Intro to classical mythology
13 September Lecture 1
- Classical-history, culture, the world, of ancient Greece and Rome.
- Encompasses all of the Mediterranean
- Myth-> not historical; things happening beyond this world.
- Period of the bronze age to late antiquity
- Interested in the continued thriving of the ancient Greek and roman culture; ‘reception’ of the
stories in different forms, different places.
o Widely accepted, but really false.
o Comes from Greek work ‘muthos’-> means things like speech, story, rumour, narrative,
fable, tale, etc. a story that’s told/sung/thought in any number of ways. -> really really
o ‘Logos’- persuasive spoken account; concerned with financial stuff, sort of; with thesis,
speeches, reasons, arguments, discussions, etc.
- Kinds of tales
Myth-> concerned with the gods in a timeless way, not to do with human
Nothing to do with truth or fiction; not concerned with that; more
emphasis on the story. What are these stories doing?
Saga, legend-> stories that have a relationship to human history, however true
or false they are.
Folktale, fairy tale-> involves fantastic beings, magic, etc. (humans with special
- Myth- a traditional tale with secondary partial reference to something of collective importance-
o Doesn’t separate myth from other types of traditional stories.
- A classical myth is a story that, through its classical form, has attained a kind of immortality
because its inherent archetypal beauty, profundity, and power have inspired rewarding renewal
and transformation by successive generations. – Morford and Lanardon, pg 26 (textbook)
o Myth is a complex body of material that spans cultural and temporal divides.
o No single definition or theory can simultaneously aspire to precision and universality
o Any definition of mythology will not be impartial
- Greece- inhospitable, dry.
o Few cities, more agricultural villages-> barely self-sufficient. A lot of places developed
isolated from the rest of the land.
o Geography affected the culture and thus the differentiation of myths
o Greek world includes the islands in the Aegean-like Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, etc. as
well the western coast of Asia Minor.
o Athens- most important city for us - Bronze age culture- most important. Mycenaean ideas are very important
- Everything fell apart after the bronze age; abandoned villages and cities, etc. big gap in the
record between bronze and archaic age. -> called the dark age.
- Archaic age-> everything picks up, renewal, etc. characterized by the emergence of the polis->
politically independent city states. -> gives us individual stories from these independent cities.
- Classical period-> high point of the civilization (480BC-320BC).
- Greeks imagined the world was flat. Extrapolated it from individual perspectives.
- around the land masses of the map of Hecataeus, there was a river called 'ocean'.
- features of this world
o sky rises like a dome, a roof. touches the ends of the river of ocean, and a fixed
boundary. was high up, but not infinitely high. gods imagined living in or even on the
sky. but theres imagined to be another way around the sky; theres is something below
the land as well, the Underworld, the world of the dead. It’s a place that you ca