My first introduction to Greek Mythology was through the magical world created by Rick Riordan. After binge reading all the Percy Jackson books I fell into the rabbit hole of reading about Greek Mythology. During that phase, I saw a reference to Greek Mythology everywhere around me.
That made me realize how common Greek Mythology is and how deeply it is integrated into our popular culture. Right from corporations like “Amazon” to teams called “Titans” to even Movies like “Olympus Has Fallen”, we use Greek Mythology related names and terms without even realizing.
Greek Mythology is full of magical stories and has literally defined storytelling structures like “Hero’s Journey”.
Mythology stories came into existence as a way to explain what could not have been explained by scientific knowledge of the time. Like lightning and thunder seemed like an act of an angry god. A story to explain every misery was not a bad idea. Supernatural characters – Gods, Demigods even Heroes were a ready explanation for a difficult question.
Greek Mythology shows us how the world was perceived long ago.
History of Greek Mythology
Greek Mythology Stories started as an oral narration tradition. Bards or storytellers would memorize and narrate the tales. Of course, over time this led to many versions of the same stories. This also led to different names for the same gods.
Probably the oldest books on Greek Mythology are by Homer. He wrote two epics narrating different aspects of Greek Society and how the unexplained events could be explained via supernatural aspects of the Mythology.
The first book is called Iliad. Homer narrates the story of the Trojan War that happened towards the end of the ten-year siege of the city of Troy.
The second book Odyssey picks up after the end of the war. Odyssey narrates the decade long return journey of Odysseus, the famed king of Ithaca to his home.
Both Iliad and Odyssey are written in the forms of epic poems and the written versions of the same are usually dated around 8th century BC.
Greek Mythology tells about gods and goddess of ancient Greek Religion. There were no formal priests or a well-scripted religious texts outlining rituals. The religious ceremonies and festivals mostly took place at the local level. Practices differed from region to region. Some festivals were focused on some specific gods.
That said, there were dedicated temples to the magnificent Olympian Gods and Goddesses. Parthenon is the temple dedicated to Goddess Athena. Remains of Parthenon are still present in the modern city of Athens (named after Goddess Athena).
Many temples have survived through time and they provide us with a unique view of Greek Mythology. Statues, scenes depicted on pottery, they too show us the story Homer told in his epics.
Archaeological evidence for Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations is found on many of the Greek islands. These ancient artefacts provide evidence for many of the mythological details about Greek Gods and Heroes as mentioned in the epics by Homer and in other texts about Greek Mythology.
Types of Greek Mythology Stories
Stories play a very important role in any religion and mythology. Greek mythology is no different. Every story from Greek Mythology can be categorized as follows –
Religious or God-related stories
These stories are all about the creation of the world, the Titans, the Olympian gods and goddesses. Greek Mythology is polytheistic. Most of their gods and goddesses represent some form of nature. Although there are some who represent concepts formed by human society like war and marriage.
These stories start with Uranus and Gaea getting together and creating the world. It proceeds with the stories of Cronus and birth of Titans and eventually leads up to Zeus and the other Olympian gods and goddesses.
These stories depict how nature was seen as an out of the worldly power. Something that can destroy in a moment. Something that can not be tamed. Something one just wishes can be pleased by rituals or worship.
These stories also tell us that Greek Mythology didn’t see their gods as someone too separate from themselves. Olympian Gods and Goddesses lived with humans and even interfered with the mortal world. Zeus could take a mortal lover and even have children with them. Despite all the curses and meddling, mortal humans still saw their Gods as involved deities and not an abstract concept.
Legends related stories
Legends are the stories which show ordinary people doing extraordinary things. These are not gods performing miracles but rather things that could happen to anyone.
Another aspect of legends is describing historical events. Some events may have happened and the stories may have travelled through oral narration. Over time many facts would have become over-exaggerated and closer to fiction than fact.
These stories exaggerated the powers of kings and warriors and were even used to instil a fear of crime and punishment. Many Greek Legends describe what kinds of torture is used as a punishment for crimes like rape and stealing.
Legends deal with society and its laws.
Folktales related stories
Folktales are usually meant for amusement and they delivery on that front in Greek Mythology as well. Most folktales can be categorized as some kind of quest or a Hero’s Journey. In most of these stories, we have a hero who goes somewhere looking something, gets it and then comes back.
Heroes in these stories can be anyone and the object of their desire can be an actual object or in many cases a loved one. Like Orpheus goes to the underworld to get his wife back from Hades and Jason going on his voyage to find the Golden Fleece.
There are wide varieties of Greek Mythology stories. But they all have one thing on common. They are all super fun.