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Mythology: 2 roots

Mythos =less factual, stor, untruth
logos= more scientific, statement, truth


Mythology: Definitions

  1. The study of myths
  2. A set of myths (from a particular culture)
  3. A type of non-historical traditional tale


Semi-historical traditional tale
Simple tale of adventure, intrigue, and ingenuity, often with supernatural component
Traditional Tale

  • Tale = narrative w/ dramatic structure (beginning, middle, end) + climax
  • Traditional = from traditional societies (non-literate)
  • Myths must be good enough to become traditional, worth memorizing, and passing down


What makes a good myth?

  • narrative force/charm
  • functional relevance to some important aspect of life (beyong entertainment
    • explains important custom/phenomenon
    • palliates(makes easier to accept) social dilemmas
    • records/establishes useful institution
    • expresses emotion nec. to indiv


Types of People Examining Global Themes of Myth

  1. Historians of Religion
  2. Antirationalists
    1. allegoricists
    2. psychologists (Freud, Jung)
    3. Anthropologists
           -mythopoeicists (levi-bruhl, biblical scholars)
           -structuralists (levi-strauss)


Who passes on myths?

  • religious leaders/hierarchy
  • elders
  • parents
  • rich/powerful
  • crowd
  • storytellers
  • ruling body
  • adult males


Purposes of myth?

  1. entertainment
  2. communication
  3. instruction


Types of myth?

  1. cosmogony (birth of universe)
  2. theogony (birth of gods)
  3. metamorphosis (transformation into something)
  4. aetiology (explain origins)
  5. hero stories


Historians of Religion

  • Cambridge School
  • French sociologists
  • Myth = closely dependent on ritual



  • myth = allegory of nature/meteorological events
  • myth as primitive science
    • religious/magical vs. scientific explanation


Psychologists – Freud

  • dream symbols
  • myth<–>dreams
  • myth as waking person’s attempt to systematize incoherent visions/impulses of sleep world
  • Wish fulfillment
  • imagination of children, neurotics, prim. tribes
  • Oedipus complex
    • Son kils father to be with mother (extreme)
  • Guilt + sin
  • God as father to be appeased


Psychologists – Jung

  • myth as projection of the collective unconscious of the race
  • unconscious symbols upon which society is based
  • symbols as categorization of roles
    • Gender Roles
    • Age Roles


Anthropologists: Lucien Levi-Bruhl

  • later dismisses own ideas
  • Mythopoeic thinking: attempt to interact with sentient world, not to try to explain it
    • expressive, poetic, and mystical
    • active participation w/ phenomena
    • anti-empirical
  • The thinking before there was empirical, rational thinking


Anthropologists: Claude Levi-Strauss

  • Myth like languade
  • meaning from relationship between elements
  • similar relationships outside myth
  • paired oppositions
  • myth as logical model mediating between opposites
    • myth = rational!


Structuralist view

  • Levi-Strauss
  • take everything into account
  • not just indiv. elements
  • comprehensiveness
  • credited creators of myth with intellect, rationality
Weaknesses with structuralism:
-can’t see indiv. element
-not always an opposite thing
-does not see myth as story


Sacred Mountains

  • Helikon – muses
  • Olympus – gods
  • Parnassus – Apollo (and muses)
  • Ossa and Pelion – giants


Hesiod w/ muses

  • claimed to be visited/inspired by muses
  • Always starts and ends with address to muses
  • channeling muses through himself
    • ecstatic; out of body, god would come into body, act through you
  • Homer + Hesiod derived from oral, put to word (Apollonius and Virgil just wrote)



  • Zeus + Mnemosyne (Memory)
  • sleeps w/her for 9 nights, gets 9 daughters
    • Calliope (epic)
    • Clio (history)
    • Erato (lyric poetry)
    • Euterpe (pipe/flute)
    • Melpomene (tragedy)
    • Polyphymnia (mime)
    • Terpsichore (dance and light verse)
    • Thalia (comedy)
    • Urania (astronomy)
  • 9 arts, covered by the muses, all require memorization
  • Memory was crucial for oral poets, memorzed thousands of lines, thought muses helped them


Theogony overview

  • family tree in verse
  • 2 families over 3 generations
  • monotony vs. digressions


Spontaneous emergence of 4 divine entities

  • Chaos (chasm)
  • Earth (Gaia)
  • Tartara (underworld)
  • Ero (terrible, dissolver of flesh)


Succession of Gods

  • Heaven (ouranos) + Earth (Gaia)
  • Kronos and Rhea
  • Zeus and… pretty much everyone


How Kronos defeats Ouranos?

