Notes on the essay “What is Myth?”

All of the quoted definitions for the word myth were found on the first two pages of a Google search performed in June, 2005.
Plato (Play-toh, 429-347 B.C.E.) is, by any reckoning, one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging, and influential authors in the history of philosophy. An Athenian citizen of high status, he displays in his works his absorption in the political events and intellectual movements of his time, but the questions he raises are so profound and the strategies he uses for tackling them so richly suggestive and provocative that educated readers of nearly every period have in some way been influenced by him, and in practically every age there have been philosophers who count themselves Platonists in some important respects. He was not the first thinker or writer to whom the word “philosopher” should be applied. But he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he so transformed the intellectual currents with which he grappled, that the subject of philosophy, as it is often conceived — a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a distinctive method — can be called his invention. Few other authors in the history of philosophy approximate him in depth and range: perhaps only Aristotle (who studied with him), Aquinas, and Kant would be generally agreed to be of the same rank.
Many people associate Plato with a few central doctrines that are advocated in his writings: The world that appears to our senses is in some way defective and filled with error, but there is a more real and perfect realm, populated by entities (called “forms” or “ideas”) that are eternal, changeless, and in some sense paradigmatic for the structure and character of our world. Among the most important of these abstract objects (as they are now called, because they are not located in space or time) are goodness, beauty, equality, bigness, likeness, unity, being, sameness, difference, change, and changelessness. (These terms — “goodness”, “beauty”, and so on — are often capitalized by those who write about Plato, in order to call attention to their exalted status; similarly for “Forms” and “Ideas.”)
The most fundamental distinction in Plato’s philosophy is between the many observable objects that appear beautiful (good, just, unified, equal, big) and the one object that is what beauty (goodness, justice, unity) really is, from which those many beautiful (good, just, unified, equal, big) things receive their names and their corresponding characteristics. Nearly every major work of Plato is, in some way, devoted to or dependent on this distinction. Many of them explore the ethical and practical consequences of conceiving of reality in this bifurcated way. We are urged to transform our values by taking to heart the greater reality of the forms and the defectiveness of the corporeal world. We must recognize that the soul is a different sort of object from the body — so much so that it does not depend on the existence of the body for its functioning, and can in fact grasp the nature of the forms far more easily when it is not encumbered by its attachment to anything corporeal. In a few of Plato’s works, we are told that the soul always retains the ability to recollect what it once grasped of the Forms, when it was disembodied (see especially Meno), and that the lives we lead are to some extent a punishment or reward for choices we made in a previous existence (see especially the final pages of Republic).
But in many of Plato’s writings, it is asserted or assumed that true philosophers — those who recognize how important it is to distinguish the One (the one thing that goodness is, or virtue is, or courage is) from the many (the many things that are called good or virtuous or courageous ) — are in a position to become ethically superior to unenlightened human beings, because of the greater degree of insight they can acquire. To understand which things are good and why they are good (and if we are not interested in such questions, how can we become good?), we must investigate the form of good.
Plato’s Dialogues     There is another feature of Plato’s writings that makes him distinctive among the great philosophers and colors our experience of him as an author. Nearly everything he wrote takes the form of a dialogue. (There is one striking exception: his Apology, which purports to be the speech that Socrates gave in his defense — the Greek word apologia means “defense” — when, in 399, he was legally charged and convicted of the crime of impiety. However, even there, Socrates is presented at one point addressing questions of a philosophical character to his accuser, Meletus, and responding to them. . . .
We are of course familiar with the dialogue form through our acquaintance with the literary genre of drama. But Plato’s dialogues do not try to create a fictional world for the purposes of telling a story, as many literary dramas do; nor do they invoke an earlier mythical realm, like the creations of the great Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Nor are they all presented in the form of a drama: in many of them, a single speaker narrates events in which he participated. They are philosophical discussions — “debates” would, in some cases, also be an appropriate word — among a small number of interlocutors, many of whom can be identified as real historical figures; and often they begin with a depiction of the setting of the discussion — a visit to a prison, a wealthy man’s house, a celebration over drinks, a religious festival, a visit to the gymnasium, a stroll outside the city’s wall, a long walk on a hot day. As a group, they form vivid portraits of a social world, and are not purely intellectual exchanges between characterless and socially unmarked speakers. . . . In many of his dialogues (though not all), Plato is not only attempting to draw his readers into a discussion, but is also commenting on the social milieu that he is depicting, and criticizing the character and ways of life of his interlocutors. Some of the dialogues that most evidently fall into this category are Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias Major, Euthydemus, and Symposium. (from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, online)
