Greek mythology integrates a body of stories about gods, heroes and rituals of ancient Greeks. For Greeks, myths were seen as true stories. Greek mythology has had a wide influence on theater and literature of Western civilizations, which inherited much of Greek culture. Although many people from different periods and civilization stages have developed myths that explain the existence and functioning of natural phenomena, relate the exploits of gods or heroes, or attempt to justify social or political institutions, Greek myths have been unrivaled in the Western world as sources of imaginative and attractive ideas. Poets and artists from antiquity to the present were inspired by Greek mythology and discovered the contemporary importance and relevance of classical mythology.
What is Greek mythology?
Greek mythology is a group of legends that come from Greek religion. It is a complex mythology loaded with different gods who adopted human figures and personified the forces of the universe, monsters and wars.
History of Greek mythology
The history of Greek mythology dates back to Crete, where there was the fusion of the Cretan pantheon, which was formed by different land and agricultural divinities. Sometime later the invasion of the Dorians took place, and, in this way, the Mycenaean culture disappeared, initiating the history of Greece. Thanks to Hesiod, modern-day peoples have knowledge of this mythology, through their writings of Theogony; Homer with his stories in the Iliad and his Odyssey; and a series of different fragments of poetry that were found. Many studies point out that the legends come from sacred texts, from people who were real human beings at a certain time. Archaeology and mythography have succeeded in proving that the Greeks were inspired by civilizations from Asia Minor and the Orient.
Symbols of Greek mythology
Their most important symbols and which are recognized today are:
- Minotaur: creature half man and half bull that inhabited the labyrinth built by King Minos of Crete.
- Labryses: axe with two heads dating from the Bronze Age. It was a symbol of Greek fascism.
- The fico hand: is an amulet that uses a colloquial connotation to refer to the woman’s genitals.
- Aesculapius’ rod: symbolizes the art of healing through the serpent.
- The solar cross: it is a circle around a cross.
- The fasces: symbolize the power of jurisdiction.
- The omphalos: ancient stone artifact of religious character.
- The Gorgon: it was a feminine monster with fangs that protected the religious principles. It could turn people into stone.
Gods of Greek mythology
The main gods were the following:
- Hera: queen of the gods, daughter of the titans Cronus and Rhea. She was the goddess of marriage and protector of married women.
- Hephaestus: god of fire and metallurgy, son of Zeus and Hera.
- Artemis: daughter of Zeus and Leto. She was the rector of the gods of hunting and wild animals. She was also the goddess of childbirth, nature and harvest.
- Apollo: He was the god of prophecy. His main oracle was in Delphi. He could give the gift of prophecy to the mortals he loved.
- Athena: goddess of wisdom, inventor of the flute, trumpet and yoke for oxen. She taught numbers to mortals and instructed women in the art of cooking. He had his own temple, the Parthenon.
- Aphrodite: goddess of love and beauty.
- Nymphs: beautiful young women who enjoyed eternal youth, loved dancing and music, they were believed to be Zeus’ daughters.
- Muses: they were believed to be begotten by the gods. They had prophetic virtues and were always in groups.
- Pegasus: it was a horse that was born from the blood spilled by Medusa when Perseus cut off his head. It was white with wings.
- Sirens: they were divinities of the sea, with the head and chest of a woman and the body of a bird. They had a charming voice. They attracted sailors and dragged them to the bottom of the sea where they devoured them.
- Parkas: they were goddesses of destiny. They were three sisters who personified birth, marriage and death.
- Centaurs: they were beings half man and half horse. The torso belonged to a man and the rest to a horse. They lived in forests and mountains.
- Medusa: was a being who was punished by Athena for comparing her beauty with hers. Her blond hair was replaced by snakes.
Among their main gods we can mention:
- The Amazons
- Eros or Cupid
- Phoenix: bird that was reborn from the ashes.
- Cerberus: it kept the doors of Hades.
- Hydra: it had fifty heads.
- Minotaur: it was a monster with a bull’s head and a human body.
- Griffons: half eagle and half lion that always accompanied Apollo.
- Medusa: killed by Perseus.
- Centaur: she had the body of a horse and the bust of a man.
- Scylla: half the body was of a woman and was suspended over six dogs.
- Typhoon: monster that had dragon heads instead of fingers.
- Sphinx: it had the head of a woman, the body of a lion and wings.
- Charon: he was the boatman of hell. He carried souls to Hades.
Featured stories and legends
Medusa and Perseus
Medusa lived in the Atlas Mountains and from his head came living snakes. When Medusa saw a person or living being on his face, he was immediately transformed into stone. Many brave men tried to kill her, but it was not until Perseus, son of the god Jupiter, prepared himself with a sword and a shield that he managed to kill her because he never saw her in the eyes. After an arduous struggle, Medusa fell asleep and it was when Perseus took the opportunity to cut off her head.
The Prophecy of the King’ s Oracle
King Acrisius reigned in Argos and since he did not have a son, he asked the oracle what he had to do to have one. The oracle told him that he would have none and that on the contrary, one of his grandsons would end his life, so he locked his daughter in an underground room. But Zeus got her pregnant and from that union a child was born, so he locked them in a box and threw them into the sea. The boy was rescued and years later he managed to defeat Medusa in a battle.
Films about Greek mythology
The best movies that have been brought to the big screen about Greek mythology are:
Written by Gabriela Briceño V.