Ways of Interpreting Myth

Ways of Interpreting Myth - CHAPTER 2 WAYS OF INTERPRETING...

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CHAPTER 2 WAYS OF INTERPRETING MYTH MAIN POINTS 1. Most ancient Greeks seem to have accepted their myths without undue criticism. They apparently thought of them as old, respected stories that reliably recounted events and ways of the very distant past. 2. The Greek philosophical movement (after the sixth century B . C .) introduced some skepticism but was mainly used to rationalize certain “impossible” aspects of Greek myth. 3. Xenophanes of Colophon complained about the gods’ lack of moral values, which he understood as mirroring the sad behaviors of human society. 4. Theagenes of Rhegion is reported to have stated that when Homer tells of gods fighting each other, he is really creating allegories about natural processes in which the elements (hot, dry, wet, cold) are in perpetual conflict. Likewise, the gods can signify human dispositions. 5. Anaxagoras interpreted Homeric hymn as exposing the evil results of unethical conduct and promoting virtue. 6. Euripides describes the myth of the birth of Dionysus from Zeus’s thigh on the basis of linguistic confusion. NOTE: Some of Plato’s best-known myths or fables include the “Myth (Allegory) of the Cave” and the “Myth of Er,” both from the Republic, and the “Myth of the Charioteer,” from Phaedrus. The term myth is used here to signify a symbolic story rather than a traditional narrative about gods and heroes. 7. Socrates and Plato, believing that gods should be perfect and free of passion, resented the poor moral example set by the Olympians in popular stories. They were, nonetheless, unable to dispense with them altogether: Plato used myths to illustrate his teachings about the spirit and its existence after death. 8. During the Hellenistic period, when successors of Alexander the Great were establishing kingdoms and claiming divine honors, Euhemerus of Messene claimed to have found written evidence that the Greek gods were once mortal, ancient kings. This theory is now known as Euhemerism. 9. In spite of criticism, myth remained a cultural factor until the legitimization of Christianity in the fourth century A . D . Classical myth was banned from Western culture through the Middle Ages; the European Renaissance reintroduced myth to the world of art and literature. The Enlightenment inspired new scholarly interest in the interpretation of myth. 10. Mythology has two general meanings: (1) a set or system of myths and (2) a methodological analysis of myths. 11. There have been numerous scholarly attempts to analyze myths into their component elements and then find a unifying element among them. Although none has succeeded to universal satisfaction, applications of various analytical theories have taught us a great deal about the nature and function of myth. 12. Scholarly theories of myth generally fall into one of two groups: those that
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This note was uploaded on 10/17/2011 for the course CLAS 3302 taught by Professor Landoncook during the Spring '11 term at Texas Tech.

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Ways of Interpreting Myth - CHAPTER 2 WAYS OF INTERPRETING...

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