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McGill University
CLAS 203
Margaret Palczynski

CLAS203 Lecture Notes CLAS203 Lecture 1 & 2 Notes  There is no easy way to package myth into a simple definition. There are times where a story you recognize as a myth, but it does not fit into the definition of a myth.  The word myth comes from the Greek word “mythos”, which means “utterance”, something that is said like a story of some kind, but not a written story but rather a spoken story.  Myth is not limited to the Greeks; it is a universal phenomenon among human beings, and of every culture.  Myths are as old as language itself, and before spoken language, myths could be portrayed in stone tablets, artworks, etc. th  Earliest written myth was The Epic of Gilgamesh which appeared around 7 century B.C.  Myths are terribly difficult to define. While some like Hercules are well known, others like the many Titans or Giants are not always known individually. Therefore, it is hard to define myth itself.  Myth is a “traditional story with collective importance.” Traditional from Latin: trado which means to ‘hand over’ by mouth generation after generation. During that time as one generation hands to another generation, the myth changes.  Myths were orally transmitted.  Myths maintain contact with past; the past of a particular culture or society.  Myths transmit inherited experience to future; what were the experiences of the people living at the time of the creation of the stories of the heroes?  One of the functions of myth is to explain society to itself, its concerns and values.  Myths can have certain characteristics which apply to all myths: o Plot o Characters o Setting  Time: past or unreal  Place: real, surreal, past real o Transmission: spoken, anonymous  Subject to constant change  Teller: no claim of responsibility for content  There are various ways of classifying myth: o By principal character (central character of story)  Divine myth: focus on supernatural beings (Gods, Goddesses, Deity)  Immortal  Personifications of natural forces (Sky, Sea, Earth)  Abstractions (Love; Eros)  Superior to humans in power  Control forces of nature  Supernatural characteristics: size, power, appearance  Events in unreal time and place  Legends: focus on human beings  Hero: more than human (mortal)  Extraordinary qualities: courage, strength, beauty, skill  Divine parent/frequent divine input (most often from god, but sometimes goddess; sometimes not born from god, but affiliated afterwards to a god/goddess)  Doers of great deeds o Great wars o Great quests o Slaying Monsters o Founding of cities  Assumed by Greeks to have really lived  Set in distant past/unreal places  May contain element of historical truth  Folktale: focus on ‘ordinary men and women’  Are ordinary men and women  Low social status  Victims, persecuted  Has some unrecognized virtue  Often has happy ending, just reward  Supernatural present as magic, spirits, etc.  Great variety of tales  Distinctive aspect: motif (regularly appearing, identifiable narrative pattern)  Type: Larger pattern of motifs  Most Greek myths: mix of legends/folktale o By function  Etiological myths: (Greek aition ‘cause’)  Are myths that talk about why the world is the way it is (customs, culture, etc.)  Divine myths: explain the way the world is o The origins/destruction of the elements of the universe (i.e. ‘creation myths’)  Legends: Explain events in the human past o Explain and justify human present  Folktales: Explain patterns of human behaviour o Entertain, teach  The study of myth: o Recording and compiling the myths of a given culture  Recorded by members of the culture for goals other than that of study/preservation of myth  Many variants: confusing, incomplete  Primary source: literature  Oral and written works differ significantly  Written text not necessarily a true record of oral tale – may reflect previous literary versions  Archeology: Artifacts and art clues to myth not often clear as to: who told them, when/where they were told o Analysis of the role specific myths played within the 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, etc. (Male usually told legends to audiences of men; women told legend NOT proper)  Function: etiological? Enhanced prestige of teller/listeners? Justified order of society? Expressed protest? o Study of how the myths of one culture are related to the myths of cultures  Examine migration patterns  Examine transformations and adaptations of myth to the needs and traditions of the adoptive culture (inter-culture myth, compare and contrast) o Assessment of the deeper human significance of myth (myth interpretation)  Long history of interpretation dating back to antiquity (what function does myth fulfill for us)  Allegorical, philosophical, psychological, structural, etc.  