Musei Vaticani Roma - Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and teachings that belong to the ancient Greeks, concerning
their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their
own cult and ritual practices. It was a part of the religion in ancient Greece. Greek mythology is
explicitly embodied in a large collection of narratives, and implicitly in Greek representational arts,
such as vase-paintings and votive gifts. Greek myth attempts to explain the origins of the world, and
details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines,
and mythological creatures. These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition;
today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature. The oldest known Greek literary
sources, Homer's epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, focus on the Trojan War and its aftermath. Greek
mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture, arts, and literature of Western
civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times
to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary
significance and relevance in the themes.
Greek mythology culminates in the Trojan War, fought between the Greeks and Troy, and its
aftermath. In Homer's works, such as the Iliad, the chief stories have already taken shape and
substance, and individual themes were elaborated later, especially in Greek drama.
Laocoön and His Sons in the Vatican
Laocoön was a Trojan priest of Poseidon (or Neptune), whose rules he defied, either by marrying
and having sons, or by committing an impiety by making love with his wife in the presence of a cult
image in a sanctuary. He plays a minor role in the Epic Cycle, warning the Trojans in vain against
accepting theTrojan Horse from the Greeks—"A deadly fraud is this," he said, "devised by the
Achaean chiefs!" He was subsequently subject to divine execution by two serpents sent to Troy
across the sea from the island of Tenedos, where the Greeks had temporarily camped.
Laocoön warned his fellow Trojans against the wooden horse presented to the city by the Greeks. In
the Aeneid, Virgil gives Laocoön the famous line "Equō nē crēdite, Teucrī / Quidquid id est, timeō
Danaōs et dōna ferentīs", or "Do not trust the Horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even
bearing gifts." This line is the source of the saying: "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."
Apollo of the Belvedere Vatican Museums
"Of all the works of antiquity survived the destruction of the statue of Apollo expresses the high
artistic ideal. The author has created faithfully following this ideal, by using only the matter as far
as was necessary to make concrete and visible his inspiration”. Winckelmann
The Apollo Belvedere was featured in the official logo of the Apollo XVII moon landing mission
Atena - Vatican Museums
Dionysus Bacchus" Vatican Museums
The Trojan War also elicited great interest in the Roman culture because of the story of Aeneas, a
Trojan hero whose journey from Troy led to the founding of the city that would one day become
Rome, as recounted in Virgil's Aeneid (Book II of Virgil's Aeneid contains the best-known account
of the sack of Troy).
Mythology was at the heart of everyday life in Ancient Greece. Greeks regarded mythology as a
part of their history. They used myth to explain natural phenomena, cultural variations, traditional
enmities and friendships. It was a source of pride to be able to trace one's leaders' descent from a
mythological hero or a god.
Philosophy and myth
After the rise of philosophy, history, prose and rationalism in the late 5th century BC, the fate of
myth became uncertain, and mythological genealogies gave place to a conception of history which
tried to exclude the supernatural. While poets and dramatists were reworking the myths, Greek
historians and philosophers were beginning to criticize them. Plato's criticism was the first serious
challenge to the Homeric mythological tradition, referring to the myths as "old wives' chatter". For
his part Aristotle criticized the Pre-socratic quasi-mythical philosophical approach and underscored
that "Hesiod and the theological writers were concerned only with what seemed plausible to
themselves, and had no respect for us ... But it is not worth taking seriously writers who show off in
the mythical style; as for those who do proceed by proving their assertions, we must cross-examine
Nevertheless, even Plato did not manage to wean himself and his society from the influence of
myth; his own characterization for Socrates is based on the traditional Homeric and tragic patterns,
used by the philosopher to praise the righteous life of his teacher.
Raphael's Plato in The School of Athens fresco (probably in the likeness of Leonardo da Vinci). The
philosopher expelled the study of Homer, of the tragedies and of the related mythological traditions
from his utopian Republic. Vatican Museums
In Ancient Roman times, a new Roman mythology was born through syncretization of numerous
Greek and other foreign gods. This occurred because the Romans had little mythology of their own
and inheritance of the Greek mythological tradition caused the major Roman gods to adopt
characteristics of their Greek equivalents. The gods Zeus and Jupiter are an example of this
mythological overlap. In addition to the combination of the two mythological traditions, the
association of the Romans with eastern religions led to further syncretisation. For instance, the cult
of Sun was introduced in Rome after Aurelian's successful campaigns in Syria. The Asiatic
divinities Mithras (that is to say, the Sun) and Ba'al were combined with Apollo and Helios into
one Sol Invictus, with conglomerated rites and compound attributes. Apollo might be increasingly
identified in religion with Helios or even Dionysus, but texts retelling his myths seldom reflected
such developments. The traditional literary mythology was increasingly dissociated from actual
religious practice. The worship of Sol as special protector of the emperors and of the empire
remained the chief imperial religion until it was replaced by Christianity.
Greek mythology in western art and literature.
The widespread adoption of Christianity did not curb the popularity of the myths. With the
rediscovery of classical antiquity in the Renaissance, the poetry of Ovid became a major influence
on the imagination of poets, dramatists, musicians and artists. From the early years of Renaissance,
artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, portrayed the Pagan subjects of
Greek mythology alongside more conventional Christian themes. Through the medium of Latin and
the works of Ovid, Greek myth influenced medieval and Renaissance poets such
as Petrarch, Boccaccio and Dante in Italy.
