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CLA204 Notes.docx


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA204H5
Professor
Lisa Trentin

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CLA204 Lecture 1 Notes
What is myth?
- mûthos (ancient Greek) “story”, “plot” of a narrative
- myth “a traditional story of collective (social) importance” – character, plot,
temporal and special setting
- mûthos (story) + logos (account) = “study of myth”, mythology
- set in distant past or time so long ago when humans did not exist
- mythical place ie. garden paradise, world of the dead, etc.
Circulation of Myth:
oral (Orpheus, Homer, Hesiod)
literary (Ovid, Euripides)
artistic
media (sculptures, paint)
dance versions (ballet, tragedy, musical/opera)
- storytellers vs. authors
·Orpheus (traditional, mythical)
·Homer (Greek, 8th c. BCE)
·Hesiod (~700 BCE)
·Euripides (Athenian, 5th c. BCE) changes the emphasis of myths to
speak to audience
·Ovid (Roman, 43 BCE - 17 CE) universe story is very different from
Hesiod’s
·Apollodorus (Greek, 1st or 2nd c. CE)
·Hyginus (Roman, 2nd c. CE)
- catasterism transformation into a star become a constellation (heroes,
etc.)
- theodicy “divine justice”
Ovid (March, 43 BCE)
- aristocrat father wanted him to become a politician
- wanted to be a poet served as judge, retired at 20
- Metamorphoses autumn of 8 CE
- banished to edge of Roman Empire due to witness of/involvement in scandal
involving Augustus
- over 250 myths in Metamorphoses most involving some form of
transformation
- human transformation into god apotheosis
- god transformation to human (disguise)
- human transformation into animals, plants, features of the land/sea/sky
- transformation to stars, constellation catasterism
Apollodorus (1st, 2nd c. CE)
- Greek scholar
- wrote the Library in attempt to systemize all Greek myth
- summarizes (uncritically) all myth
Hyginus (2nd c. CE)
- Roman author
- handbook of myth written in Latin but from Greek sources
- traditional storied by Greeks
- many myths show “divine justice”, theodicy
- punishments, by gods
- Hesiod and Ovid have very different views on the justice of the gods
- wide range of approaches to the myth

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Types of Myth
divine myths
- about the gods , “myths proper”
- anthropomorphic vs. personifications
- anthropomorphic Zeus, Hades, etc.
- personifications victory (Nike), Eos (discord), etc.
- often etiological explain cause, origin
- “scientific myths” – divine
- why gods are worthy of worship
- wide array of gods in divine myth
- often occur outside of human time, in a time humanity cannot grasp,
and in locations too far away or too hard to get to (Underworld, Mt.
Olympos)
heroic myths/legends
- about heroes
- Achilles, Menelaus, Hector (Trojan War), Daedalus, Jason, Theseus
- analogous to history to the Greeks
- “historical myths” – legend
- seem to have records of what happened in human past central
characters are human beings (opposed to divine)
- heroes, heroines often of aristocracy
- by definition, important to human time frame said to be ancestors of
Greek people, long lineages
- set in distant past of history
- slay beasts, fearsome creatures, waged wars, founded cities early
human history
- modern archaeology proves legends may have distant base to truth
Mediterranean cities in Greek myth were very central cities
excavations as proof
- Troy is sometimes believed to be true city excavations of wealthy city
destroyed ~1250 BCE legendary Trojan War has truth in it
- linear B tablet associated with Bronze Age brought to light names of
Trojan War, Greek myth (Achilles, Hector, Daedalus, Theseus, etc.)
folktales
- ordinary folk
- mostly concerned with ordinary people as central characters
- fairy tales, fables, folktale types
- may be ordinary character to begin with, often go through reversal in
which they discover talent, wealth, fortune, etc. in order to triumph
- scholars of classical myth identify folktale motifs/types, which are
pervasive in myth
- motifs: abused younger son/daughter, fairy godmother helper,
marriage to prince/princess, cap of invisibility, magic flight, far away
land, dragon guarding fountain/garden
- most famous in Greek myth quest
- quest: male must go in search of treasure, and overcome monster,
etc., with help of a god or special token, monster is at first seen to
defeat her, but hero prevails, escapes with prize (gold, princess, etc.)
- Greek heroes Jason, Perseus, Herakles (Latin, Hercules)
Italy, Greek Peninsulas
- connect through water and land

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- dry, barren
- mountains dominate landscape
Attica (Athens)
- hero Theseus
Boeotia (Thebes)
- Oedipus
Corinth
- located on the isthmus connecting Peloponnese to mainland
Mycenae
- Agamemnon
Argos
- Herakles
- Perseus
Laconia (Sparta)
- Menelaus (brother of Agamemnon, husband of Helen Trojan War)
Historical Periods
Old Stone Age (Paleolithic), before 6000 BCE
- almost no material survived
New Stone Age (Neolithic), 6000 - 3000 BCE
- pottery, stone tools
- grave burials
Bronze Age (3000 - 1150 BCE)
- Early Bronze Age (3000 - 2100 BCE)
- Middle Bronze Age ( 2100 - 1600 BCE)
- Late Bronze Age/Mycenaean Period (1600 - 1150 BCE)
Minoan Culture (2200 - 1400 BCE)
- Crete
- named after King Minos
- Cnossos
- labrys = double axe (“labyrinth” comes from Greek word – double
axe)
- worshipped fertility goddess (perhaps)
Mycenaean Period (1600 - 1100 BCE)
- worshipped fertility goddess (unknown for certain, if true identity
unknown)
- Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes
- linear B tablets (earliest known writings)
- Mycenae taken over by Greek speakers in ~1600 BCE
- Michael B Ventris (deciphered linear B)
- Martin P Nilsson, The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology (1932)
postulated that most Greek myth originated in Mycenaean age
- area destroyed, linear B lost (writing culture vanished) in 1150, Dark
Age began
Dark Age (1150 - 800 BCE)
- Dorians invaded (considered to be “children of Herakles” -
descendants)
- Athens only city that survived invasion westward migration
- re-established culture in Ionia, western coast of Asia Minor, Aeolis
- island of Euboea retained Near Eastern connections kept Mycenaean
culture intact crucial to formation of Greek myth
Archaic Age (800 - 480 BCE)
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