What is Mythology?

What is Mythology?
Mythology is the study of ancient stories that have
been handed down through the years. The word
mythology comes from the Greek word “mythos”
meaning ‘story or narrative’ and “ology” means ‘the
study of.’
What are Myths?
Myths were the first stories shared orally in
communities by many different civilizations. They were
created to explain the origins of the world including:
 the beginning of the earth and its people
 occurrences in nature
 events in history, and
 predictions for the future
Every culture has its own set of myths to make sense of the world and to attempt to explain
 the origin of the gods
 why humans are here, and who put them here (creation)
 how everything else in the world came to be (origin of elements, vegetation, etc.)
 how to live life (religious lessons and morality)
 our place in the universe (death and afterlife)
 human nature (qualities that are both positive and negative), and
 natural phenomena for which there was originally no scientific answer to explain the
forces of nature.
Using stories to explain thunder, lightning, tidal waves, etc. put people at ease and
gave people a sense of order and understanding of their complex world.
The myths demonstrate that primitive people were very imaginative. Also, the subjects of the
myths suggest they were attentive observers of nature and were in awe of the world.
Most of the myths are about living a moral life: who is rewarded and who is punished tells us a
lot about the people, culture and values that were passed on in oral stories which were
eventually written down.
The stories also provided a sense of social structure to a community so that people respected
the gods. In many myths, people are described as offering a sacrifice to the gods or praying for
sunshine and rain during planting season. The myths reveal the primitive religious beliefs that
groups of people believed in or customs that were followed.
Myths are legitimate attempts by people to explain their place and role in the world based on
certain knowledge at their disposal during a certain time period. We should not laugh at certain
beliefs just because we now live in a more sophisticated society where science and technology
are available.
Efpatridis – Myth Unit – 1DP