WHY THE FASCINATING TALES FROM GREEK MYTHS ARE RELEVANT EVEN TODAY

 At some point in your life, you may have heard of Greek mythology and brushed them off as being too fanciful. It’s certainly easy to do so on a surface level. Most Greek myths speak of flying horses, one-eyed monsters, divine lovers and alluring spirits, and almost all of them involve the protagonist suffering in some way. 

 

 However, once you’re able to peel back the layers of each tale and dissect each individual story, you can see the value these tales can impart. 


In fact, modern civilization borrows heavily from Greek mythology. Read on to find out how Greek mythology influences your thoughts and the world around you.

The Purpose of Greek Myths

As anyone who has read Greek myths will tell you, the ancient Greeks were an immensely creative people. However, these tales weren’t always created for entertainment purposes only. They were woven into the very fabric of ancient Greek culture and their everyday lives. 

The myths were used to explain everything from the weather to the passage of time as well as the unique natural phenomena (such as earthquakes) that the Greeks experienced in their daily lives. 

Often, these fantastical tales would be a way for the elders to pass on historical accounts of wartime or pearls of wisdom to younger generations. Since this was done orally at first, every retelling would be told differently and with its eventual spread to other provinces of Greece, the final stories that we hear today are a combination of the original story. 

It wasn’t until the acclaimed works of Homer and Hesiod that myths were written down. The Iliad by Homer talks about the Trojan war that may have been about the enmity between the Grecians and their eastern neighbours. Hesiod’s Theogony, and Works and Days talk about the family tree of the Olympic gods and the origin of mankind.

What’s more, Greek myths have deep ties to Greek religion and were used to explain the origin of the gods, the way they lived their lives, the concept of death and the afterlife, and the best way to live a fulfilling, moral life. 

The Valuable Lessons They Teach

Although a lot of Greek mythology talks about adventurous heroes and gods doing the impossible, there are many virtues you can glean and apply to your own life. All of this valuable wisdom has withstood the test of time and will continue to do so.

1. No Individual is Perfectly Good or Evil

People are always a combination of positive and negative traits and this is seen in several Greek myths, such as the myth of Prometheus and Heracles.

Prometheus Vs. Zeus

Prometheus was a clever titan that switched sides during the war to join Zeus. He once tricked Zeus to eat bones and fat instead of meat during a feast. This angered Zeus so much that he refused to give fire to the humans. 

Upset at the condition of the poor and miserable humans, Prometheus stole fire from the gods on Mount Olympus. He was then condemned to having his liver eaten by an eagle every day. Heracles eventually saved Prometheus by shooting the eagle on his travels.

Heracles

The greatest hero in Greek mythology, Heracles was an immensely strong and intelligent human who went on to beat the likes of Medusa, the Hydra, Atlas, the Nemean Lion, etc. Despite these heroic deeds, he was deeply hated by the Goddess Hera who eventually drove him mad. He ended up killing his family and was sentenced to 12 impossibly difficult tasks as punishment. He passed them all and was then absolved by the gods.

2. Vanity and Greed Are the Root of Misery

One of the recurring themes in Greek mythology is that vanity and greed will always bring unending misery. This is evident in the myth of Sisyphus and Arachne. 

King Sisyphus of Ephyra (Now Corinth)

Sisyphus was a despot who would violate the rules of Greek hospitality by killing guests and travellers to help cement his rule of tyranny. He had also betrayed Zeus by telling Asopus where his daughter was and tricked numerous gods such as Thanatos and Persephone in order to cheat death. He thought he was smarter than Zeus himself.

In the end, Zeus gave him an agonizing punishment to remember. He would be forced to roll a heavy boulder up the hill for the rest of eternity, but never reach the top.

Arachne

Arachne was a skilled weaver who boasted that her skills could outperform Athena’s, the Goddess of Wisdom. This angered the goddess who challenged Arachne to a contest. 

Both contestants made beautiful tapestries, however Arachne decided to depict a vulgar image of the gods in hers. Furious, Athena changed Arachne into a spider doomed to weave webs for the rest of her life.

3. Patience and Compromise are Virtues to Strive Towards
 
Greek mythology has its fair share of tales about characters making sacrifices for the greater good as well as cautionary tales warning against excessive impatience.

Hestia and Dionysus

Hestia, the Goddess of the Hearth selflessly gave up her seat in the Pantheon of the Gods to Dionysus, the God of Wine so that she could tend to the hearth of Mount Olympus and keep the peace between the gods.

Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus was a gifted musician and an argonaut. On his wedding day, his wife Eurydice sadly passed away from a snake bite. Determined to get her back, he went to the underworld and moved Hades, the God of the Underworld with his music. 

Hades let him take Eurydice home on the condition that he wouldn’t look behind him until they had reached the living world. Unable to control himself, Orpheus looked back too soon and ended up losing his wife forever.

The Powerful Gods and Goddesses That Drive These Tales

Almost all the stories in Greek mythology are the work of one of the 12 Great Gods of the Greek pantheon. If you’re interested to learn more about powerful Greek gods both inside and outside the pantheon, click the above hyperlink.

The 12 main gods in the Greek pantheon include:
  • Zeus: God of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice.
  • Hera: Goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, and family.
  • Hermes: God of travel, commerce, communication, borders, eloquence, diplomacy, thieves, and games. 
  • Aphrodite: Goddess of love, pleasure, passion, procreation, fertility, beauty, and desire. 
  • Hephaistos: God of the forge, craftsmanship, invention, fire, and volcanoes. 
  • Ares: God of war, violence, bloodshed, and manly virtues.
  • Artemis: Goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, virginity, the moon, archery, childbirth, protection, and plague.
  • Athena: Goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and warfare.
  • Poseidon: God of the seas, water, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and horses.
  • Dionysus: God of wine, the grape vine, fertility, festivity, ecstasy, madness, and resurrection.
  • Apollo: God of light, the sun, prophecy, philosophy, truth, inspiration, poetry, music, arts, medicine, healing, and plague.
  • Demeter: Goddess of the harvest, fertility, agriculture, nature, and the seasons.

How Greek Myths Have Influenced Modern Pop Culture

Today’s modern entertainment is largely influenced by Greek mythology. This can be seen:

In Books

Rick Riordan’s best-selling middle grade Percy Jackson novels have captivated the hearts of children, teenagers and adults alike. This series is heavily steeped in Greek mythology and is based on the perspective of the human children of the Greek gods. People have become so enamoured by the concept that the author went on to write 20 books and eight graphic novels. 

In Movies and TV Shows

Greek mythological concepts have been used in famous movies such as the Star Wars franchise, Troy (2004), Clash of the Titans (2010), Wonder Woman (2017), Hercules (2014) and many more.

In Art

Western art often uses Greek mythological characters as subjects. This is evident in Boticelli’s famous painting “The Birth of Venus” and Francisco Goya’s “The Rape of Europa.” What’s more, in the past many European royals would have themselves painted as Greek mythological characters by their court painters.

Conclusion

Greek mythology continues to fascinate people around the world and has a huge influence on the way modern humans think, behave and function in society. 

The wise men of Greece have imparted invaluable knowledge to this generation and many generations to come in the future through their stories.
 

 

 
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