Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Look At Greek Mythology

By Patrick Omari

The gods of Greek mythology have fascinated people for centuries. The mythological beings are frequently the subject of much artwork and are often the focus for novels and poems. The oldest known Greek literary sources are the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, both of which focus on events surrounding the Trojan War.

Greek mythology works to explain the nature of the world and the significance of existence. Through specific characters and stories there is an effort to understand the world, from the elements to people's vices or admirable qualities. Modern scholars refer to the myths and study them in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece and on the Ancient Greek civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Greek mythology has it's own version of how the world began. According to myth there was initially Chaos, which meant a nothingness and the original state of existence from which the first gods appeared. Out of this void came Ge or Gaia, which means the planet Earth and a few other important Divine beings. These beings were Eros (Love), the Abyss (the Tartarus), and the Erebus. It is claimed that without male assistance Earth gave birth to Uranus (the Sky) who then fertilised her.

From the union between Earth and Uranus the Titans are said to have been born, including six males and six females (Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys, and Cronus); then the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handers. Cronus, who legend has it was the most awful of Earth's children castrated his father and became the ruler of the gods with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort and the other Titans became his court.

There is quite a story associated with Cronus' rule. It is thought that the motif of father/son conflict was repeated when Cronus was confronted by his son, Zeus who rebelled against his father's actions. After Cronus betrayed his father, he feared that his children would do the same, and so each time Rhea gave birth, he ate the child. This action was extreme but Cronus was desperate to eliminate threat and maintain power. Rhea hated this and tricked him by hiding Zeus and wrapping a stone in a baby's blanket, which Cronus ate. When Zeus was grown, he fed his father a drugged drink which caused Cronus to throw up Zeus' brothers and sisters, and one stone, which had been sitting in Cronus' stomach all along. Then Zeus challenged Cronus to war for the kingship of the gods. At last, with the help of the Cyclopes, (whom Zeus freed from Tarturus), Zeus and his siblings were victorious, while Cronus and the Titans were hurled down to imprisonment in Tartarus.

According to Classical-era mythology, after the overthrow of the Titans, the new pantheon of gods and goddesses was confirmed and among the principal Greek deities were the Olympians who resided atop Mount Olympus under the eye of Zeus. Zeus became known as the ruler of the gods, as well as the ruler of the sky and the weather. His symbol became the thunderbolt. Zeus had a phenomenal amount of children due to his passion for the opposite sex. One of his most famous sons went by the name of Hercules, of whose numerous activities are regarded as the dawn of the age of heroes.

The Greek gods were seen as persons and not abstracts, they were not affected by disease, and could be wounded only under highly unusual circumstances. In other words they did not fall ill, or suffer from small injuries in the same way, as mere mortals. The Gods pursued differing interests, had a certain area of expertise, and were governed by a unique personality. Most gods were associated with specific aspects of life. For example, Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty, Ares was the god of war, Hades the god of the dead, and Athena the goddess of wisdom and courage. Some deities, such as Apollo and Dionysus, revealed complex personalities and mixtures of functions, while others, such as Hestia (literally "hearth") and Helios (literally "sun"), were little more than personifications.

Greek mythology is fascinating, especially when you start looking into all the individual gods and myths. There are so many different characters, yet somehow they often all connect to each other in some way, creating very fascinating stories. The gods and the myths attempt to help us understand the world in a colourful way.

Patrick is an expert Research and Travel consultant. His current interest is in airport hotels and Edinburgh airport parking

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