Introduction toClassical Mythology Dr. Michael BroderUniversity of South Carolina March 15, 2012
Please write your Daily Write ona complete sheet of paper, not ahalf sheet, and not a sheet withother Daily Writes already on it. Violators will be docked 1 point no matter how good their answer is.
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.
Daily Write #15: ReviewAt Herakles 1223, Theseus scolds Herakles forthreatening suicide, saying, “Threats are no use, thegods don’t care.” Why do you think Theseus believesthat the gods don’t care? Don’t you think he knowshow the gods helped Greek heroes like Odysseus? Doyou think Theseus’s attitude might have something todo with the Greek invention of history? If so, how? Ifnot, please offer an alternate explanation.
Daily Write #15: Review• Why do you think Theseus believes that the gods don’t care? – Because he sees no evidence of their concern; they either • Treat mortals badly, or • Are not involved in human affairs at all• Don’t you think he knows how the gods helped Greek heroes like Odysseus? – Yes, he does, but he thinks the gods are whimsical, arbitrary, and petty rather than fair
Daily Write #15: Review• Do you think Theseus’s attitude might have something to do with the Greek invention of history? – Some said yes, some said no• If so, how? – Theseus believes that human events are the result of human action, not divine intervention, similar to historians like Herodotus and Thucydides• If not, please offer an alternate explanation. – Theseus believes that the gods are petty, arbitrary, self- involved, and unfair, and this has nothing to do with the Greek invention of history
Daily Write #16In the traditional myth of Herakles, the hero is drivenmad by Hera, kills his wife and children, and mustcomplete a series of labors to atone for his crime.Euripides changes this order of events. E.A. Haigh, inThe Tragic Drama of the Greeks (1896), explains that byEuripides’ change, “The legend acquires a newsignificance, as an example of pathetic andunmerited suffering, and of stubborn endurance inthe face of calamity.” What do you think of thisinterpretation? Can you think of any other reason(s)for making the madness and murders come after thelabors instead of before?
History of the Peloponnesian War: Identification• Author = Thucydides – Greek – c. 460-c. 400 BCE• Title = History of the Peloponnesian War• Genre = History, historiography, prose
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
Why do ancient Greek historianslike Herodotus and Thucydidesrefer to mythological people and events like Paris, Helen, Agamemnon, and the Trojan War?
Because history cannot escape its mythological past!
History’s Encounter with Myth• Herodotus includes mythological stories of Io, Europa, Medea, and Helen in 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
Important Distinctions Between Mythology and History• Mythology • History – Based on traditional stories – Based on inquiry & research – Based on oral tradition – Written (not oral) – Favors poetry (epic, lyric) – Prose (not poetry) – Favors supernatural – Favors rational explanations explanations (gods, divine (natural events, human intervention in human actions) affairs) – Has a clear timeline – Lacks a clear timeline • Persian Wars took place in • When the world began 490 and 480 BCE • When gods came into being • Peloponnesian War took • When humans came into place from 431-404 BCE being • Specific dates of battles and • When events happened other key events are known
Something to think about…Are various texts we have read theproducts of a historical society or of a pre-historical society?
Timeline of Authors & Texts Homer, Odyssey (c. 750 BCE) Notice that the Hesiod, Theogony (c. 700 BCE) pre-historical Archilochus (c. 680–c. 645 BCE) authors and Semonides (c. 650 BCE) texts include Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (c. 650 BCE) both epic and Sappho (c. 620–c.570 BCE) lyric poets. Simonides (c. 556 -468 BCE) Homeric Hymn to Demeter (c. 525 BCE) Xenophanes (c.570 – c.475 BCE)Pre-historical Pindar (c. 522–443 BCE) Herodotus (c. 484–c. 425 BCE) Historical Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BCE)
So what happens to mythology after the Greeks invent history?
So what happens to mythology after the Greeks invent history? Mythology takes refuge in Greek tragedy!
Greek Tragedy• Plays that combine dramatic action with song and dance• For the Greeks, playwriting was a competitive activity• Plays were performed at the Dionysia, an annual festival in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine• The actors’ salaries were paid for by the public treasury• The singers, dancers, musicians, and costumes were paid for by a wealthy citizen called a choregos
We have complete plays by three Greek tragic playwrights• Aeschylus (c. 525–456 BCE)• Sophocles (c. 496–406 BCE)• Euripides (c. 480–406 BCE)
Timeline of Authors & Texts Semonides (c. 650 BCE) Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (c. 650 BCE) Notice where Sappho (c. 620–c.570 BCE) the Greek Simonides (c. 556 -468 BCE) tragic playwrights fall Homeric Hymn to Demeter (c. 525 BCE) on the pre- Xenophanes (c.570 – c.475 BCE) historical / Pindar (c. 522–443 BCE) historicalPre-historical Aeschylus (c. 525–456 BCE) timeline! Sophocles (c. 496–406 BCE) Historical Herodotus (c. 484–c. 425 BCE) Euripides (c. 480–406 BCE) Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BCE)