In order to explain certain natural events, such as earthquakes, windstorms, andthunder and lightning storms, The Greeks invented a collection of myths andcharacters. Just as with most modern religions, Greek Mythology bases most ofit’s myths on morality and ethics issues. Unlike Egyptian Mythology, theGreeks did not focus on what was going to happen in their afterlife. They weremore concerned with the here and now.
There was no written special commandmentsin Greek Mythology. The Greeks did, however, base most of their moral andethical ideals on the Iliad and the Odyssey, both written by Homer. In his work,Homer says that man holds his own fate in his hands. He portrays that wrath willcause much suffering, pain, and even death. Homer formed the fundamentalattitude of the Greek mind.
He established the foundation of excellence for allaspects of life, and the Greeks put these into their reality. Nothing was knownabout Homer or any part of his life, so the question arises as to whether Homerwas a single individual or was he, in actuality, a collection of authors. TheGreeks had a polytheistic culture. Unlike the religions of other ancientcivilizations, the Greeks created the gods in their own image. They were holydeities that could make contact with humans, often in a disguise.
The gods hadthe same desires and weaknesses as human beings and the myths often portrayedthem as lustful, greedy and vengeful. There was no holy place that the Greekswent and prayed to the gods. Instead, the temples that were erected, were forthe gods to come and visit. Festivals were often held to praise the gods.
Duringthese festivals, no war could be fought. The gods spoke to humans throughoracles and people often went to these oracles for advise on what the godswanted. The gods were used to explain whether humans would have great fortune orhardships. They lived at the highest point of Greece, Mount Olympus. Accordingto the myths, there were three generations of gods.
The first were the Titans. The second group of gods were the Olympians and the last were the Lessor Gods. Cronus was the leader of the Titans. He was married to Rhea. As the ruler of theTitans, he had been warned that one of his children would overthrow him.
Toprevent this, he swallowed all five of them. Rhea became pregnant again, and didnot want her sixth child to be swallowed. She hid away until the baby was born. This baby was Zeus, later to become the king of the Olympians.
When Rheareturned, she deceived Cronus by giving him a rock wrapped in cloth to swallow. After being raised by Nymphs, Zeus grew strong and went back to find Rhea. Gaea,the Earth goddess, gave Zeus a potion. Cronus was, once again, deceived and hedrank the potion.
The magic potion forced Cronus to vomit up all of Zeus’brothers and sisters; Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon. A war broke outbetween the Titans and the Olympians. It was a war of natural disasters andusing thunder, lightning, rough seas and volcanoes, the Olympians werevictorious over the Titans. Zeus sent his father and uncles to the underworld. Zeus was the god of the sky and the rain. His weapon was a thunderbolt.
Hemarried his sister, Hera, the goddess of marriage. Zeus gained marriage to herthrough trickery. He pretended to be a bird to convince Hera to feel sorry forhim. As soon as she comforted the little creature, he changed back into hisnormal form.
He then raped her. Hera only married him because of the shame thatshe felt. Hera was often been portrayed as a jealous nuisance but Zeusrepeatedly chased earth women and goddesses, having many affairs that bore manychildren. The greatest temple in Greece was in honor of Hera. In actuality, themyths show that man worshipped her For before Zeus was worshipped. “god”originally was thought to have the form of the woman.
Early man worshipped thefemale body either pregnant or of age to have children. The only power humanshad was over reproduction, so this was sacred. Zeus had two brothers that helpedhim defeat his father Cronus. Poseidon was the God of the sea, earthquakes andhorses. He also had the ability to change shape, and, oftentimes, he changedinto a horse. The trident was his weapon and although he was allowed to live onMount Olympus, he spent most of the time underwater.
Hades was Zeus’ otherbrother. He chose to rule the underworld. He possessed a helmet that made thewearer invisible to both gods and humans. Aside from the many other gods thatreigned in Mount Olympus, there were dozens of mythical , and sometimesfrightening creatures. The Cyclopes were three brothers, Arges, Brontes andSteropes. They each had only one eye in the middle of their forehead.
They werefriends of Zeus because they made the lightning bolts, the trident and thehelmet that later defeated Cronus. Another creature was the Sphinx. She had thebody of a lion, the wings of an eagle and the head of a woman. She would pose aquestion to passers-by who wanted to go into Thebes. “What being in onelifetime goes on four legs, at another time on two, and yet when it is old, goeson three?” A wrong answer would earn the travelers death by strangulation ofthe Sphinx’s lion claws.
One day, Oedipus came upon this hideous creature andshe asked the question of him. His answer was, “Why the being is man, for as ababy he crawls on four legs and then, when he is grown up, he walks on two. Inold age, a walking stick becomes his third leg. ” The Sphinx was furious atOedipus because he guessed the answer correct.
He broke the spell. One look atMedusa could turn any man to stone. She was once a beautiful girl turned into amonster, with snakes coming from her head, by Athena, the Goddess of wisdom. Ever wonder why the city of Atlantis was lost? The myth states that Poseidon,deeply in love with a mortal girl, made an island for her.
He married her andthey produced five sets of twins, all male. Atlantis was named after the eldestof the sons, Atlas, after he died. Atlas’ sons made Atlantis the richestkingdom in all the world. .
It had a brass-covered wall around the kingdom and atemple built from solid gold. Soon this wealth became overwhelming. People werefighting and they became very greedy. Zeus, after finding what was happening tothis city, ordered that something be done. He sunk the island to the bottom ofthe ocean sea using a huge tidal wave. Whether or not Atlantis really existed isnot proven, but many have tried to find it.
Greek myths gave the Ancient Greeksanswers to the unexplainable that they could relate to. They sent messages tothe people that greed, lust, and wrath could have devastating consequences. Through myths about the god’s and mythical creatures, man could see his ownfaults and, possibly prevent or correct them. The Greeks had no idea whylightning burned a whole city to the ground or wind tore apart ships in theMediterranean.
They blamed themselves and their “gods,” the only way thatthey knew how to deal with everyday life. BibliographyAni’s Greek Mythology Website. Online. Metacrawler. 25 September 1999.
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