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You should respect authority while questioning it. So that begs the question, “Can you trust me?” Do I really know what I’m talking about?
For half a year, I lived in Athens, Greece where I studied Greek Mythology as well as translated Ancient Greek into English for a book. It was an amazing experience and because of it, I have a great understanding of Greek culture, language, and specifically, the mythology.
Apollodorus was a famous storyteller. I spent most of my time translating his most famous work – Apolodorus βιβλιοθήκη
The Sun was actually a God. That God’s name was Helios. Helios had a son named Phaeton (Φαέθων). Phaeton tries to take his father’s job one morning by driving the Sun Chariot (the chariot led by 4 fire horses that drags the sun through the sky). Phaeton cannot control the Chariot and ends up driving too close to the Earth. He ends up setting the Earth on fire and Zeus (Father of the Gods; Lightning is his greatest weapon) shoots down Phaeton before the whole world is aflame.
Scholars debate this bitterly. There are many opinions; however, I want you to understand the two that I think are most important:
Aetiological Theory: Greek myth was written to explain actual events that otherwise could not have been explained . Basically the myths explained things that we explain using science. Using the Phaeton example, can you figure out the purpose of the myth using Aetiological Theory?
There are 12 (13 if you count Hades) main Gods that all lived on Mount Olympus in Greece--because of this, they were named the Olympians . These--along with a few heroes--are the main characters in Greek Mythology.
Zeus’s mother didn’t like that very much. Instead of giving Zeus to his father, she gives him a rock. He swallows this rock and Zeus’s mom raises him to be big and strong in a cave on the island of Crete. He grew up to defeat his father and rule over his siblings who he saved from the belly.
Hades looks just like his brothers Zeus and Poseidon. The only difference is their symbol or weapon. Hades wears the helm of invisibility while Zeus has the lightning bolt and Poseidon has the trident.
Although he is not technically an Olympian God (because he lives in Hades), he is still listed among them because of his relationship with the others and because he is a major Greek God.
She never left Olympia--her home. "Zeus, driving a winged chariot, goes first, arranging all things and caring for all things. He is followed by an army of gods and spirits, arrayed in eleven squadrons; Hestia alone remains in the house of the gods." (Socrates. Plato, Phaedrus 246e).
Very revered because she guarded all the “innermost things.”
Demeter’s daughter Persephone was picking flowers one day. Hades drove by and kidnapped her. Demeter was terribly upset when she couldn’t find her daughter. In her depression, Demeter caused the world to be completely barren. Helios--the Sun God--was the only one who saw the kidnapping and he told Zeus.
Zeus sent Hermes to get Persephone back from Hades. Unfortunately, Persephone ate some pomegranate seeds. Whenever someone ate in Hades, they were permanently linked to the Underworld. This meant that Persephone must return to Hades for several months out of every year. During these times, Demeter is obviously saddened. This sadness brings winter.
Using Aetiological Theory, what could the myth originally have meant?
Zeus is much like his father. Zeus heard a prophecy that if he had a baby with Metis (Goddess of Knowledge), that child would become greater than him. To stop this from happening, Zeus swallowed Metis however she was already pregnant.
Inside Zeus’s head, Metis gave birth and began making armor for her daughter. This noise gave Zeus the worst headache in history. It was so bad he had a god (who actually did it is uncertain) cut his head open with an ax. Athena lept out of his head fully grown and armed for battle.
Athena and Poseidon were in a competition to see who the city would be named after. Poseidon struck his trident into the ground and up sprang a small river to show the city would be blessed with naval/fishing strength. Athena struck the ground with her spear and up sprang an olive tree. The people decided Athena’s gift was better.
Atalanta did not want to marry. She decided to only marry the man that could beat her in a race. If the man could not, he would be killed by Atalanta. Hippomenes was a smart guy that wanted to marry Atalanta. He prayed to Aphrodite for help. Aphrodite gave him 3 golden apples. She told him to throw these apples during the race to distract Atalanta. Hippomenes won the race and Atalanta’s heart.