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Western University
Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2200
Kendall Sharp

MYTH READINGS PG 3-22 Myth Intro - Myth is incorporated in our culture today (Indiana Jones, Lost etc.) - What do they mean: what do they convey about the society that tells them What Mythology Is - Myths are stories (usually very old) - Popular idea that myth means “false story” – to explain things before there was scientific evidence - Any outdated information in the myth does not dilute the point it makes - Alligators in the sewers: urban tale (legend) - Alligators in the sewer are similar to Gilgamesh – they both express some of the same worries about how civilization distances human beings from their natural selves (Levi-Strauss: myth is a conflict between forces of nature and conflict). This myth also deals with the idea of living in a community – something you discard could become a problem for your neighbor Gods and Heroes - These stories help us understand the nature of human life - Story of Hercules – a good man must deal with the consequences of actions that are beyond his control (hated by Hera) Myth and Science - Aetiology: explaining the origin/cause of a custom or fact of the universe (Example: Native American creation stories, Raven story – rivers) - Best scientific knowledge of the time Trojan War (1184) and an Example of Myth - Insights - The Judgment of Paris (Athena, Hera, Aphrodite) Paris chose Aphrodite, she promised him Helen, her kidnapping started the war – The Trojan War (Achilles, Thetis, Hephaistos making his armor) – The fall of Troy – Thy Odyssey (Poseidon, Penelope, Telemachus) - Troy 7a – actually a place - Perhaps the kidnapping of Helen as some truth to it – the spark for war (WWI: assassination of Franz Ferdinand) - Tells about culture: decision of Achilles to live a short glorious life - Society: the importance of alliances - Aphrodite: the power of passion, Odyssey: dangers of the open sea - Odyssey: Idea of somewhere away at war- their families/property become vulnerable - Trojan War vs. Vietnam (generation of young soldiers sent to fight for something they don’t believe in/understand) Understanding Myth - A single myth exists in a variety of versions - We can learn about our world form myth (where a star/place was in ancient times, how to improve ecological systems etc.) - Two ways of telling a story: paratactic (child talking – just main points, no flow) and syntactic Connection - Ovid’s Metamorphoses had to relate to Augustus views - Thor and Odin – separate gods but worshippers met so they formed stories that Thor was Odin’s son –some one came up with a story to ‘fit them together’/rationalize (Snorri Icelandic God’s) PG 305-353 Greece- Oedipus The King – Sophocles - Detective Story: Oedipus (King of Thebes) sets to find out who murdered Laios (the previous king) – assembles evidence - Been around since at least 750BC (included in the Odyssey) - Audience may have known ending but found humor in the irony of the play Sophoclean Version - Jocasta hangs herself before Oedipus fins out the truth about his origin - Oedipus blinds himself - Perhaps written in 425 when Athens was going through a plague (included in the play) - Aristotle: Oedipus has a tragic flaw – he will be destroyed by conditions he has no power over – he has no control The Theatre - Raised stage surrounded by a circular area for the chorus (15 characters who talked, sung and danced – typically same gender as the main character and supported them) – beyond this was seating for the audience - Very simple scenery (mostly set in front of doors to a house – characters would appear and describe what was going on inside) Characters - Oedipus, Kreon (his brother-in-law/uncle), Jocasta - Priest of Zeus, Chorus (Theban elders), Tieresias, messenger (from Corinth), Sheppard (relation to Laios), Servant (house slave of Oedipus) The PLAY - People crowded around complaining about the plague - Story of the Sphinx - Oedipus had sent Kreon to Delphi – for the plague to go away – blood for blood: avenge the murderer of Laios (Apollo said the killer is still in Thebes) - Oedipus now on a search to reveal the truth and find the killer (himself) - Oedipus pro-active leadership style (you have an idea? already done) - Teiresias tells Oedipus he is the murdered and Oedipus gets angry - Oedipus accuses Kreon of wanting to kill him and take his throne - Oedipus talked to Jocasta about Laois – where he was murdered, what he looks like – Oedipus begins to realize it was him who killed his father. Jocasta mentions the slave that was present, recalls him from the mountains - Oedipus talks about the oracle he got when he left Corinth (sleeping with his mother, murder his father) – talks about meeting an old an in a chariot on the crossroads and killing him – he suspects he had killed Laios but has no idea Laios is his father yet - Messenger from Corinth comes – says the people of Corinth want Oedipus as their King (Polybos, their old king had died still to be Oedipus father ... so Oedipus thinks he is safe - The messenger form Corinth explains Polybos was not Oedipus father – the messenger gave Oedipus to him (found him to be exposed in Kithairon) – Oedipus: “swollen foot” – got him from a Sheppard who worked for Laios - Jocasta begins to realize who Oedipus is – rushed off stage - The sheappard (Loais trusted slave)that was sent for arrives … the Messenger (from Corinth) recognizes him - Oedipus begins to question the Sheppard . . . tells that the child he gave was one of Laois’ own - Oedipus realizes he was this baby … he killed his father and slept with his mother - The chorus reveals that Jocasta is dead, she killed herself – hung herself – Oedipus takes her down and blinds himself with her brooches – he shouts his crimes to everyone in Thebes … wished he was dead and had never been recused - Kreon is now the ruler of Thebes – wants to wait to ask Apollo what to do. Oedipus wants to be exiled and go to Kithairon - Oedipus sons: Eteocles and Polyneices (kill eachother in civil war – 7 Against Thebes) Daughters: Antigone, Ismene (story told in Antigone) - Idea of incest taboo Campbells Insights to Myth - Aetiological: myth explains the origin/cause of a custom/event - Historical: myth reminds of historical events - Mystical: myth reconciles us to losing our animal innocence and understanding we are not immortal - Cosmological: myth helps us understand the universe - Sociological: provides us the means of validating specific social order - Psychological: myth shapes the aims and ideals of social groups - Anthropological: myth shows us the values and principles of a scoeity PG 354-369 Cultural Study of Myth – Claude Levi-Strauss - Interested in understanding human nature and society than can be developed by studying myth – transmission of cultural and spiritual information – most important function of myth - A people define themselves by myth – must include all possible forms of myth in an interpretation – study more versions and get better picture of the ‘message’ (through time keeps important things and gets rid of unimportant things) – constant reshaping - Levi technique of laying out cards of each element of the myth like a grid - Myths are widely interpreted in conflicting ways - Myth belongs to the same category as language – language in myth exhibits specific properties – myth like the rest of language is made up of constituent units – these units belong to a higher more complex order - The true constituent units of myth are not the isolated relations but bundles of such relations – only as bundles can these relations be put in to use and combined for a meaning - Relations to the same bundle may appear diachronically (the same story being told in different time periods) but by grouping them also get synchronic (like reading music notes) Oedipus as an example for Levi Strauss - Treated as an orchestra score – task is to reestablish the correct arrangement - The myth has to do with instability – for a culture which holds the belief that mankind is autochthonous, to find a satisfactory transition between this theory and the knowledge that human beings are actually born from man and woman - We interpret myth according to our beliefs and values – if something survives it is still relevant for us today - Find common themes and group them together: Relationships Levi Strauss Finds in Oedipus - Overrating of blood relationships - Underrating of blood relationships - Monsters being slain - Difficulty in walking straight and standing up right Tricksters - Many times in North American myth it is a coyote or raven - The trickster figure is not the only conceivable form of mediation, some myths seem to be entirely devoted to the task of exhausting all the possible solutions to the problem of bridging the gab between one and two Structure of Myths - The function of repetition is to render the structure of the myth apparent – myth exhibits a “slated” structure which comes to the surface, so to speak, through the process of repetition Edmund Leach on Levi-Strauss - Primary role of myth is the weighing of apparent contradiction in the various versions of the myths and achieving mediation between them – myths help us deal with contradictions in our lives The Structural Method - Leach shows that the story of Oedipus and other Greek myths are so interrelated that it is possible to view the whole of Greek mythology as a single system (present a single mega message) - Nature vs. culture (move away from nature and towards dependence on society and law they lose relationships with the gods (life vs. death and sky vs. underworld) Stories Related to Oedipus - Cadmus, Europa, and the Dragon’s teeth (founding of Thebes) - Laius, Chrysippus, Jocasta (Laius falls in love with Pelops son, then returns form exile and marries Jocasta) - Laius teach Pelops son (young boy he likes) to drive a chariot (when Oedipus kills Laius he is ‘a boy driving a chariot’) – Incest between Oedipus and his mother is matched by homosexual incest between Laius and his son (well Pelops) - Antigone, Eteocles, Polyneices (sons and daughter of Oedipus) - brothers kill each other, Antigone after annoying Kreon is put inside a cave and commits suicide Myths becomes that each is a story of a combination of relational themes - If society is to go one daughters must be disloyal and sons destroy (replace) their fathers (Oedipus, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Menelaus, Hippolytus) - There are no heroes in these stories just epics on unavoidable human disaster (because of human error) PG 192-227 Mesopotamia – The Epic of Gilgamesh - One of the earliest myths in written form (non alphabetic – cuneiform) – carved into clay tablets - A hero-king who behaves badly towards his subjects and gods but then redeems himself – gets a eternal fame in his city (Uruk) - Really was a King Gilgamesh of Uruk somewhere around 2800-2500BC - Versions written as early as 2100BC – current text is from a translation form around 1200BC - Syncretism: characteristics of old and new gods melded (both old and new names used) - Story comes from early inhabitants of the land between Tigris and Euphrates (Iraq) – was likely read from a written text and read to an elite audience – did not grow out of folk tradition but from one that dealt with the role of kings in Mesopotamia - The divine was to be feared, the gods created humans to serve them – Mesopotamian gods were anthropomorphic and were responsible for specific natural phenomenon – gods were thought to be actually present in their statues - Story of Gilgamesh illustrates the difficulties and tensions that a hero must go through and be ready to address on an ongoing basis - Joseph Campell – The Hero with a Thousand Faces (way to look at G) Themes: - Fear of death - A hero developing through both success and failure - Lasting achievements are the only way to achieve immortality - The opposition between nature and culture - The king (ruling class) have specific and serious responsibilities to the gods and society - A man has responsibilities to his family The Epic I - God’s create Endiku as an equal to Gilgamesh who is annoying his subjects (having sex with all the girls and forcing men into tests of strength or labor) - Endiku is brought into civ by having sex with a temple prostitute (shamhat)- through 7 days of sex he acquires judgment (became wiser) – she wants to take him to Uruk/ to Gilgamesh – Gilgamesh is having dreams about Enkidu II - Edkidu hears how Gilgamesh has sex with brides on their wedding night and goes to stop him – they fight - Gilgamesh wins – they become friends – Gilgamesh then proposes a quest to go to the Pine forest to kill Humbaba to gain fame - Warned by Endiku (refuses at first) and other not to, Gilgamesh proceeds III - Meeting with the goddess: Ninsun (G’s mother) - She seeks support of the sun god (shamash) for his safety IV - Gilgamesh and Endiku go to the pine forest - They stop for the night, Gilgamesh has a dream – Enkidu says it is a favorable dream and they will slay Humbaba - They cross the threshold of the forest, become afraid V - Atonement with the father (Humbaba – not father but is father like: strong fierce threatening) - Humbaba greets them and says he will kill them – Gilgamesh gets sacred - Shamash helps and sends 13 winds to bing Humbaba – he is slain by Gilgamesh and Enkidu (Gilgamesh pities with monster but is enoucrages by E to kill him) – head for home on a raft and the head of Humbaba VI - Ishtar want to have sex with Gilgamesh (he rejects her) – woman as the temptress (she is goddess of love and war, she can be cruel and mistreated former lovers - Dumuzi) – Isthtar gets angry and wants to strike him down – gets Bull of Heaven (from Anu) and leads it to Uruk to cause widespread devastation – lowers the river and opens pits that men fall and die into - Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay the beast and offer it to Shamash VII - Endiku has a dream that he or Gilgamesh must die because they killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba, in the dream it is said the Endiku must die – he cries to Gilgamesh - Gets angry at the gods for taking him from the wild, then rejoices at his time spent with Gilgamesh - E has another dream of being taken down to hell – he gets sick and dies VIII - G calls upon all living things and the city to mourn for his friend – he tears at his hair and clothes in grief - Connection of this death to Achilles and Patroclos - Provides large gifts for E to have a good reception in the world of the dead IX - G is roaming the country in animals skins grieving – also very fearful of his own death – want to learn secrets of an eternal life – encounters a pride of lions and kills them – uses them for clothes - Enters a tunnel guarded by two scorpion men (no man had every entered) – they recognize his semi divine status and let him in- he arrives after travelling at the Garden of the Gods – the belly of the whale X - Meeting with the Godess – Siduri – attempt to dissuade him form his quest - Sends him to Urshanabi the ferryman, who will help him cross the sea to Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh out of random rage destroys the stone-giants that live with Urshanabi. He tells him his story, but when he asks for his help Urshanabi informs him that he has just destroyed the only creatures who can cross the Waters of Death, which are deadly to the touch. Urshanabi instructs Gilgamesh to cut down 300 trees, and fashion them into punting poles. When they reach the island where Utnapishtim lives, Gilgamesh recounts his story asking him for his help. Utnapishtim reprimands him, declaring that fighting the common fate of humans is futile and diminishes life's joys. - Death is inevitable XI - Gilgamesh observes Ut-napishtim and realizes he looks like himself – asks him how he achieved immortality (revealed later it was because he was favored by the gods) Story of The Flood - Completes the story of the hero and quest of eternal life - The gods decided to send a great flood but he got warning (Ut) to build a boat (like Noah) he put everything for a new life in it - Storm lasted 7 days (Genesis it lasted 40) - His boat landed on a mountain he released a dove, swallow and raven – raven finds food and doesn’t return – so he opens the boat, makes sacrifices to the gods - Enlil blames Ut for the flood but then blesses him and rewards him with eternal life The Return - G is given a task to show he deserves immortality – Ut tells G to stay