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Greek Mythology and Gods

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Greek Mythology and Literature * The ancient Greeks believed in many gods. * These gods were at the center of Greek mythology- a body of stories about gods and heroes that try to explain how the world works. * Each story, or myth, explained natural or events.

* People today have scientific explanations for events like thunder, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. * The ancient Greeks did not-they believed their gods caused these events to happen, and they created myths to explain the gods’ actions.

* The Greeks saw the work of the gods in events all around them. * For example, the Greeks lived in an area where volcanic eruptions were common. * To explain these eruptions, they told stories about the god Hephaestus, who lived underground. * The fire and lava that poured out of volcanoes, the Greeks said, came from the huge fires of this god’s forge. * At this forge he created weapons and armor for the other gods.

* The Greeks did not think the gods spent all their time creating disasters, though. * They also believed the gods caused daily events. * For example, they believed the goddess of agriculture, Demeter, created the seasons. * According to Greek myth, Demeter had a daughter who was kidnapped by another god. * The desperate goddess begged the god to let her daughter go, and eventually agreed to let her return to her mother for 6 months. * During the winter, Demeter is separated from her daughter and misses her. In her grief, she doesn’t let plants grow. * When her daughter comes home, she is happy and summer comes.

* To keep the gods happy, the Greeks built great temples to them all around Greece. * In return, however, they expected the gods to give them help when they needed it. * For example, many Greeks in need of advice traveled to Delphi, a city in central Greece. Then they spoke to the Oracle, a female priest of Apollo to whom they thought the god gave answers.

* Not all Greek myths were about gods. * Many told about the adventures of great heroes. Some of these people were real heroes, and others were not. * The Greeks loved to tell the story of heroes who had special abilities and faced terrible monsters. * The people of each city had their favorite hero, usually someone from there.

* The people of Athens, for example, told stories about the hero Theseus. * According to legend, he traveled to Crete and killed the Minotaur, a terrible monster half bull half man. * People from northern Greece told stories about Jason and how he sailed across the seas in search of a great treasure, fighting enemies the whole way.

* Perhaps the most famous of all Greek heroes was a man named Hercules. * The myths explain how Hercules fought many monsters and performed nearly impossible tasks. * For example, he fought and killed the hydra, a huge snake with 9 heads and poisonous fangs. * Every time Hercules cut off one of the monster’s heads, 2 more grew in place. * But Hercules finally figured to just cut off the whole neck. -_-

* Because the Greeks loved myths and stories, it is no surprise that they created great works of literature. * Early Greek writers produced epic poems, the Iliad, and the Odyssey by a poet named Homer. * Like most epics, both poems describe the deeds of great heroes. * The heroes in Homer’s poems fought in the Trojan War. * In this war, the Mycenaean Greeks fought the Trojans, the people of city called Troy.

* The Iliad tells the story of the last years of the Trojan War. * It focuses on the deeds of the Greeks, especially Achilles, the greatest of all Greek warriors. * It describes in great detail the battles between Troy and Greece.

* Homer’s poems were central to Greek education. * People memorized long passages of the poems as lessons.

* Homer’s poems influenced later writers. * They copied his writing style and used his ideas. * Homer’s poems are considered the greatest literature.

* Other poets wrote poems that were often set to music. * During a performance, a POET played a stringed instrument called a lyre while reading a poem. * These poets were called lyric poets after their instruments, the lyre. * Today, the words of these songs are called lyrics.

* Most poets in Greece were men, but the most famous poet was a woman named Sappho, poet beautiful and emotional, poems about love and relationships with friend and family.

* Other Greeks told stories to teach people lessons. * Aesop for example is famous for his fables. * Fables are short stories that teach the readers lessons about life or how to live. * In most of Aesop’s fables, animals are main characters. * The animals talk and act like humans.

* Probably the most obvious way we see Greek influence is by language. * Many English words and expressions come from Greek mythology. * For example, we call a long journey and “odyssey” after Odysseus, the wandering hero of Homer’s poem. * Something big and powerful is called the Titanic, coming from Greek mythical titans.

* Places today are also named after Greek myth. * Ex: Athens named after Athena, Atlas mtns named after giant from Greek mythology, Aegean sea come from Aegeus.

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