Question #1

Introduction to Mythology
 Greek and Roman mythology is quite generally
supposed to show us the way the human race
thought and felt untold ages ago. Through it,
according to this view, we can retrace the path from
civilized man who lives so far from nature, to a man
who lived in close companionship with nature.
 The real interest of the myths is that they lead us
back to a time when the world was young and people
had a connection with the earth, with trees and seas
and flowers.
 When these stories were being made, little
distinction had been made between the real and the
Question #1
 In earlier times, “the imagination was vividly alive
and not checked by reason.” But the imagination of
primitive beings differed from the imagination of the
Greeks. Explain this difference between primitive
and classical mythology.
Answer #1
 Classical mythology comes from a more civilized
time. Thus, the Greeks tended to see lovely nymphs
in the forest and other pleasant visions, while the
more primitive peoples saw ugliness and terror
lurking everywhere.
 We, for a moment, can catch a glimpse of that
strangely and beautifully animated world. But a very
brief consideration of the ways of uncivilized peoples
everywhere is enough to prick that romantic bubble.
Nothing is clearer than the fact that primitive man,
whether in New Guinea today or eons ago, is not a
creature who peoples his world with bright fancies and
lovely visions.
 Horrors lurked in the primeval forest. This dark
picture is worlds apart from the stories of classical
mythology. Of course the Greeks too had their roots
in the primeval slime. But what the myths show is
how high they had risen above the ancient filth.
Only a few traces of that time are found in the
Question #2
 Specifically, how did the gods of Greece differ from
the gods of Egypt or Mesopotamia?
Answer #2
 Greek gods were
in human form,
while the gods of other cultures were
part cat or bird or lion.
gods of ancient Egypt
Anubis, the jackal-headed guardian deity
The sun god
Horus, a guide and protector
Question #3
 Edith Hamilton speaks of “the miracle of Greek
mythology.” What does she mean?
Answer #3
 Since the Greeks believed in human gods, people
could be more at ease with them. While the halfhuman, half-beast gods of the other cultures inspired
fear, the Greek gods appeared more companionable.
 The Greeks made the gods in their own image.
Mankind became the center of the universe, the
most important thing in it. This was a revolution in
thought. Human beings counted for little before. In
Greece man first realized what mankind was.
 Until the Greeks, gods had had no
semblance of reality. They were
unlike all living things. In Egypt, a
towering colossus, immobile, and
deliberately made unhuman. Or a
rigid figure, a woman with a cat’s
head suggesting inflexible, inhuman
cruelty. One need only to place
beside them any Greek statue of a
god, so normal and natural with all
its beauty, to perceive what a new
idea had come into the world. With
its coming, the universe became
 In the ancient world, people were preoccupied with
the visible; they were finding satisfaction in what was
actually in the world around them. The sculptor
watched the athletes contending in the games and he
felt that nothing he could imagine would be as
beautiful as those strong young bodies. So he made
his statue of Apollo. Greek artists and poets realized
how splendid a man could be, straight and swift and
strong. He was the fulfillment of their search for
Ares, god of war
Embodiment of beauty/heroism
 The first written record of Greece is The Iliad. Greek
mythology begins with Homer, generally believed to
be not earlier than a thousand years before Christ.
The Iliad is written in a rich and subtle and beautiful
language and serves as proof of civilization. The tales
of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light
upon what early mankind was like. They do throw an
abudanance of light upon what early Greeks were
like—a matter, it would seem, of more importance to
us, who are their descendants intellectually,
artistically, and politically, too. Nothing we learn
about them is unfamiliar to ourselves.
A passage from The Iliad
 Andromache expresses her fears and pleads with
Hector not to return to battle. Hector replies:
 Lady, these many things beset my mind no less than
yours. But I should die of shame before our Trojan
men and noblewomen if like a coward I avoided
battle, nor am I moved to. Long ago I learned how to
be brave, how to go forward always and to contend
for honor, Father’s and mine. Honor—for in my
heart and soul I know a day will come when ancient
Ilion [Troy] falls, when Priam and the folk of Priam
 Human gods naturally made heaven a pleasantly
familiar place. The Greeks felt at home in it. They
knew just what the divine inhabitants did there, what
they ate and drank and where they banqueted and
how they amused themselves.
 Of course, they were still to be feared; they were very
powerful and very dangerous when angry.
Question #4
 What are some of the “dark spots” to which the
author refers?
Answer #4
 Sometimes Greek gods behaved cruelly or
indecently. Sometimes traces remained of
the older beast-gods in the satyrs or other
partly human creatures.
 There are also stories which clearly point to a time
when there was human sacrifice, but there are so few
stories that do so.
 Of course the mythical monster is present in any
number of shapes, but they are there only to give the
hero his means of glory. What could a hero do in a
world without them?
Question #5
 How does Edith Hamilton define or explain
Answer #5
 She stresses that it is not an account of Greek
religion, but rather an explanation of something in
nature. However, religion is part of mythology and
some myths explain nothing at all.
 4 functions of myth
Question #6
 How does the author explain the different views of
the same god?
Answer #6
 Mythology grows and develops as a people grow and
develop. There may be numerous versions of a single
story coming from various times or authors. Homer
and Hesiod both describe Zeus as chief of the gods
but their views of the character of Zeus differ.