Guide to Greek MythologyExampleby Sally Student
Six Elements of Greek Mythology Greek myths are characterized by six elements: 1. Myths create stability in a culture by creating a set of values andhistory that people can share shared set of perspectives, values, andhistory. 2. Myths give guidelines for how people should live 3. Myths justify activities of a culture by giving rituals, laws, andsocial standards for how people act and are treated in society. 4. Myths give meaning to the joyous and painful experiences of life. 5. Myths explain the unexplainable by giving a reason behindphenomena. 6. Myths offer role models for children and adults to look up to.They also offer examples of how not to act.
StabilityIn the Greek Flood Myth, Zeus tries to destroy wickedhumankind because they have abandoned the gods and turned tocannibalism. A husband and wife, Deucalion and Pyrrha,escaped the flood on a boat. Zeus saw they were good peopleand saved them from the flood, then allowed them to repopulatethe earth by throwing the “bones of their mother” (rocks fromMother Earth) over their shoulders.This myth gives stability by creating a common history for theGreek people
GuidelinesIn the myth of Niobe, Niobe the mother of 14 children. At afeast in honor of the goddess Leto, Niobe boasted that Leto onlyhad two children, while Niobe had 14. In revenge, Leto sent herchildren, Artemis and Apollo, to kill all of Niobe’s children toteach her humility.This story gives humans a guideline for how to live-- never angeror dishonor the gods!
Justify ActivitiesIn the myth of Pentheus, the god Dionysus, the god of wine andmadness, wants to exact revenge on Pentheus, who refused toworship Dionysus. Dionysus drives Pentheus mad and rips himlimb from limb.This myth justifies activities because worshipers of Dionysuswould sacrifice animals by ripping them apart in honor of thismyth.
Give Meaning to LifeIn the myth of King Oedipus, a prophecy says that Oedipus will killhis father and marry his mother, so his father, the king, abandonshim in the woods. A kind shepherd raises him as his own child.Later in life, Oedipus runs into his birth father (whom he doesn’tknow is his real father) and kills him in a fight, then marries thequeen (Oedipus’s mother). The result puts a curse upon the family.The myth gives meaning to life by explaining that fate isinescapable, and no matter how hard a person tries there will alwaysbe bad things that happen in life.
Explain the UnexplainableHephaestus was the god of blacksmiths. He forged all of thearmor and weapons of the other gods. Hephaestus was said tolive in a mountain and when he was working, his might sparkswould fly from the mountain and create volcanic explosions.Hephaestus explains the unexplainable by giving a reason forvolcanoes.
Give Role ModelsThe greek hero Theseus risked his own life to end thepunishment of his people. He volunteered as a sacrifice to theMinotaur, a half man, half bull monster who lived in an elaboratemaze called the Labyrinth. Theseus killed the monster and sethis people free from oppressionTheseus was a role model because he risked his life to save hispeople. He valued his countrymen more than his own life.
ReflectionBy studying the Greek myths, the values of this group of people isclear. Submission and reverence to the gods is one of the mostimportant aspects of Greek life. In order to be a good Greek, onemust keep the gods in the upmost importance and respect.Honor is also important in Greek life. Putting your own life atrisk for the sake of glory or freedom for your fellow man bringshonor. But if someone is gravely foolish or dishonors the gods,they should be prepared for severe punishment. The gods do nottake insults lightly and are likely to torture and kill anyone whoinsults them!