In Northern Europe, Greek mythology never took the same hold of the visual arts, but its effect was
very obvious on literature. The English imagination was fired by Greek mythology starting
with Chaucerand John Milton and continuing through Shakespeare to Robert Bridges in the 20th
century. Racine inFrance and Goethe in Germany revived Greek drama, reworking the ancient
myths. Although during the Enlightenment of the 18th century reaction against Greek myth spread
throughout Europe, the myths continued to provide an important source of raw material for
dramatists, including those who wrote the libretti for many of Handel's and Mozart's operas. By the
end of the 18th century, Romanticism initiated a surge of enthusiasm for all things Greek, including
Greek mythology. In Britain, new translations of Greek tragedies and Homer inspired contemporary
poets (such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Keats, Byron and Shelley) and painters (such as Lord
Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema). Christoph Gluck, Richard Strauss, Jacques Offenbach and
many others set Greek mythological themes to music. American authors of the 19th century, such
asThomas Bulfinch and Nathaniel Hawthorne, held that the study of the classical myths was
essential to the understanding of English and American literature. In more recent times, classical
themes have been reinterpreted by dramatists Jean Anouilh, Jean Cocteau, and Jean Giraudoux in
France, Eugene O'Neill in America, and T. S. Eliot in Britain and by novelists such as James
Joyce and André Gide.
"Rape of Europa" redirects here. For the book and documentary regarding Nazi plunder of art
during World War II, see The Rape of Europa.
In Greek mythology Europa (Greek Ευρώπη Eurṓpē) was a Phoenician woman of high lineage,
from whom the name of the continent Europe has ultimately been taken. The story of her abduction
by Zeus in the form of a white bull was a Cretan story; as Kerényi points out "most of the lovestories concerning Zeus originated from more ancient tales describing his marriages with goddesses.
This can especially be said of the story of Europa".
Europa's earliest literary reference is in the Iliad, which is commonly dated to the 8th century
B.C. Another early reference to her is in a fragment of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women,
discovered at Oxyrhynchus. The earliest vase-painting securely identifiable as Europa, dates from
mid-7th century B.C
Vatican Museums Gregorian
Vatican City, St. Peter's Basilica, bronze doors of St. Peter
The birthplace of Europa, Tyre, Lebanon
In 2012, an archaeological mission of the British Museum lead by Lebanese archaeologist, Claude
Doumet Serhal, discovered at the site of the old American school in Sidon, Lebanon currency that
depicts Europa riding the bull with her veil flying all over like a bow, further proof of Europa's
In Metamorphoses, the poet Ovid wrote the following depiction of Jupiter's seduction:
And gradually she lost her fear, and he
Offered his breast for her virgin caresses,
His horns for her to wind with chains of flowers
Until the princess dared to mount his back
Her pet bull's back, unwitting whom she rode.
Then—slowly, slowly down the broad, dry beach—
First in the shallow waves the great god set
His spurious hooves, then sauntered further out
'til in the open sea he bore his prize
Fear filled her heart as, gazing back, she saw
The fast receding sands. Her right hand grasped
A horn, the other lent upon his back
Her fluttering tunic floated in the breeze.
Further information: European symbols
The name of Europe as a geographical term came in use by Ancient Greek geographers such
as Strabo to refer to part of Thrace below the Balkan mountains. Later, under the Roman Empire the
name was given to a Thracian province.
It is derived from the Greek word Eurōpē (Εὐρώπη) in all Romance languages, Germanic
languages, Slavic languages, Baltic Languages, Celtic languages, Iranian languages,Uralic
languages (Hungarian Európa, Finnish Eurooppa, Estonian Euroopa), as well as in Latin.
Jürgen Fischer, in Oriens-Occidens-Europa summarized how the name came into use, supplanting
the oriens-occidens dichotomy of the later Roman Empire, which was expressive of a divided
empire, Latin in the West, Greek in the East.
In the 8th Century, ecclesiastical uses of "Europa" for the imperium of Charlemagne provide the
source for the modern geographical term. The first use of the term Europenses, to describe peoples
of the Christian, western portion of the continent, appeared in the Hispanic Latin Chronicle of 754,
sometimes attributed to an author called Isidore Pacensis in reference to the Battle of Tours fought
against Muslim forces. The portrait of Europa seen on the 2013 Europa Series of euro banknotes
The European Union has also used Europa as a symbol of pan-europeanism, notably by naming its
web portal after her, and depicting her on the Greek €2 coin and on several gold and silver
commemorative coins (e.g. the Belgian €10 European Expansion coin). Her name appeared
on postage stamps commemorating the "United Europe", which were first issued in 1956. The
second series of euro banknotes is known as the Europa Series and bears her likeness in the
watermark and hologram.
The chemical element
The metal europium, a rare earth element, was named in 1901 after the continent.
The moon of Jupiter
The invention of the telescope revealed that the planet Jupiter, clearly visible to the naked eye and
known to humanity since prehistoric times, has an attendant family of moons. These were named
for male and female lovers of the god and other mythological persons associated with him. The
smallest of Jupiter's Galilean moons was named after Europa.