The difficulty in identifying the origins of Greek myths stems from the fact that, until the time of the Greek poets Hesiod and Homer both of whom flourished around the eighth century B. Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, in addition to Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, are the oldest extant written sources of Greek mythology, and most scholars agree that certain mythological elements in each can be dated to a much earlier period.
Many scholars also concede that certain elements of these works have definite Near Eastern parallels, but the extent to which such parallels indicate that Near Eastern myths served as a source for Greek myths remains an issue of critical debate.
In addition to studying the age and origins of Greek mythology, modern scholars have also examined such topics as the relationship between myth and history, the themes and motifs of Greek myths, and the treatment of women in Greek mythology. In searching for the origins of Greek mythology, Martin P. Nilsson first makes a distinction between the myths dealing with heroes and those concerned with divinity and cosmogony, stressing that it is erroneous to assume that "the hero myths were derived from the same source as the myths concerning the gods.
Mondi examines this issue by focussing not on the textual transmission of myths, but on the diffusion of "mythic ideas" or motifs. Such ideas include the "cosmic separation of earth and sky," the hierarchical organization of the cosmos, and the "cosmic struggle" by which divine kingship is attained. Mondi concludes by stating that elements in Greek myths are "derived from contact with the considerably more advanced cultures to the East and South.
The analysis of the historical aspects of mythology, specifically the heroic myths, is another way mythology is studied. Rose begins his study of mythology by noting that "it is very clear that we cannot take [myths], as they stand, as historically true, or even as slightly idealized or exaggerated history. Over time, a disagreement arose about the origins and value of muthoi the plural of muthos.
On one side, were the traditionally religious and poets who claimed these stories were divinely inspired and should therefore be revered as religious, historical, and political truth. Early philosophers like Xenophanes and Heraclitus considered myths to be silly stories suitable only for children and the feeble-minded. By contrast, Plato and his followers tended to use the word muthos to signify poetry and imaginative narratives.
This is because myth, religion, and philosophy are each preoccupied with a special branch of knowledge known as metaphysics. As any encyclopedia of philosophy will tell you, metaphysical inquiry is concerned with three general questions: That is, philosophy and science base their answers to the above three questions on that which can be observed through the senses and explained in logically consistent, experientially verifiable terms. In the other, were the philosophers and early scientists who based their metaphysics on closely reasoned argument and careful observations of the material world.
This tension between metaphysical approaches should seem familiar. But while Plato was a rationalist, he was not, as so many modern intellectuals are, a materialist. Nor did Plato completely reject the use of imaginative narratives, so long as they were used in service of philosophy.
This is not to say that Plato lies in order to persuade us to his ideas; rather, it means that he sometimes advanced parables, likely stories, or thought experiments in order to communicate what his rational inquiries led him to conclude about the nature of reality. Leveling a charge that has been made occasionally against art down to our own time, the great philosopher argued that poets manipulate their audiences and present them with cheap imitations of reality which have the effect of making their hearers lazy, fearful consumers of stories rather than active, thoughtful seekers of the truth.
Thus, unlike Xenophanes and Heraclitus, Plato does not dismiss all muthoi as lies about the gods or the laughable superstitions of the ignorant masses. Rather, he redefines muthos in a way that serves his rhetorical, ideological, and political purposes.
But, myth is not merely metaphysical truth dressed up in the outlandish clothing of fiction. Are Myths Merely Bad Philosophy? The poet and the philosopher serve different masters and therefore have different values, priorities, and methods. While the individual literary artist may care passionately about philosophy and value its approach to the Truth, his or her first allegiance is to the well-told story. Such features of literary art require no special training to be understood and enjoyed and therefore reach people more quickly and more profoundly than even the most elegant proof or carefully phrased theory.
They will know the ostensible cause of the Trojan War. They will be able to tell you the fate that befell Oedipus. This is not to say that mythic truth is powerful and enduring while philosophical truth is weak and fleeting.
Nevertheless, myths like all forms of fiction are enduring because they are entertaining and accessible in ways that philosophy and science seldom are. Are Myths Sacred Narratives? If we accept the notion that myths are, first and foremost, stories, we must still determine just what kind of stories they are. A Study of C. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell , that modern students of myth do not actually study muthoi , per se.
In short, to study myth as Ellwood defines it, we would have to record and analyze the performances of storytellers and the still-fresh visions of poets, prophets, and dreamers. However, not all myths are sacred; and not all sacred stories are committed to writing and therefore they can never be, literally speaking, script -ure.
For example, most students, when they hear the word myth think of the epics, poems, and plays of the Greeks and Romans. And they are not wrong. It would be perverse to argue that the stories featured in Greek plays about such memorable characters as Orestes, Oedipus, and Clytemnestra are not also myths. Ordinary Greeks and Romans did not read passages from the Odyssey to solemnize religious ceremonies.
Various playwrights reworked even fundamental elements of their mythic traditions without fear of being excommunicated for abusing holy scripture. While it is true that religious belief and ritual are portrayed accurately, even reverently, in Greco-Roman myth, that fact alone does not make them sacred narratives. In the ancient world, only those stories told by sanctuary personnel during special religious ceremonies were considered sacred.
In fact, we know almost nothing certain about such sacred narratives because they were considered so sacred that to write them down was blasphemy, and to tell others about them was an offense punishable by exile or death. These tribes observed strict taboos and traditions dictating how their most important stories might properly be performed.
For example, some stories could only be told at night, others could only be uttered during the season between the first killing frost of autumn and the first lightening bolt of spring. These cultures never developed writing systems; but, so far as we can tell, their oral narratives became relatively fixed in terms of plot details, characters, and meaning.
However, there are a variety of myths, both written and oral, that are not subject to the kinds of taboos and traditions that would define them as sacred. Our modern sense of the term retains these contradictory ancient meanings and associations.
Further complicating the picture, is the fact that nonspecialists tend to use the words myth, folktale, legend, saga, and fable interchangeably. This is understandable because these genres overlap to a significant degree; however, those seeking a more precise definition of myth do well to understand the differences as well as the similarities among these terms. Families, for example, are an oft-studied folk-group; quilters, southerners, and Gulf-Coast shrimpers have also been studied as distinct folk groups.
Given the breadth of this definition, it is difficult to imagine a story that could not be classified as a folktale. Surely the stories recounted in myths, religious teachings, history books, and political speeches, for example, are manifestations of the ideas, beliefs, traditions, and proverbial sayings of such large folk groups as the Americans or the Japanese.
And, indeed, the Journal of American Folklore routinely publishes articles and reviews books on myth, an indication that American folklorists, as a professional group, consider myth to be a subset of their discipline. What is a Myth? Refutation of the Myth Theory Egyptian myths and Methology Discrimination against Women in Politics: Mythical Creation of Land and Man Myths Never Hurt Anyone The 60s in the US: Breaking the Myth of Madame Butterfly Man or Myth The Myth and The Maelstrom: Here is a list of the most popular essay topics on Mythology: Order a custom written paper of high quality Professional Writers only.
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