Never conclusive  Maps to know: o The Ancient Mediterranean: inside front cover of textbook o Greece. The Aegean Sea and Western Asia Minor: inside back cover of textbook o Southern and Central Greece: page 21 of textbook o Become familiar with the places that are most prominent in lectures and reading material. Associate places with persons/gods, stories, why these locations are important, etc. CLAS203 Lecture 3 Notes Review:  Mytos: a traditional story with collective importance o Oral o No Identifiable author o Many variants of the same myth possible: the ‘myth’ is the complex of all variants o Culturally important to the people who told them and listened to them  Logos: a reasoned account by someone who stands by it, taking responsibility for the truth of what is said  Myth-ology: a reasoned inquiry into the topic of myth  Myths reflect the society that produces them and in turn help determine the nature of that society  The study of myth: o Compile o Compare o Understand myth’s significance within culture that produced it o Understand the myth’s broader human significance Historical Sketch: (Will not ask to relate date to time period but to know events in text and correspond them to dates)  Neolithic Age (6500-3000 B.C.) o Farming villages o Pottery, domesticating animals o The area that is now Greece and that part of Mediterranean was inhabited  Bronze Age Early (3000-2100 B.C.) – Minoan Period o The island of Crete and its capital Cnossus (Knossos) o Minoan were powerful on the sea, they were a thalassocracy; relied on trade o They used Linear A, a writing system recording that is non-Greek (language) o Matriarchal religion? o Ruled by women?  Bronze Age Middle (2100-1600 B.C.) o In 1630: eruption of Thera. It was the greatest volcanic eruption and blew out the center of the island. It is too simple to say the Minoan fell because of the eruption but can be a factor. o Between 2100-1900, the first wave of Indo-European invaded (migration) the area that is now Greece. They spoke the language that is still spoken today; Indo- European becomes Greek. They brought their own myths. o Male-dominated gods: located on Mt. Olympus o The Indo-European must have come into contact with Minoans and borrowed their language system. Linear B, a system similar to Linear A was a writing system recording early form of Greek. We call this Mycenaean Greek. o Linear B was not used to record stories, but rather for registration of palace accounts  Bronze Age Late (1600-1150 B.C.) – Mycenaean Period o 1600-1450 was the Mycenaean takeover o Mycenae, Tiryns, Argos o Invasion of Crete o 1373: Cnossus destroyed o 1250-1223 was the Trojan War o We can verify the Trojan War as being an actual archaeological event, but whether that was because of Helene of Troy or the actual usage of the Trojan Horse is all a myth  Dark Ages (1150-800 B.C.) o 1200: The second wave of Indo-European invaders (Mythologically: “Dorians”; actual: “Sea People”) o Collapse of Mycenaean civilization o Migrations to Ionia (coast of Asia Minor) o Loss of Linear B writing system o Oral transmission of Bronze Age stories o 800: Alphabet adopted from the Phoenicians  Archaic Period (800-490 B.C.) o Homer (cannot write; was all oral): Iliad & Odyssey o Hesiod: Theogany & Works and Days o Homeric Hymns: are works with unknown author(s) but can still be accessed today o 776: Olympic Games o City states emerge o Colonization of the west o Persian Wars: Marathon (490 B.C.), Salamis and Plataea (480-479 B.C.)  Classical Period (490-337 B.C.) o Aeschylus (wrote tragedies) o Sophocles (wrote tragedies) o Euripides (wrote tragedies) o Athenian democracy o Athenian Empire (arts flourished) o Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.)  Macedonian Conquest (337-323 B.C.) o Philip of Macedon o Alexander the Great o End of the Classical Period  Hellenistic Period (323-30 B.C.) o Greece becomes Roman province in 146 B.C. Roman History: Myth  1175 B.C. – Aeneas’ conquest of Latium  1150 B.C. – Alban kings  1100 B.C. – Foundation of Alba Longa (Ascanium/Iulus)  753 B.C. – Foundation of Rome (Romulus and Remus) History  753-509 B.C. – Etruscan kings  509-60 B.C. – Roman Republic (Plautus: 250-184 B.C.)  60-30 B.C. – Civil War (Catullus: 87-54 B.C.)  30 B.C.-14 A.D. – Augustus (Vergil (poet): 70-19 B.C.; Ovid (poet): 43 B.C.