  • Ouranos is Gaia’s son, but also lover, who pushed babies back into her
  • Gaia appeals to children to help her
  • Kronos with tooth sickle, cuts of Ouranos’ genitals
  • Heaven drifts up, children come out
    • 12 titans
    • 3 cyclopes
    • 3 hundred-handers (kept inside earth)
  • Giants, others come from blood of severed genitals
  • sickle becomes a strait
  • Aphrodite comes out of sea foam


How Zeus defeats Kronos?

  • Kronos swallows all of his/Rhea’s children whole
  • didn’t want kids replacing him
  • Rhea outwits Kronos
  • when Zeus is born, she hides Zeus near Crete
  • gives Kronos stone wrapped in blanket
  • Zeus ultimately beats Kronos
  • Kronos regurgitates his brood



Zeus’s Wives


1. Metis;



  • first wife, eaten by Zeus after he hears she might bear clever children
  • pregnant
  • Athena born out of Zeus’s head



Zeus’s Wives


2. Themis;



  • ;custom;
  • 2nd wife
  • has Fates as children
    • Clotho (spins thread)
    • Lachesis (measure thread)
    • Atropos (cuts thread)
    • representing threads of life
  • Mother of watcher/seasons
    • lawfulness
    • justice
    • peace
  • Before they were born, didn’t exist.. perhaps Zeus has moved beyond might



Zeus’s Wives


3. Eurynome;



  • ;Widespread Law;
  • daughter of Oceanus
  • 3 graces(children)
    • Aglaia (splendor)
    • Euphorosyne (Good cheer)
    • Thalia (Festivity)



Zeus’s Wives


4. Demeter



  • Earth mother
  • Goddess of crops/fertility
  • mother of Persephone



Zeus’s Wives


5. Mnemosyne;



  • memory
  • 9 muses



Zeus’s Wives


6. Leto



  • Daughter of Titans
  • children:
    • Apollo (kills men)
    • Artemis (kills women)



Zeus’s Wives


7. Hera;



  • Zeus’s sister
  • last wife
  • only has mistresses after her
  • Hera associated w/ marriage
  • children:
    • Hebe (youth)
    • Eileithyia (childbirth goddess)
    • Ares (war, bad wars)








= born asexually
  1. Athena (out of Zeus’s head)
    1. ;
      1. wisdom, crafts, war
  2. Hephaestus (out of Hera)
    1. ;
      1. blacksmith, lame
      2. inferior to Zeus’s child
      3. apparently Hera was mad Zeus didn’t have Athena through her


Other women w/ Zeus

  • Maia
    • daughter of sea-god
    • nymph
    • gives birth to Hermes
  • Semele
    • mortal
    • has Dionyces kinda
    • she dies befor he is born
    • Zeus implants fetus in thigh
  • Alkmene
    • mortal
    • mother of Herakles


Allies of Zeus

  • Cyclopes (he set free after Kronos)
    • give him thunderbolts
  • Hundred-handers (help Zeus later)
  • Children of Styx (underworld River goddess)
    • power
    • strength
    • aspiration
    • victory


Titans ( a few)

  • Kronos
  • Rhea
  • Oceanus
  • Themis
  • Mnemosyne
  • Iapetos
  • 6 others


Iapatos +Clymene

  • Clymene = oceanic nymph-daughter of Oceanus
  • children:
    • Atlas
    • Menoitios
    • Prometheus (foresight)
    • Epimetheus (hindsight)


Titans vs. Olympians

Olympians beat Titans

  • 10 years
  • Zeus employed hundred-handers
  • lightning
  • Puts Titans in Tartarus, misty gloom
  • big bronze gate keeps them in;


Zeus vs. Typhoeus

  • Child of Gaia
  • snake monster
  • Under etna
  • Zeus fries him with Thunderbolt, throws him into Tartarus



