CLAS220 - Lecture Notes for January 19, 2012

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  • 1. Introduction to Classical Mythology Dr. Michael Broder University of South Carolina January 19, 2012
  • 2. Daily Write
    • How do you think Persephone feels about her relationship with Hades, and why?
    Please do your best to answer this question in one (nice, juicy) sentence.
  • 3. Homeric Hymn to Demeter : Identification
    • Author = Anonymous / Unknown
      • Greek
      • Uncertain; probably c. 525 BCE
    • Title = Homeric Hymn to Demeter
    • Genre = Epic poem, Hymn
  • 4. Background to the Homeric Hymns
    • Called “Homeric” because of the language and rhythm
    • The word hymn derives from Greek hymnos , “song of praise” (to a god or goddess)
    • Written from the 7th to 5th centuries BCE by a variety of anonymous authors
    • Their genre is epic , based on their use of epic meter, although hymn is also a genre term
  • 5. Two Interrelated Stories
    • The story of Demeter and Persephone
    • The establishment of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious cult
      • Athens took control of the Eleusinian Mysteries during the reign of the tyrant Pisistratus in the mid 6th century BCE
      • The fact that the hymn makes no mention of Athens suggests that it was written sometime in the 7th or early 6th century
  • 6. The Story of Demeter and Persephone
    • Hades abducts Persephone with Zeus’ consent
    • Demeter, grieving the loss of her daughter, refuses to let the grain grow
    • Eager for mortals to resume sacrifices, the gods allow Persephone to return to her mother
    • Since Persephone has eaten food in the underworld, she is forced to remain there for one-third of the year
    • This story provides an aetia (= reason, cause, origin, or explanation) for the seasons, and is thus called an aetiological (or etiological ) myth
  • 7. Eleusinian Mysteries: Background
    • Derive from religious practice of the Mycenaean period (1900 BCE–1100 BCE)
    • Predate the Greek Dark Ages (1100 BCE–800 BCE)
    • The Mysteries were intended to give humans spiritual access to the divine
      • Elevate mankind above the human sphere
      • Make humans more like gods
      • Confer a kind of immortality on mortals
  • 8. Eleusinian Mysteries: Background
    • Parallels between the Greek rituals and other ancient Near Eastern mystery cults
      • Isis and Osiris in Egypt
      • Cult of Adonis in Cyprus
      • Mythraic mysteries in Rome
      • Cabirian mysteries in Phrygia
    • May have started as a Minoan cult on the island of Crete
  • 9. Eleusinian Mysteries: Practice
    • Held annually in autumn in Eleusis, a city about 14 miles west of Athens
    • Among the most well known and widely celebrated religious festivals in antiquity
    • Drew participants to Eleusis from all parts of Greece
    • The celebration of the mysteries revolved around a belief in life after death for those who were initiated into the mysteries
  • 10. The Story of the Eleusinian Mysteries
    • Demeter, disguised as an old woman abducted by pirates in Crete, comes to an old well where she meets the four daughters of Celeos and Metaneira (Callidike, Cleisidike, Demo and Callithoe)
    • They take Demeter home where Metaineira appoints her to nurse her son Demophon
    • Demeter begins raising Demophon to be ageless and immortal like a god, feeding him nectar and ambrosia by day and placing him in the fire by night
  • 11. The Story of the Eleusinian Mysteries
    • When Metaneira catches the old woman placing her baby in the fire, she is furious and curses the old woman
    • Demeter, angry, rejects Demophon, declaring that he will be subject to death but will retain immortal glory because he was nursed by the goddess
    • She predicts that the Eleusinians will live in war and civil strife, but also commands that the people of Eleusis build her an altar where she will instruct them in rites to be performed in her honor
  • 12. Questions for Discusson
    • Persephone: maidenhood and womanhood
    • Hades: sexual assault
    • Zeus: what kind of father?
    • Demeter: goddess and mother
    • Eleusian Mysteries: bad cause, good effect?
    • Which came first, myth or religion?
  • 13. For Next Time
    • Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite
  • 14. Introduction to Classical Mythology Dr. Michael Broder University of South Carolina January 19, 2012