-17 A.D.)  14-476 A.D. – Roman Emperors Society:  Very limited knowledge of Bronze/Dark Ages  No written texts except Linear B tablets (household accounts)  General aspect of Greek society reflected in myth  Myths recorded by Free aristocratic males  Written sources m ay reflect the customs of ‘times gone by’, but also society which recorded them  Interpretation is difficult  Free males: dominant in public/private sphere  Held final authority over wives and households  Fought wars  Females: restricted to domestic sphere  Marriage, childbirth, death  Had power to control two fundamental moments of life: birth and death  Slaves: chattels, no enforceable rights CLAS203 Lecture 4 Notes Religion:  Polytheistic (believed by Greeks: many gods); anthropomorphic (in the eyes/shape of human begins)  gods do not create world; dwell within  No god is powerful: each has own sphere of influence  gods exhibit humanlike behaviour: love, hate, ambition, greed, etc.  gods can communicate with mortals by oracles (oracles were way will of god to communicate his/her will through a prophecy)  Sacrifices are rituals that is associated with myth or myth associated with sacrifices  Myth reveals early Greek beliefs: o Belief in magic: manipulation of outside world by rituals and spells o Belief in curses: words embody power o Belief in spirits: ghosts of the dead o Belief in miasma (pollution): blood guilt of murderers affects those around them  Myth shows overlap of human and natural worlds: o Animals with human qualities (i.e. speech) o Birth of humans from nonhumans (i.e. tree) o Metamorphoses of humans into gods, animals, trees, etc. Greece and Rome:  Romans adopted and ‘remade’ Greek myth in their own image (to suit themselves)  Own culture, religious heritage, but few known traditional stories  Differences in society, beliefs evident in ‘reworking’ of myths (i.e. lessened importance of the sea)  Adopted Phoenician alphabet circa 600 B.C.  Passed alphabet and classical tradition to following generations Development of Classical Myth:  Greek myth begins in primordial times: untraceable  Comparative archaeology and comparative linguistics aim at reconstructing myth transmission before writing (have language and artifacts as evidence)  Early figurines (6500-5700 B.C.) of females emphasizing fertility found in graves o Magical power of woman to produce new life always in focus o Hard to determine on basis of archaeological remains which details in myth are old/new  Reconstruction of Indo European: had words for religious concepts o Name of ‘sky god’ preserved in many IE languages o Deyw-o- god, i.e. ‘shining’ o Luppiter comes from a vocation combined with Proto-Indo-European *phter (“father”) (also Latin pater) o gods change natures in different traditions o Linear B tablets: list the names of gods as recipients of offerings in Mycenaean cult o Some easily identifiable: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Artemis, Hermes, Enyalius (Ares), Paean (Apollo), Eileithyia, Dionysus as well as other deities o No stories  Myth transmission in the Archaic Period o Most of knowledge of myth derives from this and later periods o Poems composed orally, by aoidoi (bards) o Performed for elite groups of men o Great number of vase paintings, many showing mythological scenes (50,000+)  Homer (8 c. B.C.): Iliad (16,000 lines), Odyssey (16,000 lines) o Monumental epics: Trojan War o Realthy of Homeric world debated; knows little of Bronze Age customs  Hesiod (7 c. B.C.): Theogony, Works and Days o Theogony owes much to Near Eastern Myth o Works and Days: resembles Near Eastern ‘wisdom literature’ (issues of right and wrong)  Epic Cycle/Cyclic Poems (post Homeric) o Trojan War stories not told in Homer o Very little exthnth  Homeric Hymns (7 /6 c. B.C. – anonymous) o Hymns to various gods/goddesses o Very unlike Near Eastern hymns o Performed publicly before mixed audience  Myth transmission in the Classical Period o No ‘canonical version’ of each myth o Rhapsodes: public performers of memorized texts; popularized myths o Choral song: made possible by writing o Tragedy: at festivals to Dionysus in Athens o Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.): 7 extant plays o Sophocles (496-406 B.C.): 7 extant plays o Euripides (484-406 B.C.): 19 extant plays  Myth transmission in the Hellenistic Period o 300 years of Greek culture outside of Greece o Mouseion: first library (Alexandria) o First scholars in modern sense o Edited ‘standard texts’ o Literature now read aloud in small groups o Literature written to be rrdd o Apollonius of Rhodes (3 c. B.C.): Argonautica o Library of Apollodorus: collection of stories CLAS203 Lecture 5 Notes Roman Myth:  250-184 B.C. – Plautus (comedy) Amphitryon  70-19 B.C. – Virgil (epic) Aeneid  43 B.C.-17 A.D. – Ovid (epic) Metamorphoses  59 B.C.-17 A.D. – Livy Ab Urbe Condita Conclusion:  Myth: continues to change as long as it is transmitted orally  Written versions: adapted to concerns and conditions of the day  Difficult to separate myth from the work of literature in which it is embedded Near Eastern Myth:  Sumerian myth (4000 -2000 B.C.) o Mesopotamia o Great culture: irrigation agriculture, cities, cuneiform writing (first true writing) o Earliest recorded myths o Polytheistic: An, Innana, Enlil, Enki, Ki, Ereshkigal  Semitic myth o Akkadians (Sargon the Great – c. 2340 B.C.) o Take over Sumerian culture; refashion myths o Babylonians (c. 1750 B.C.): Hammurabi
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