How did Greek mythology start? Ancient greek mythology began as a way for people to understand how the universe came into being. Both Roman and Greek mythology used stories to explain the workings of the Earth and the sky. The stories were also used as a way to guide people's behavior.
Origins of Greek Mythology
Greek mythology is a culmination of several different regional beliefs. As the people of one village or tribe met other people, they pooled their knowledge and rituals into one central belief system. As more people met and intermingled, a unified theory took hold.
Those who lived in ancient Greece and surrounding areas believed that the Olympians (Zeus, Hera and Athena) were responsible for the workings of the universe. The Greek gods were the children of the Titans, a group of gods drawn from earlier socities that had created the Earth, living creatures and the heavens.
Greek Gods in Daily Life
The ancient Greeks believed that the gods ruled the universe from atop Mount Olympus. Elaborate temples were built to the gods, and some city-states of ancient Greece bore the names of their patron gods, such as Athens, named for Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
Ancient Greek myths described how mortals should interact with the gods and what would happen if a mortal displeased them. The ancient people believed that being in favor with the gods gave them good weather, health, a bountiful harvest and prosperity. They also believed that if the gods were angry that the crops would fail and famine would strike the land. Poseidon was feared for his ability to cause earthquakes. Zeus was known to strike down wrongdoers with a lightning bolt.
Only the Myths Remain
As people learned more about the world around them, they began to understand that gods and goddesses were not real. Greek mythology remained popular, however, because the well-written stories offered morality tales about the heroism of the virtuous and the bad luck that followed those who were deceitful.
Some of these ancient stories hold threads of truth and began as descriptions of historical events. In these myths, the gods are depicted helping or interfering with people, as in Homer's stories of the Trojan War. Greek myths also offer us a glimpse into the day to day life of ancient Greeks.
Greek mythology has influenced western civilization through the arts, literature and even the naming of the stars in the sky. Ancient Greece is one of the most understood and documented early civilizations, and its tales and culture continue to fascinate us today.
Having trouble convincing your kids that Greek Mythology is still relevant? Modern sports is filled with references to ancient Greek culture, from the names of teams to the shoes that athletes wear.
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