Near Eastern Parallel





  • Anu
  • Kumarbi (bites of Anu’s genitals, which impregnates him)
  • Teshub the Storm god (Zeus-like) fights these:
  • Hedamu the serpent (tries to displace Teshub)
  • Ullikummi, the living pillar (result of Kumarbi having sex with a cliff)


Creation of Man

  • work of Prometheus (actually fashions man/animals) / Epimetheus (Gives animals their qualities, but nothing for man)


Meeting at Mekone

  • Prometheus tricks Zeus, trying to help humans
  • meat + good parts under stomach
  • bones and bad stuff under glistening fat
  • Zeus omniscient (already knows trick being played?
  • Revenge – Zeus makes men have hard labor, raw food, no fire


Theft of Fire

  • Prometheus steals fire in tube of fennel to give to men
  • fire as special knowledge?
  • Zeus finds out:
    • chains him to rock
    • Zeus’s eagle eats his liver daily
    • liver regenerates at night
    • sentenced for eternity
    • Prometheus threatens with succession secret
  • Herakles saves Prometheus
    • kills eagle with arrow
    • Prometheus tells Zeus he can’t sleep with Thetis
  • Thetis forced to marry mortal Peleus
    • has Achilles


Creation of Woman

  • Made as punishment for men (since they had fire?)
  • All Gods/goddesses play part in making her irresistable as possible
  • bitch’s mind
  • knavish nature
  • Pandora (Allgift)
  • Epimetheus took gift from Zeus to give to humans (even though prometheus told him never to accept gift from gods)
  • women unstopped jar of evils
  • Only Hope remained inside


Hope: Greatest evil?

  • ancients thought that hope tricks people into thinking things get better
  • Hope is not a provider


Dangerous Vaginas

  • Show up in multiple cultures
    • N. America
    • Asia
    • S. America
    • Near East
    • Greece
    • Pacific islands



Dangerous Vaginas


Brazil, Yanomamo



  • 1 of first women had toothed vagina that bit off consort’s penis
  • “pregnant” = satiated/full
  • “to eat” = “to copulate”



Dangerous Vaginas




  • Savior God Maui sought eternal life by crawling into the mouth/vagina of his mother Hina
  • trying to return to the womb of the creatress
  • she bit him in two and killed him



Dangerous Vaginas

N. America

(Kicking Boy + Coyote)



  • first women had toothed vaginas
  • hero broke teeth by inserting objects
  • now safe to sleep with women
  • often younger sister helps hero to defeat toothy older sister
  • ponca-otoe, Apache, Pawnee, Arapaho
  • Kinky Coyote:
    • Yurok(california) aetiology of obsidian
    • coyote extracts all but one tooth from her vagina
    • other version, blows her up, obsidion comes out as a result



Dangerous Vaginas




  • Lamia
  • female
  • cave-dwelling
  • eater of man flesh
  • vampire-like
  • killer of babies
  • mother of scylla (savage dog-headed monster in Odyssey)
  • seductress
  • body of snake, breasts/head of woman


Vagina Dentata

  • term invented by Austrian psychoanalyst? Otto Rank
  • women get blamed, evil, deceitful
  • outwit female, men smarter
  • woman w/ power = dangerous thing


Vagina Dentata credible?

  • Weakness and impotence after ejaculation
  • ejaculation as a loss of man’s vital force, ;eaten; by woman
  • every orgasm = little death, the death of ‘little man’, the penis
  • man exits as less than he entered


Standard Hellenic Belief


  • Heroes
  • Ordinary Mortals
  • the only two ages



Hesiod Degenerating Cycle



  • Golden
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • (Heroes) – had to acknowledge this to reconcile belief of time period
  • Iron


Myth of Ages – Biblical Version

  • Book of Daniel
  • Nebudchadnezzar
    • had dream of statue with gold head, silver torso, bronze hips, iron legs, clay feet
  • Daniel tells him it represents deteriorating kingdoms/ages


Hindu Ages

  • Satya/Krita Yuga;;(Gold);;;;;; Yuga = Age
  • Treta Yuga (Silver)
  • Dwapura Yuga (Copper)
  • Kali Yuga (Iron)


Zoroastrian Ages

  • Zarathustra – gets sent Dream vision
    • tree of life
    • gold, silver, steel, iron alloy
  • Zoroaster
  • Ahura Mazdah – Lord Wisdom –