Homer (c. 750 BCE) was a legendary early Greek poet and aoidos (“singer”) traditionally credited with the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The poems are often dated to the 8th or 7th century BC. However, whether Troy was an actual place, whether the Trojan War was an actual event, and whether Homer was an actual person is a matter of considerable controversy among experts in Classical languages and archeologists.  Without taking sides in this debate, this text refers to Homer as though he were an actual person for the sake of convenience.
Hesiod (Hess-ee-odd, c. 750 BCE) was reputed to be an early Greek poet and rhapsode who presumably lived around 700 BCE. As with Homer, little is known about Hesiod’s life and some have questioned whether he was a historical person; others have debated whether or not he lived before or after Homer, though the consensus among scholars seems to be that their lives, if in fact they ever lived, very probably overlapped. Hesiod serves as a major source of knowledge about Greek myth, ancient farming techniques, archaic Greek astronomy, and ancient time-keeping.
300 times This word count derives from the Perseus Project’s on-line research tools.  All definitions for translated Greek words were created in consultation with Perseus’ on-line Greek-English dictionaries.
Bruce Lincoln is the University of Chicago’s Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School; also in the Committees on the Ancient Mediterranean World and the History of Culture, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Associate Faculty in the Departments of Anthropology and Classics. He is particularly interested in how the way myth is defined—and, especially, who gets to do the defining—tells us a great deal about the connection between myth and socio-political power.
Robert S. Ellwood is professor in the School of Religion at the University of Southern California. He has published over a dozen books, including The History and Future of Faith and Islands of the Dawn. Like Lincoln, he tends to view myth as “sacred narrative.”
Xenophanes of Colophon (Zuh-nah-fuh-neez, c. 560—480 BCE) was a Greek philosopher, poet, and critic whose views survive only as fragments, the traditional term for quotations attributed to the earliest Greek philosphers by later Greek and Roman philosophers.  His work criticized and satirized a wide range of ideas current in his society, including the ordinary Greek’s belief in a pantheon of anthropomorphic gods.  Xenophanes rejected the idea that the gods resembled humans in form, motives, and thought.  In one of his more famous fragments, Xenophanes is supposed to have said that if oxen were capable of imagining the gods, they would imagine them in the form of oxen.  Instead, Xenophanes argued that there is but “one god greatest among gods and men,” who is universal, unchanging, immobile, and always present and whose form, rather than being human, is identical with the universe itself.  This view classes him as one of first monotheists of the Western world.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (hair-uh-kly-tus, c. 540-475 BCE) was born in Ephesus, a cosmopolitan Ionian city along the western coast of Anatolia (modern Turkey).  He is typically described by later biographers as a misanthrope who heaped scorn on his fellow citizens, eventually withdrawing from society into the mountains outside Ephesus, where he lived as a hermit, eating grasses and plants.  Heraclitus reputedly advocated sobriety and meditative reflection because one must attain deep self-knowledge before he or she can understand rightly what sensory data reveal about the nature of the kosmos.  Heraclitus’s fragments refer to the “Logos” and flatly declare that “men always prove to be uncomprehending [of it], both before they have heard it and when once they have heard it.” The Ephesian philosopher urges his readers to listen “not to me but to the Logos it is wise to agree that all things are one,” thus positioning himself more as an oracle than as a philosopher propounding a rational framework for comprehending the universe.  The precise nature of Heraclitus’ Logos is difficult to pin down.  As G.S. Kirk and J.E. Raven put it,
Heraclitus, as Aristotle found, did not use the categories of formal logic, and tended to describe the same thing [the Logos] now as a god, now as a form of matter, now as a rule of behavior or principle which was nevertheless a physical constituent of things.  He was, indeed, more of a metaphysician than this Ionian predecessors, less concerned with the mechanics of development and change than with the unifying reality that underlay them.  (186).
To the extent that the Logos is “a physical constituent of things,” it is fire.  In fragment 30, Heraclitus declares, “This world-order [kosmos] did none of gods or men make, but it always was and is and shall be: an ever-living fire kindling in measures and going out in measures” (in Kirk, Raven, and Schofield 198).  Heraclitus’ fire seems to be a metaphor describing the universe as engaged in a process of perpetual becoming in which the only constant is the fact that everything changes from one form into another.  In the Cratylus dialogue, Plato has Socrates remark, “Heraclitus says, you know, that all things move and nothing remains still, and he likens the universe to the current of a river, saying that you cannot step twice into the same stream.” Heraclitus’ notion of the fire-logos and his famous saying about the impossibility of stepping in the same river twice metaphorically describe the same phenomenon: that is, the kosmos, which appears permanent and stable, is actually in a state of constant flux.  As a metaphor, the river aptly communicates how most people experience the flow of time and change around us.  Superficially, the river appears to be a permanent, stable entity.  But close, reflective observation reveals that it continually moves—that it is indeed not the same river from one moment to the next. 
