth of the gods, creation of earth and humans, Clash of the Titans
Homer – illiad, Odyssey, Epic Cycle, Hyms: The most important sources in mythology in terms of
plot and characterization; His existence has never been prove