Ancient History & Civilisation

PART 1

Greek Mythology

Discover the Ancient Secrets of the Greeks

INTRODUCTION

One of the most interesting aspects of the ancient Greeks is their mythology. Although only a small handful of people still believe the myths to be true, what remains is that Greek mythology fascinates us in a way that is almost incomparable to other ancient systems of belief.

Culture has yet to turn away from the mythology of the ancient Greeks, and this fact can be seen in various aspects of our modern life. Through various forms of entertainment, we come across themes and events depicted in Homer’s works of the Iliad and Odyssey. We find ourselves viewing and referencing the strength and trials of Heracles. We even find various parallels between the lives and myths of the ancient Greeks to our own modern world.

The history of Greece herself cannot be separated by the mythology of its ancient peoples. From heroes such as Heracles and Perseus, to the underhanded dealings of gods and mortals alike, their story is one a creative attempt to understand the forces which dwell about us and within us.

In this book you will find specific stories central to Greek mythology. This is a key into understanding the mindset, not only of these ancient peoples, but of our modern world as well. We may not subscribe as the Greeks did to these myths as factual accounts of historical events, however, these tales allegorically represent the things that humankind still endures and rejoices in.

In this text, you will find the spirit of love, of nature, of war and of peace. These myths often deal with very blunt subject matter, as they were the dominant lens through which the world was viewed during much of ancient Greece.

The research and writing involved in bringing you this collection of Greek mythology has been an absolute pleasure, and I hope that you are as fascinated in reading this as I was in putting it together.

CHAPTER 1

In the Beginning, There was Chaos

In this chapter, we will be discussing the origin of the universe according to Greek mythology and the generations of the primordial gods, the Titans, and the Olympians.

According to Greek mythology, the universe began as an abyss. There was no matter, no light, no life or consciousness outside of this primordial chasm. Yet it was out of this very void, known as Chaos (or Khaos) that not only the Titans and later the gods of Olympus were sprung, but existence itself.

It was from Chaos that Gaia (or Gaea, “mother earth”) was formed. Along with Gaia, Tartarus (the abyss, often described as a vast cave-like space beneath the earth, comparable to hell in Judeo-Christian belief), Eros (desire/biological imperative; some myths include him as a primordial god, while others claim him as a child of Aphrodite) Erebus (darkness) and Nyx (the night) were also spawned of Chaos. While other beings that would represent other necessary factors for life as we know it were later formed by Gaia and her ilk, the initial building blocks of reality were spawned directly from Chaos.

The Chaos mythos in ancient Greek religion is an interesting one. Although the myths were around long before them, two poets were the earliest sources of known, written accounts dealing with the religion of ancient Greece. Those two men were Homer and Hesiod.

Homer is best known for his two epics Iliad and Odyssey which deal largely with the Trojan wars; wars that up until more recently were considered to be a complete fabrication. It’s not within the scope of this book to delve too deeply into the purported Trojan wars themselves outside of the later chapter regarding Homer’s works; however, reference to these epics form much of the basis of our understanding of Greek mythological belief.

Hesiod is also best known for two epic poems, Theogony and Works and Days. It is with Theogony that this text is primarily concerned, as it delves into the mythological creation and formation of all that exists, along with the Olympian gods, their progenitors and progenies.

At the earliest times within the Greek creation myth, there was, as yet, no male presence. Gaia took it upon herself to rectify this by birthing Uranus. Gaia produced other children asexually, they were: Ourea (mountains) and Pontus (sea). Thus completes the basic structure of the planet as the Greeks would view it.

Gaia bore many other children however. With her son Uranus, she bore the Hecatonchires (indomitable giants with a hundred hands), the Titans (a powerful race of deities with whom the next chapter is primarily concerned), the Cyclopes (more commonly Cyclops; one-eyed giants) and Echidna (often known as the mother of all monsters).

With Tartarus, she conceived and gave birth to her final son Typhon. Typhon was a dragon with a hundred heads, considered the most deadly of all monsters, and in some traditions, considered the father of all monsters.

Other primordial gods produced their own offspring which covered much of life’s experience. Erebus and Nyx generated Aether (the heavens, also the air which the gods breathed) and Hemera (day). On her own, Nyx generated many descendants. These were Apate (deception), Eris (discord), Geras (maturation, or aging), Hypnos (sleep), the Keres (eaters of the dead or wounded on the battlefield), the Moirai (the fates), Momus (blame or denunciation), Moros (doom), Nemesis (revenge or retribution), Oizys (suffering), Oneiroi (Dreams), Philotes (affection) and Thanatos (death).

Uranus also produced his own children, although this was not by choice. His children were purportedly spawned when Cronos {one of the principle Titans} castrated Uranus. The blood that had spilled would go on to create the Erinyes (the furies, female deities of vengeance), the Giants (aggressive and strong beings, although not necessarily larger than human), the Meliae (ash tree nymphs). Also, when the severed genitals of Uranus washed ashore, Aphrodite (the goddess of love among other things) came into being among the sea foam.

While there are many other gods in the Greek pantheon, the present list is intended to show the first few emanations of Greek deities from Chaos to Aphrodite. Other gods, their children, consorts, etc. will be referenced in later chapters.

It is interesting to note that while Greek mythology was unique in many ways, there are common threads throughout many of the world’s religions. For instance, in the belief of Judaism and its descendants Christianity and Islam, at the time of creation, the world was without form and [was] void. The formation came through god’s will. Although these religions are monotheistic (belief in one god) as opposed to the polytheistic (belief in multiple gods) religion of the ancient Greeks, the story of creation has its similarities. The primary difference being that where the Greeks saw many emanations of gods that created existence, in the monotheistic religion, this was carried out by one god alone.

Other religions with similarities are the Babylonian where the earth began as a dark, watery chaos; the Hindu cosmology, the universe began as empty and dark. Even Norse mythology has its origin story begin in chaos.

It is hardly difficult to realize that in order to have an account of creation, there has to be something before creation. Even the scientific theory of the big bang has the universe composed with all matter in an infinitely small point; outside of this was nothingness (which could be called chaos).

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