Greek Mythology and Religion

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Mythology is the study and interpretation of myth and the body of myths of a particular culture. Myth is a complex cultural phenomenon that can be approached from a number of viewpoints. In general, myth is a narrative that describes and portrays in symbolic language the origin of the basic elements and assumptions of a culture. Mythic narrative relates, for example, how the world began, how humans and animals were created, and how certain customs, gestures, or forms of human activities originated. Almost all cultures possess or at one time possessed and lived in terms of myths. Myths differ from fairy tales in that they refer to a time that is different from ordinary. The time sequence of myth is extraordinary- an "other" time - the time before the conventional world came into being. Because myths refer to an extraordinary time and place and to gods and other supernatural beings and processes, they have usually been seen as aspects of religion. Because of the inclusive nature of myth, however, it can illustrate many aspects of individual and cultural life. Meaning and interpretationFrom the beginnings of Western culture, myth has presented a problem of meaning and interpretation, and a history of controversy has gathered about both the value and the status of mythology.Myth, History, and ReasonIn the Greek heritage of the West, myth or mythos has always been in tension with reason or logos, which signified the sensible and analytic mode of arriving at a true account of reality. The Greek philosophers Xenophanes, Plato, and Aristotle, for example, exalted reason and made sarcastic criticisms of myth as a proper way of knowing reality. The distinctions between reason and myth and between myth and history, although essential, were never quite absolute. Aristotle concluded that in some of the early Greek creation myths, logos and mythos overlapped. Plato used myths as metaphors and also as literary devices in developing an argument. Western Mythical TraditionsThe debate over whether myth, reason, or history best expresses the meaning of the reality of the gods, humans, and nature has continued in Western culture as a legacy from its earliest traditions. Among these traditions were the myths of the Greeks. Adopted and assimilated by the Romans, they furnished literary, philosophical, and artistic inspiration to such later periods as the Renaissance and the romantic era. The pagan tribes of Europe furnished another body of tradition. After these tribes became part of Christendom, elements of their mythologies persisted as the folkloric substratum of various European cultures.Greek religion and mythology are supernatural beliefs and ritual observances of the ancient Greeks, commonly related to a diffuse and contradictory body of stories and legends. The most notable features of this religion were many gods having different personalities having human form and feelings, the absence of any established religious rules or authoritative revelation such as, for example, the Bible, the strong use of rituals, and the government almost completely subordinating the population's religious beliefs. Apart from the mystery cults, most of the early religions in Greece are not solemn or serious in nature nor do they contain the concepts of fanaticism or mystical inspiration, which were Asian beliefs and did not appear until the Hellenistic period (about 323-146 B.C.). At its first appearance in classical literature, Greek mythology had already received its definitive form. Some divinities were either introduced or developed more fully at a later date, but in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey the major Olympian gods appear in substantially the forms they retained until paganism ceased to exist. Homer usually is considered responsible for the highly developed personifications of the gods and the comparative rationalism that characterized Greek religious thought. In general...
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