Golden Age

  • Kronos as king
  • Made by Titans or Olympians?
  • Godlike life
  • no aging
  • toil-free crop
  • women?
  • idyllic period


End of Golden Age

  • Benevolent Guardian Spirits
    • Hypnos (sleep)
    • Thanatos (death)
  • ;Hermes = psychopompos – accompanies souls of dead to underworld
  • When Kronos replaced by Zeus, golden age over


Silver Age

  • Abrupt Deterioration
  • Made by Olympians
  • 100 yr old childhood
  • brief adolescence and adulthood
  • Toil for food
  • this age ruled more by death than sleep


End of Silver Age

  • Crimes
  • Impeity
  • Zeus
  • ;Mortal blessed below;….????


Bronze Age

  • Associated with Ares
  • Hearts of adamant (tough metal)
  • Ash-tree (bodies?)
  • monstrous bodies
  • bronze armor, houses, tools
  • ;no eaters of corn; ie not agricultural
  • no honor after death
  • hunter-gatherers


Age of Heroes

  • interruption!
  • ;made; by Zeus,et al… ie Zeus slept w/ mortal women
  • righteous, noble


Death of Heroes

  • Theban cycle (Thebes, people fighting)
  • Trojan cycle (lost in battle)



  • Hermes escorts souls there
  • grim place
  • look the way they died
  • some heroes go there


Isle of the Blessed

  • Elysium fields
  • people w/ divine parent
  • super heroic
  • re- creation of golden age



Egyptian field of Offering, Field of Reeds

  • parallels elysium fields
  • pharaohs, etc
  • Nile, fertility
  • life of plenty


Iron Age

  • Hesiod’s age
  • Another to come?
  • Toil, distress, god-given troubles
  • mix of good and evil
  • deterioration w/in it


End of Iron Age

  • Degenerate Race: children born w/ gray hair
  • No family resemblance ( fidelity)
  • no spirit of hospitality (zeus=god of hospitality)
  • no friendship
  • no fraternal feelings
  • no ‘honor thy father and thy mother’ (mother still only woman around)


Signs of End Times

  • Breakdown of virtues which held family and society together
  • might is right…fist law..Zeus as king?
  • Honor for criminal and miscreant
  • No regard for truthful, worthy, righteous man
  • lies and false oaths of villain triumph over honest man
  • End near??


Hesiod and Perses

  • lies
  • false oaths
  • loss of brotherly love
  • triumph of villaious Perses over honest Hesiod
  • End of Iron age?


The Homeric Question

  • person, generation(s), editor?
  • oral composition – passed down over years
  • fossil words/phrases w/in the texts, some phrases are 200-300 years older than surrounding passages
  • Iliad vs. Odyssey – responsible for both? (values conflict between epics)
  • Homer= blind like Demodocus, the bard of the Phaecians


Homer’s ;home;

  • Ionic dialect (Greek speaking area along coast of Turkey
  • Chios / Smyrna – 2 cities that claim to be birthplace of Homer
  • Phrygian topography- poets familiar with this area
  • Homeridae- people that made a living; of reciting homeric epics.. idae = ;descended from;


Homer as God

  • Homer’s words as magic spells
  • influence on
    • Vergil
    • Dante
    • Milton


Sing, Goddess..

  • Iliad starts with this
  • Calliope
  • Muses, daughters of Mnemosyne
  • 16,000 lines
  • 8 epics in cycle
    • Voyage to Troy
    • Attacks on Trojan Allies
    • Anger of Achilles
      • Iliad
    • Coming of Amazons
    • Death of Achilles
    • Voyages Home
      • Odyssey



Wedding of Peleus and Thetis




  • Thetis forced by Zeus to marry mortal
  • Eris – Strife- wasn’t invited to wedding, but shows up anyway
  • Golden Apple: Eris tosses apple for the fairest… lands in front of Hera, Athena, Aphrodite


Another dangerous son

  • Priam, Hecuba ( + concubines) (king and queen of Troy)
  • 50 sons
  • Hecuba has dream of Firebrand – dreamed she gave birth to flaming wood
    • bad sign, meant son would bring destruction to city
  • Put son into woods, exposure
  • Adoption, recognition, they bring him back to the city
  • Alexandros – Paris
    • the protected
    • the protector
    • both meanings



