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CLAS220 - Lecture Notes for February 28, 2012
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CLAS220 - Lecture Notes for February 28, 2012


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  • 1. Introduction to Classical Mythology Dr. Michael Broder University of South Carolina February 28, 2012
  • 2. Please write your Daily Write on a complete sheet of paper, not a half sheet, and not a sheet with other Daily Writes already on it. Violators will be docked 1 point no matter how good their answer is.
  • 3. If you leave the room early, I will ask for your name and deduct 1 point from your Daily Write. If it’s an emergency we can discuss it at another time. But I know it is usually NOT an emergency. And I will not tolerate it without a penalty.
  • 4. Daily Write #13: Review
    • What is the major message you take away from the Odyssey ? By message I do not mean “moral of the story.” Instead, I mean what do you learn from having read the Odyssey about the human condition? Of course this question is wide open, but to get full credit, you must provide examples from the text to support your response.
  • 5. The Human Condition
    • The positive and negative aspects of existence as a human being, esp. the inevitable events such as birth, childhood, adolescence, love, sex, reproduction, aging, and death
  • 6. The Human Condition
    • The unique and inescapable features of being human in a social, cultural, and personal context
    • It includes concerns such as a search for purpose, sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, or the fear of death
      • Wikipedia
  • 7. The Human Condition
    • The state or condition of being human, esp. regarded as being inherently problematic or flawed
    • The condition of human beings collectively
      • Oxford English Dictionary
  • 8. The Human Condition
    • Originally after the French phrase “ condition humaine ” (= human condition)
    • “ Let us learn, by the great miseries and afflictions that God hath sent us, the great fragility and misery of our human condition ”
      • Pierre Boaistuau (c. 1517–1566)
      • French humanist
  • 9. The human condition is a central concern of humanism.
  • 10. Humanism
    • The study of humanity, the human condition, human history, and human values
  • 11. The Humanities
    • Academic disciplines that study the human condition
      • Language
      • Literature
      • History
      • Philosophy
      • Religion
      • Music, visual arts, performing arts
  • 12. Mythology is part of the humanities.
  • 13. Daily Write #13: Review
    • What do you learn from having read the Odyssey about the human condition?
      • The universality of suffering
      • Learning through suffering
      • The centrality of marriage and family
      • Ideas about gods
      • Ideas about justice
      • Ideas about heroism
      • Many other interpretations
  • 14. Daily Write #14
    • In Homer’s Iliad , Homer tells us that Aphrodite gave Helen to Paris because he judged Aphrodite to be the most beautiful goddess. At Histories 1.3, Herodotus tells us that Paris “Re solved to use abduction to get a wife from Greece, being confident that he would get away with this unpunished, just as the Greeks had done.”
    • Comment on the presence or absence of divine intervention in these two accounts
    • What do you think Herodotus might have thought about the idea that Paris won Helen through the help of a goddess?
  • 15. Histories : Identification
    • Author = Herodotus
      • Greek
      • c. 480-c. 420 BCE
    • Title = Histories
    • Genre = History, historiography, prose
  • 16. History of the Peloponnesian War: Identification
    • Thucydides
      • Greek
      • c. 460-c. 400 BCE
    • History of the Peloponnesian War
    • History, historiography, prose
  • 17. Mythology vs. History
    • Two distinct types of knowledge about the past
      • Mythology = Knowledge of past events through traditional stories
      • History = Knowledge of past events through inquiry and research
  • 18. Mythology
    • Knowledge of the past based on storytelling
      • myth, mytho- < mythos (Greek) = story
      • -logy, logical < logos (Greek) = telling, explanation, account
      • Mythologia (Greek) = storytelling or a type of “explanation” based on stories
      • “ Explanation” in quotes because, as we have discussed, mythological explanation often do not really explain very much
      • More of an emphasis on the mytho- than on the -logia
  • 19. History
    • Knowledge of the past based on inquiry and research
      • Based on Herodotus’ choice of Histories as the title of his account of the Persian Wars, the word “history” comes to mean knowledge about past events obtained through inquiry and research
      • Herodotus is often considered the “father of history” for this reason
  • 20. Historiography
    • history, historio- < historia (Greek) = inquiry, knowledge obtained through research
    • -graphy < graphe (Greek) = writing
    • historiography = historical knowledge in written form
  • 21. So why study history in a mythology class?
  • 22. Because history cannot escape its mythological past!
  • 23. History’s Encounter with Myth
    • Herodotus’ mythological stories of Io, Europa, Medea, and Helen into his account of the Persian Wars
    • Thucydides locates the growth of Athenian naval power in the context of the Trojan War and Agamemnon’s leadership of the Greek forces
  • 24. Important Distinctions Between Mythology and History
    • Mythology
      • Based on traditional stories
      • Based on oral tradition
      • Favors medium of poetry (epic, lyric)
      • Favors supernatural explanations (gods, divine intervention in human affairs)
      • Lacks a clear timeline
        • Not clear when world came into being
        • Not clear when gods came into being
        • Not clear when humans came into being
        • Not clear when events happened
  • 25. Important Distinctions Between Mythology and History
    • History
      • Based on inquiry and research
      • Written (not oral)
      • Prose (not poetry)
      • Favors rational explanations (natural events, human actions)
      • Has a clear timeline
        • Persian Wars took place in 490 and 480 BCE
        • Peloponnesian War took place from 431-404 BCE
        • Specific dates of battles and other key events are known
  • 26. For Next Time
    • For 3/1—No assigned reading
    • For 3/13—Euripides, Herakles (in the volume Grief Lessons )
  • 27. Introduction to Classical Mythology Dr. Michael Broder University of South Carolina February 28, 2012