Herodotus (Heh-roh-doh-tus, c. 485- c. 413 BCE) has been called the “father of history” because he was one of the first writers ever to attempt a rational “inquiry” into past and current events affecting his world. Indeed, Herodotus’ Histories provide us with one of the most complete pictures of ancient Mediterranean culture, belief, and history during the fifth century BCE. While they are not perfectly accurate in every respect, most of what is written in the Histories have been confirmed by archaeological evidence and the writings of other historians. Little, however,is known of Herodotus’ life. He seems to have been an extensive traveller. He claims to have visited Babylon, where he interviewed the priests; he claims to have gone north to the Crimea and south along the Nile; he visited Sicily and knows the details of North-African topography. However, some doubts are possible: for example, his description of Babylon is contradicted by archaeological evidence. On the other hand, in his description of the Crimea, he mentions a king known to have lived around 460, which makes it likely that he really visited that part of the world. Certainly, his version of the events leading up to the Persian War, the ethnic differences among variou Greek peoples, the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and the Babylonians, closely reflects the views of his contemporaries, whether or not they are literally true in every respect.
Fragment 35 Most of the writing of the Greek philosophers preceding Plato’s emergence (c. 400 BCE) have been lost. What we know about the sayings of such philosophers as Anaxamenes, Pythagoras, or Heraclitus is preserved in the form of quotations found in the writings of later philosophers whose writings have survived down to our time. It is customary among scholars of ancient Greek philosophy to refer to these quotations as “fragments” and there a books that collect, for example, the fragments of Heraclitus or Paramenides into one place. These fragments are numbered according to a traditional system. Thus, Heraclitus’ Fragment 35 identifies a specific quotation attributed to the Ephesian philosopher.
Apollodorus (Uh-pol-oh-door-us, born c. 180 BC) was a Greek grammarian, a writer most famous for a verse chronicle of Greek history from the fall of Troy in the 12th century BC to 144 BC. He was a pupil of the scholar Aristarchus of Samothrace and Panaetius the Stoic. He left Alexandria around 146 BC for Pergamum and eventually settled in Athens. Apollodorus’ other works included his essays On the Gods and on the Homeric Catalogue of Ships, used as a source by Strabo in his Geography. He also produced numerous critical and grammatical writings, which have not survived. While it remains common to attribute the encyclopedia of Greek mythology, called Bibliotheke (or Library), to Apollodorus, it cannot be his, or least not entirely his because it cites authors who wrote centuries later. Today, scholars refer to the author of Bibliotheke as Pseudo-Apollodorus.
Eurystheus The king of Mycene, son of Sthenelus. By Hera’s cunning, Heracles was for a long time subservient to Eurystheus. During that time he performed the so-called “Twelve Labors.”
Aesop (Eye-sop or Ay-sop, c. 620-560 BCE) So little is known for sure about Aesop that some modern scholars doubt his actual existence. Nevertheless, Greeks in the ancient world viewed him as a historical figure with an extraordinary gift for collecting folk-wisdom and rendering it in charming stories concluding with memorable morals. The collection of such stories known in the modern world as Aesop’s Fables, or the Aesopica, refers to various collections of moralized fables usually involve personified animals. “The Fox and the Grapes” (from which the phrase “sour grapes” is derived), “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The North Wind and the Sun” and “The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf” (also known as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”) are attributed to Aesop and have been told around the world for more than two milennia.
Theagenes of Rhegium (Thee-AG-un-neez, flourished, c. 525 BCE) was citizen of Rhegium, a Greek colony in southern Italy and a contemporary of Cambyses II (the Persian ruler who invaded Egypt and brougt an end to that nation’s independence). He is credited with creating the “new grammar” (the older grammar being the art of reading and writing), and to have invented the allegorical interpretation of myth, which sought to reconcile the persons and events depicted in Homeric mythology with the morality and philosophical speculations of the 6th century BCE.
Zeus (Zoos or Zyoos) The youngest son of Cronus and Rhea, he was the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus and of the Pantheon of gods who resided there. Being the supreme ruler he upheld law, justice and morals, and this made him the spiritual leader of both gods and men. Zeus was a celestial god, and originally worshiped as a weather god by the Greek tribes. These people came southward from the Balkans circa 2100 BCE. He has always been associated as being a weather god, as his main attribute is the thunderbolt, he controlled thunder, lightning and rain. Theocritus wrote circa 265 BCE: “sometimes Zeus is clear, sometimes he rains”. He is also known to have caused thunderstorms. In Homer’s epic poem the Iliad he sent thunderstorms against his enemies. The name Zeus is related to the Greek word dios, meaning “bright.” His other attributes as well as lightning were the scepter, the eagle and his aegis (this was the goat-skin of Amaltheia).
An artist’s rendition of the statue of Zeus housed in his temple at Olympia (now lost).