Judgment of Paris




  • Hera, Athena Aphrodite
  • Paris has to decide who is fairest
  • Bribes:
    • Power (Hera)
    • Wisdom (Athena)
    • Beauty (Helen)- (Aphrodite)


Swanning around with Leda

  • Tyndareus and Leda (his wife) and Zeus (who metamorphoses into a swan and has sex with her)
  • She was already pregnant with twins
  • Zeus makes her pregnant with more
  • Castor, Klytemnestra (mortal kids
  • Polydeuces, Helen (Zeus’ and Leda’s kids)
  • all come out of eggs



  • all heroes of Greece = her suitor
  • so beautiful
  • suitor’s pledge to support successful one among them


Assembling Armies

Xenia – hospitality, Zeus protector of host and guest

xenos = host


Chryse, Chryses, Chryseis

  • Agamemnon took Chryseis as war bride (concubine)
  • Chyryses offers ransom
  • Agam won’t give her back
  • Apollo kills men in Greek army (plague)
  • Artemis killing women
  • have big meeting:
    • Achilles demands return of Chryseis
    • Agam gets mad at Achilles
    • Agam takes Achilles’ woman, Bryseis
  • Wrath of Achilles, insult to honor


Agam’s culinary ancestry

  • Tantalus (wanted to test omniscience of Gods, spends life out of reach of fruit/water)
  • serves Pelops, his son, for dinner
  • Demeter gets distracted, eats shoulder of Pelops
  • Gods put Pelops back together, missing shoulder


Atreidae (Atreus’ family tree)
Atreidae complications/ drama

  • Atreus serves up Thyestes’ sons, because Aerope sleeps with Thyestes
  • Agam has to sacrifice daughter Iphigeneia
  • Clytemnestra (Agam’s wife) angry with him for sacrificing daughter, so she sleeps with Aegisthus, Agam’s cousin
    • Aegisthus and Clytemnestra plot to kill Agamemnon
  • Orestes, Agam’s son, kills aegisthus and Clytemnestra to avange father
  • Clytemnestra gets furies to kill Orestes


Clytemnestra’s revenge

  • Erinyes, Furies
  • avenge family blood
  • (Bouguereau painting)







  • Thetis had to marry mortal Peleus
  • famous story: Thetis dips Achilles into River Styx to make him invincible to weapons
    • Variation: where she hols heel to dip him in, he is mortal
    • variation: mortal parts burned away
    • variation: rubbed ambrosia on him
  • Thetis eventually leaves peleus, Achilles educated by Centaur chiron


Ending the Cycle

  • Murder trial at Athens – Orestes goes to Athens, pursued by Furies
  • Citizens of Athens = jury
  • Apollo = on Orestes’ side
  • Athena casts deciding vote – says he should be purified, not punished
  • Purification at Delphi
  • Erinyes —> Eumenides
  • “furies”— “kindly ones” they felt dishonored, so Athena suggests they become fertility goddesses


Achilles as draft-dodger?

  • Avoids call-up for Trojan war (was put in disguise)
  • Disguised as girl, Pyrrah
  • outed when he picks out a sword instead of jewelry


Achilles’ choice

  • short glorious life vs long, unremembered, anonymous life
  • Heracles said to have similar choice


Achilles vs. Agamemnon

  • arete vs. time
  • arete = honor based on excellence, prowess, success
  • time = honor based on possessions and power


Gift Exchange, Potlatch

  • Agam offers to Achilles:
    • Briseis, slaves, valuables, daughers, 7 citadels
  • Achilles has to accept that Agam is superior though
  • Achilles refuses to participate (before and after gifts)
  • relationships cemented by exchange of gifts
    • person who gives bigger gift =superior



Diomedes vs Glaukos




  • Grandfathers knew each other
  • swap armor
  • Glaukos gives gold armor
  • Diomedes gives bronze armor
  • Diomedes accepts inferior position to Glaukos
    • originally thinks Glaukos is god


Immortal Supporters of Trojans

  • Ares
  • Apollo
  • Aphrodite
    • oldest olympian?
    • hesiodic version = born from foam, Ouranos vs, Kronos
    • Homeric version = Zeus and Dione’s (minor fertility goddess) daughter


