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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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Document Summary

M thos (ancient greek) story , plot of a narrative. Myth a traditional story of collective (social) importance character, plot, temporal and special setting. M thos (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. 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. Catasterism transformation into a star become a constellation (heroes, etc. ) Aristocrat father wanted him to become a politician. Wanted to be a poet served as judge, retired at 20. 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 animals, plants, features of the land/sea/sky. Wrote the library in attempt to systemize all greek myth.

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