CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGYLecture I:Interpretation and Definition of Classical Mythology
What is a MYTH?What is MYTHOLOGY?
Establishing a definition of MYTHOLOGYIt is almost impossible to establish a definition of myth that is neither too narrow (a traditional tale of cultural significance to a specific society involving gods and heroes of that culture) nor too broad (a traditional tale). “Definitions are enlightening because they succeed in identifying particular characteristics of different types of stories and thus provide criteria for classification.” (page 3)
Myth is often thought of as a traditional storyA myth can be oral or it may be conveyed in painting or ritual or dance or song, etc. Do you think a myth “dies” when it is committed to writing? Do you think a myth must be a “traditional tale”?How do you define a “traditional tale”?
“Myth”Our word “myth”comes from the Greek word “mythos” which means: word, speech, tale, storyA myth does not have to be written or oral, it could be painted, danced, acted, etc. Most myths begin as oral (spoken) tales and are written down at some point in their history. Aristotle used the word “mythos” to designate The Euphronios krater (or Sarpedon krater) is a calyx-crater used for mixing wine and water, created ca. 515 BC decorated with two scenes. This side of the krater shows the death of Sarpedon, son of Zeus and Laodamia. Here, Sarpedon’s body is carried away by Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), while Hermes watches. Here is myth in painting on a pot.
The “Myths” were the religion of the ancient Greeks and RomansThere was no one religious book – like a Bible or a Koran – for the ancient Greeks and Romans. There was no certain ritual like a “mass” that all Greeks and Romans participated in. Rather, the “religion” of the ancients was a shared set of beliefs and cultural identity bound up in all the myths of the culture. The Greeks did not distinguish between “religious” and “secular”- to be a Greek was as much a religious identity as a cultural one.
True Myth: stories of the gods, and sometimes of their relationships with humans
Fairy Tales of Folk Tales involve: …riddles; dangerous, challenging adventures where the hero and heroine always win in the end…
…distraught yet virtuous maiden in peril…
…wicked sorceress, savior and romantic love. These are all aspects of Folk or Fairy Tales. Some distinguish between folk and fairy tales by saying fairy tales include more magic and are specifically made for the young, whereas folk tales are more traditional and rustic.