Aphrodite’s favorites: Paris

  • saves him from Menelaus
  • gives him Helen


Aphrodite’s favorites: Aineias

  • means “shame”
  • some gods annoyed w/ Aphrodite, forced her to have sex with Anchises, a mortal
  • Aineias = their son


Aphrodite and Hephaestus

  • forced into marriage with him
  • treats him badly
  • he still is minor supporter of her desires



  • “scream” “revenge” “war”
  • Penthesilia and Amazons = his children
  • “Double-faced liar, most hateful of all Olympian gods” -ZEUS


Ares and Aphrodite

  • sleep together
  • get children Deimos and Phobos “Terror and Panic”


Busted (Aphrodites and Ares)

  • Demodokos’ song (Od. VIII)
  • Hephaestus’ trap
    • makes gold chain net to pin them to bed, prove he was being cuckolded
  • Apollo and Hermes  joke about it


Athena over Ares

  • Athena injures both Ares and Aphrodite



  • Music and muses
  • beast-slayer
  • Smintheus
    • mouse-killer
    • arrows for plague


Why does Apollo help the Trojans?

  • Poseidon and Apollo enslaved by Zeus to Laomedon, former King of Troy and father of Priam
  • BUT
  • Chryseis affair
  • Father of Troilus (son of Apollo and Hecuba)
  • Priam and Hecuba
  • Father of Tenes of Tenedos
  • Tenes and Troilus both victims of Achilles


Main supporters of Greeks

  • Hera
  • Athena
  • Poseidon



  • “Protectress”
  • Champion of Achaians,Danaans (Greeks)
  • Queen of gods
  • doesn’t like Trojans because didn’t get apple


Hera’s Favorites

  • Achilles
  • Menelaos



  • pummels Giant Alcyoneus, wears father’s aegis
  • obeys Hera in Iliad
  • most intimidating goddess when it comes to war


Athena’s favorites

  • Pro-Achaian rather than anti-Trojan
  • Beats up Ares and Aphrodite
  • Protectress of
    • Achilles
    • Odysseus
    • Diomedes



  • hates Troy
  • slave of Laomedon
  • no pay!
  • built walls of Troy
  • Laomedon’s threats
  • However
    • resents Greek camp wall (diminishes glory of his wall)
    • Helps Aineias
    • Offers to fight Apollo


Ranking Greek Heroes

  1. Achilles
  2. Telamonian Aias, Diomedes, Patroclus
  3. Odysseus
  4. Agamemnon, Menelaos, Oilean Aias


Telemonian Ajax

  • Variant traditions
  • 2nd best?



  • Aristeia (moment of excellence)
  • Kleos, Klea =famous deed (s, people will sing of dees after death
  • Special Sight- Athena grants him ability to distinguish gods from mortals on battlefield
  • Separate epic? incorporated into Iliad later
  • Trouble ahead?



  • wise counselor
  • solid fighter
  • Epic vs. Tragic Reputation
  • raid on Trojans with Diomedes
    • Dolon
    • Rhesos



  • cuckold
  • brave warrior
  • key role in recovery of patroclos’ body
  • defeats Paris in single combat (before Aphrodite intervenes)


Lesser Ajax

  • rapes Cassandra, Trojan princess
  • Son of Oileus
  • From Lokris
  • swiftest after Achilles
  • fights to save body of Patroclus
  • NOT favored by gods
    • dung eater



  • loved by Zeus
  • dutiful son
  • loving husband to Andromache
  • father to Astyanax
  • how good a warrior? only kills one Greek hero, Patroclus


Andromache and Astyanax

  • wife, son
  • baby thrown off battlement (Greeks didn’t want him to be a threat later)



  • Achilles’ son
  • kills Priam
  • depicted beating Priam with Astyanax



  • Archer
  • kills Achilles (after Iliad)



  • son of Zeus
  • killed by Patroklos
  • Zeus could’ve changed fate, but didn’t



  • next best Trojan warrior after Hector?
  • difference in ways gods intervene
Greek gods help Greeks win
Trojan gods help Trojans survive;


Triumph of Achilles

  • wrath at peak
  • outside bounds of human society
  • dishonors Hector
  • Resolution:
    • Achilles rejoins humanity
    • reaccepts rules of society
    • funeral games
    • gives Hector to Priam


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