Ancient Mythology 1: Mesopotamia and Egypt - CLAA05
This class focuses on Mesopotamian and Egyptian myths
Mesopotamia is located in the modern Middle East (Syria, Iraq, and Iran)
It is an ancient region of southwestern Asia in present-day Iraq, lying
between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Its alluvial plains were the site of
the civilizations of Akkad, Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria.
Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the
lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt
Definition of Myth
• A myth is known as a story featuring mythical creatures (make believe)
• A traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or
event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation,
especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some
practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
• Some may argue, a myth is a ridiculous story no one really believes. But this
is not the case since myths still exist. Think about your own firmly held
beliefs. Perhaps you believe a deity spoke to a man through a burning bush
(the story of Moses in the Hebrew Bible).
Maybe he performed a miracle to make a tiny amount of food feed a
multitude (New Testament).
How would you feel if someone labeled them as myths? You'd probably argue
they aren't myths. You might admit you can't prove them to unbelievers, but
the stories simply aren't as fantastic as myth (said with tones indicating
disparagement). Vehemence of denial doesn't prove one way or another that
something is or is not a myth, but you could be right.
• The story of Pandora's box is said to be a myth, but what makes that any
• Biblical Myths: The Biblical story of Noah's Ark is not necessarily
considered a myth by a religious Jew or Christian.
• Plato The parable of Atlantis is stoutly defended as non-myth by those
who believe in Atlantis.
• British Myths: How about the legend of Robin Hood or King Arthur?
• American Myth: Even the disproved legend about the axing of a cherry
tree by the perennially truth-telling George Washington may count as a
The word myth is used in many contexts, but it doesn't seem to have a single
meaning. When discussing myth with others, you should determine what
they mean in order to have a common frame of reference and avoid hurting
• A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes.
• As alluded to above, what is myth for one group is truth and part of the
cultural identity for another. Myths are stories shared by a group that are a
part of that group's cultural identity -- just like family traditions. • Most families would be offended to hear their stories described as myths (or
lies and tall tales, which probably fit them better than myth because a family
is generally considered smaller than a cultural group). Myth can also be used
as a synonym for a despised religious dogma or, as the quotation above says,
a religion in which no one any longer believes.
There are several definitions of Myths
• Myths are Origins
Myths are often stories of origins, how the world and everything in it came to
be in illo tempore. – Eliade (historian of religion).
• Myths are Dreams
Sometimes myths are public dreams, which like private dreams, emerge from
the unconscious mind. – Freud (neurologist and psychoanalysist).
• Myths are Archetypes
Indeed, myths often reveal the archetypes of the collective unconscious. - Jung.
• Myths are Metaphysical
Myths orient people to the metaphysical dimension, explain the origins and
nature of the cosmos, validate social issues, and, on the psychological plane,
address themselves to the innermost depths of the psyche. - Campbell.
• Myths are Proto-Scientific gives them reasons for natural occurrences
Some myths are explanatory, being pre-scientific attempts to interpret the
natural world. - Frazer.
• Myths are Sacred histories
Religious myths are sacred histories. - Eliade.
• Myths are Stories
Myths are both individual and social in scope, but they are first and foremost
stories. - Kirk.
• From definitions indicated above, we can see that myths are important
stories. Maybe people believe them. Maybe they don't. Their truth value isn't
at issue. Approaching, but not quite reaching an adequate, thorough
definition of myth is the following:
• "Myths are stories told by people about people: where they come from, how
they handle major disasters, how they cope with what they must and how
everything will end. If that isn't everything what else is there?“
• Robert O'Connell
• Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that archetypes are models of people,
behaviors or personalities. He suggested that these models are innate,
universal and hereditary. Archetypes are unlearned and function to organize
how we experience certain things.
• "All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes," Jung explained
in his book The Structure of the Psyche. "This is particularly true of religious
ideas, but the central concepts of science, philosophy, and ethics are no
exception to this rule. In their present form they are variants of archetypal
ideas created by consciously applying and adapting these ideas to reality. For
it is the function of consciousness, not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible
reality the world within us."
• The self is an archetype that represents the unification of the
unconsciousness and consciousness of an individual.
• The shadow is an archetype that consists of the sex and life instincts. The
shadow exists as part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed
ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts and shortcomings. This archetype is
often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness,
chaos and the unknown. These latent dispositions are present in all of us,
Jung believed, although people sometimes deny this element of their own
psyche and instead project it onto others. Jung suggested that the shadow
can appear in dreams or visions and may take a variety of forms. It might