Classical Mythology: Lecture 1—Basics of Mythology
Myth: modern day usage, myth typically refers to something untrue
o For the purposes of this course we will refers to the word myth to be something
that was once considered true
o Myth= story or narrative
o Myths are generally considered true, about gods/ supernatural, traditional—
handed down through generations
o Nearly all of the myths we will read contain a background of oral tradition
o Do not have to be written down or even verbal—anything can be a myth as long
as it tells a story through any medium
o Some myths are aetiological—a myth that explains something—all myths
explains something about the present world (i.e. why the sun and moon are in the
Myths: take place at the beginning of the universe; typically about gods
Legends and Sagas: take place at historical times (i.e. Legends of the Trojan War);
typically about heroes
Folk tales: take laces at present times (tend to be about ordinary people)
o Problem with these definitions is that not all stories can be categorized into one
How we read myths
o Why do people create myths?
o What do myths tell us about the culture that created them?
o Why does a specific author tell a specific myth?
o Do not trust texts without sources—avoid the Internet.
Theories of Myths:
(example Demeter and Persephone)
o Demeter and Persephone = goddess of fertility of the crops
o Persephone is kidnapped by Hades, and she is taken to the underworld, forced to
be the wife of Hades.
o Persephone eats six pomegranate seeds
o As Demeter grieves for the loos of Persephone, that she neglects the crops.
o Gods agree to give Persephone back, but since she ate the seeds she must remain
in the underworld for part of the year—when she comes back from the
underworld, the crops will grow and flourish
o Said that there were no gods
o All we have are descriptions that other people wrote in their works
o Believed that Zeus, Hera, Demeter, etc.= humans
o Believed that we should understand myths as a misunderstanding of kings who
ruled in a far away kingdom
o Demeter is the daughter of Ouranos o Euhemerism is not a current theory—but it was highly influential in the ideology
Max Muller: nature myths
o All myths explain natural phenomena
o Myth of Demeter and Pe