up for 7 days – he falls asleep (wife baking bread – if dried out proves G was sleeping) - Instructs Urshanabi the ferryman to wash Gilgamesh, and clothe him in royal robes, they return back to Uruk - Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that at the bottom of the sea there lives a boxthorn-like plant that will make him young again. Gilgamesh, by binding stones to his feet so he can walk on the bottom, manages to obtain the plant. He intends to test it on an old man when he returns to Uruk. Unfortunately, when Gilgamesh stops to bathe, it is stolen by a serpent, who sheds its skin as it departs. Gilgamesh weeps at the futility of his efforts, because he has now lost all chance of immortality. He returns to Uruk, where the sight of its massive walls prompts him to praise this enduring work to Urshanabi. PG 228-238 Levi-Strauss analysis on the Epic of Gilgamesh by Kirk - Kirk suggests the meaning of the epic has to do with the relationship between two characters (one who identifies with nature and the other with culture) - Enkidu – starts off very close to nature then loses touch with what he is – Kirk says this is what leads to his death - Syntagmatic relationship – words in a sentence that are related to eachother – Enkidu and Humbaba belong to the same paradigm - Enkidu and Huwanan dies for our sins (“Jesus dies for our sins”, “king kong died for our sins” – innocent victim who dies for economic profit profit – also used in this context to refer to Vietnam War) – all these people are innocent victims being killed for profit – victim in a natural state killed by forces associated with civilization Introduction 3 Major Developments - Tylor, Frazer, Durkheim: Myths of primitive societies are highly relevant to the subject as a whole - Freud’s discovery of the unconscious and its relation to myths and dreams - Structural theory produced by Levi-Strauss (myth is a mode of human communication) – persons in myth are meaningless (like random letters) but take their meaning/significance through their relation with each other Kirk Using Levi Strauss on Gilgamesh - Theme of mortality and immortality - Opposing ideas of nature and culture (opposition given by Rousseau) - Gilgamesh wants to do a deed so that people will remember his name after he had died - Even the king (despite divine associations) must die - Sumerians versions vs Akadian – Endiku is a servant of Gilgamesh not his equal - The loss of someone he loves (E) makes death much more real to Gilgamesh - Humans come to term with their death (5 stages of grief 1969 – Ross) Nature and Culture in Gilgamesh - Kirk: to find meaning of a myth we must look beyond many of the details that simply make it an exciting story - Poem exploring the tensions between nature and culture - Men have always been preoccupied with status - Endiku – he is an animals (dressed in skins, eats with animals and drinks with them) but then tears apart traps set by the hunters – antithesis of man and his works – he then starts having sex with the prostitute, cant keep up with the other animals and earns for a friend - Reversal of roles: E is leaving nature and becoming wise, in the city G who is king and should be wise is behaving like a wild beast - E blames his passing from nature to culture for his death – G refuses to accept his death – dresses him as a bride – then G leaves and wants to reestablish his connection with nature – rejection of the world and of the appurtenances of culture is a rejection of death itself – learns later that man can not avoid death, no point in altering ones life in an attempt for this - Kirk: Gilgamesh emphasizes the complex relationship of nature and culture rather than providing any easy answers - Kirk: was the Epic of Gilgamesh a rational meditation on death or a myth that arose form the poets intuitive myth making PG 417-429 The Forest of Symbols – Victor Turner – Ritual - Ritual is a symbolic language that helps define any event in terms of the broader range of symbols found in that society - Rites of passage – posses a characteristic called liminality (the state of being between two cultures/statuses (like the trickster – moves between two worlds) - Turner: Ritual: a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors goals - Definition of ritual is based on filed work he did among the Ndembu people in central Africa Dimensions - Exegetic: the way an insider explains the ritual to someone outside the society (includes insiders view of the ritual and their assumptions about what outsiders understand) - Operational: the way an anthropologist (outside society) records what is done in the ritual, and how the participants behave and appear to feel (must look for what is done, how its done and who does it) - Positional: the way an anthropologist (outside society) describes the connections between the symbols found in a ritual and other symbols found in the society and the culture - Cyclic Ritual: “those hallowing a culturally defined moment of change in the climatic cycle of the inauguration of an activity such as harvesting/planting” (Thanksgiving Day Parade) - Contingent Rituals: “held in response to an individual or collective crisis” (things performed at birth, death, marriage) Intro to Rites of Passage - Found in many societies but reach their maximal expression in small-scale, relatively stable and cyclical societies - Van Gennep: Rites of transition are marked by 3 phases: separation (symbolic behavior signifying the deta
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