Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Mythology, a term with multiple definitions. Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a body of myths such as dealing with the gods, demigods, and legendary heroes of a particular people,” and also “a popular belief or assumption that has grown up around someone or something.” Every country, region, and or culture, has their own set of beliefs and ways of dealing with the unknown. This is often documented through religion or mythology. Personally, I have always been entranced with the idea of people having thousands of different ideas and beliefs surrounding life. The fact that we are all the same in some ways due to the fact that we are all human, but our surroundings and culture can make us all so different, is endlessly interesting. I’ve always been especially interested in Greek Mythology, hence the reason why I decided to choose this particular topic for my research. This essay is going to look at Greek Mythology in it’s depth. We’ll begin by talking about the people who created it and why, the world of Greek Mythology itself, and then finish with its stories, gods, and goddesses.
As the name suggests, Greek Mythology originated out of ancient Greece. One of the believed possible reasonings on why and how these myths were thought up of, could be that geographically, Greece was a wonder to look at. Elaine Margera discusses in her work, Greek Mythology, the landscape of Greece. She mentions how it’s near the Mediterranian Sea, has islands, beautiful cities, hill-filled countrysides, peninsula’s, and more. As a civilization living in an ancient world with no technology or advanced science, they weren’t able to look at the breathtaking landscape and know that there was a rational explanation behind it. Thanks to modern science, we as a human race mostly understand the logistics behind natural things like mountains, and oceans. We can look at the sun rising and know that the earth is orbiting it. However, for some to this day, they still have beliefs rooted in religion that has not hindered even with the advancement of science. If today, even with science being so widely known as the truth, people still believe in Gods… that really goes to prove that people back in ancient times were doing what was natural by creating these made up stories and reasonings behind life, and that they weren’t too different from us even.
Greek Mythology only grew the further away the Greeks ventured. There is no exact consensus that tells us when the Greeks originated but we have found stories linking the Greeks to possibly have being originated in or around 4000 B.C. At some point, Greeks began sailing by sea to Africa, Asia, and other parts of Europe. Margera noted in her book, “on these ventures when they came across multi-cultural natives, and heard their tales and folks, they started adding it to their own collection.” Evidence shows that this sailing they did not only expanded their stories, but it spread them and thus allowed the stories to continue being spread from mouth to mouth. Later on, Rome also helped with this. About a hundred and fifty years before the “birth of Christ”, Rome conquered Greece and gained rule over the people. However, they admired Greek poetry and writings so much, that they went on to continue reading it and even telling their stories after becoming Christians. Robert Graves book, Greek Gods and Heroes, tells us this, along with the fact that Greek Myths were taught in Roman school education, which would eventually spread all over Europe and even to America, where it obviously is still taught to this day.I even had a couple classes centered around the idea of Greek Mythology, where I learned about all of the different gods and goddesses, their births, and their demise.
In these classes, and research I conducted, I learned a lot about what the world of Greek Mythology looked like as well. Unsurprisingly, their imagined realms have striking similarities with the real landscape and culture surrounding Greece. When picturing the different locations, you can imagine it built up like Greece would have been, with tall granite pillars and statues, flowing fountains, people in robes eating grapes… all that good stuff. According to William Hansen, the actual makeup of the world reflects the early Greek views of the earth, dwelling place of the gods, and dwelling place of the dead. Which, as Hansen says, is early cosmological and and geographical speculation.To say the same thing but in a different way, the greeks mythology was a very early showing of just how aware they were. Today, people still believe in hell and heaven, and the Greeks had their own version of this. You could view their world as a three story or a four story tier, depending on who you’re talking to or what stories you’re reading it will vary. In one version of the structure, it goes from top to bottom: Sky, Earth, Death Realm, Tartaros. In the other version, made up of three stories, it goes: Sky, Earth, Tartaros. In the sky level is where the Greeks believed most of the celestial beings, like the Gods and Goddesses, dwelled. The next level down is the Earth. This is where every day people like you and I would live, as well as some lower supreme beings and monsters. Here is where it can get confusing, because the next level could either be the death realm, filled with lost souls, or it could be Tartaros, which is like the same thing, but for forgotten and defeated gods, goddesses, and monsters. In the version of the Greek World with only three levels, the dead of the Earth level, would go to Tartaros rather than their own place.
In the sky level of the tier, like stated before, is where the gods and goddesses lived. The Greeks called the palace in which they lived, Olympus. In Robert Graves story, he explains it as being well above the clouds that hang over the tallest mountain in Greece, Mount Olympus. The Olympians, as you could call them, had cyclops build this palace to resemble royal kingdoms on earth, and also so that it would be unreachable by humans. Here, is where you could really see the gods and goddesses in all their selfish glory, or so the stories say. In the council hall there in Olympus, is where they would gather to decide on things that will happen in the human world. For example, things like whether someone who was behaving disgustingly should be punished etc. For the most part however, the stories say they didn’t worry too much about what the humans were up to, they worried about themselves.
Hera will be the first goddess I discuss in this essay. Hera meaning “lady” in Greek and Hera also being the feminine version of “hero”. Her name was thought up of long after her story was created. There were two “generations” of greeks, and the first generation created her. The second generation, who went on to continue the stories, never found out what the older generation called her, and so she became Hera. Hera can also be considered the Mother of Heaven, a woman with honor and respect. Her emblem was a cow, the most motherly of all animals, but she also included a peacock and lion so she didn’t look so plain. Zues, her husband, and her sat on their thrones at the middle of Olympus, with all the other thrones beside theirs.Hera’s throne was made of ivory and had crystal steps leading to it, all covered in gold leaves, flowers, and cuckoo birds. Apparently Zues tried to woo Hera for over three hundred years when she finally agreed to marry him after he tricked her. Now, here it gets a little nasty. It’s also said that Zues and Hera were siblings. As the stories go, Kronos and Rhea were their parents, as well as the parents of some other ten or so children. Kronos was the first version of what we know Zues as, he ruled before Zues overthrew him. After the overthrow and Zues gaining power, is when he began to court Hera. Their eventual marriage, made marriage in Greece more than just a custom, but a divine rite. She didn’t enjoy being Zues’s wife, not only because he tricked her, but because he was time and time again unfaithful to her, but she knew they must stay married. For she had to set an example, and she would forever be young and beautiful. These earth women he’d marry would grow ugly and old, and that made her feel better about it. Despite their marriage being mostly for show, some stories say that Ares, the god of war, and Hebe, goddess of health, are their children. Other than some tales of jealousy and being the Mother of Heaven, Hera’s name comes up in stories fewer than most. Since she was seen as the example that all good married women should follow, her life was very virtuous and plain.
Zeus, on the other hand, did not live such an innocent lifestyle. The Greeks considered Zues to be the sky and the weather. He was the one who brought rain and gusts of wind, and the lightning bolt is his most famously known attribute/weapon. His throne was polished black egyptian marble, and the steps leading up to it were the seven colors of the rainbow. His was decorated in gold like Hera’s and on one arm his emblem, the eagle, was perched. The greeks stories described Zues as being cold, selfish, noisy, destructive, strong, courageous, and of course, cocky. Zues was also siblings with Hades and Poseidon. After Zues beat his father and took the crown, they decided to split up their ruling areas, but share the earth as one. Zues won the sky, Posiedon won the sea, and Hades the underworld.