Before the abolition of monarchies, Zeus was protector of the king and his family. Once the age of Greek kings faded into democracy he became chief judge and peacemaker, but most importantly civic god. He brought peace in place of violence and Hesiod (circa 700 BCE) describes Zeus as “the lord of justice.” Zeus was also known as “Kosmetas” (orderer), “Soter” (savior), “Polieos” (overseer of the polis, city) and “Eleutherios” (guarantor of political freedoms). His duties in this role were to maintain the laws, protect suppliants, to summon festivals and to give prophecies (his oldest and most famous oracle was at Dodona, in Epirus, northwestern Greece). As the supreme deity Zeus oversaw the conduct of civilized life. But the "father of gods and men" as Homer calls him, has many mythological tales.

His most famous was told by Hesiod in his Theogony, of how Zeus usurped the kingdom of the immortals from his father. This mythological tale of Zeus’ struggle against the Titans (Titanomachy) had been caused by Cronus, after he had been warned that one of his children would depose him. Cronus knowing the consequences, as he had overthrown his father Uranus. To prevent this from happening Cronus swallowed his newborn children Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon, but his wife Rhea (who was also his sister) and Gaia her mother, wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes in place of the infant Zeus. Cronus thinking it was the newborn baby swallowed the stone. Meanwhile Rhea had her baby taken to Crete, and there, in a cave on Mount Dicte, the divine goat Amaltheia suckled and raised the infant Zeus.

When Zeus had grown into a young man he returned to his fathers domain, and with the help of Gaia, compelled Cronus to regurgitate the five children he had previously swallowed (in some versions Zeus received help from Metis who gave Cronus an emetic potion, which made him vomit up Zeus” brothers and sisters). However, Zeus led the revolt against his father and the dynasty of the Titans, defeated and then banished them. Once Zeus had control, he and his brothers divided the universe between them: Zeus gaining the heavens, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. Zeus had to defend his heavenly kingdom. The three separate assaults were from the offspring of Gaia: they were the Gigantes, Typhon (Zeus fought them with his thunder-bolt and aegis) and the twin brothers who were called the Aloadae. The latter tried to gain access to the heavens by stacking Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion on top of Mount Ossa, but the twins still failed in their attempt to overthrow Zeus. As he did with the Titans, Zeus banished them all to Tartarus, which is the lowest region on earth, lower than the underworld.

According to legend, Metis, the goddess of prudence, was the first love of Zeus. At first she tried in vain to escape his advances, but in the end succumbed to his endeavor, and from their union Athena was conceived. Gaia warned Zeus that Metis would bear a daughter, whose son would overthrow him. On hearing this Zeus swallowed Metis, the reason for this was to continue to carry the child through to the birth himself. Hera (his wife and sister) was outraged and very jealous of her husband’s affair, also of his ability to give birth without female participation. To spite Zeus she gave birth to Hephaestus parthenogenetically (without being fertilized) and it was Hephaestus who, when the time came, split open the head of Zeus, from which Athena emerged fully armed.

Zeus had many offspring; his wife Hera bore him Ares, Hephaestus, Hebe and Eileithyia, but Zeus had numerous liaisons with both goddesses and mortals. He either raped them, or used devious means to seduce the unsuspecting maidens. His union with Leto (meaning the hidden one) brought forth the twins Apollo and Artemis. Once again Hera showed her jealousy by forcing Leto to roam the earth in search of a place to give birth, as Hera had stopped her from gaining shelter on terra-firma or at sea. The only place she could go was to the isle of Delos in the middle of the Aegean, the reason being that Delos was, as legend states, a floating island.

Besides deities, he also fathered many mortals. In some of his human liaisons Zeus used devious disguises. When he seduced the Spartan queen Leda, he transformed himself into a beautiful swan, and from the egg which Leda produced, two sets of twins were born: Castor and Polydeuces and Clytemnestra and Helen of Troy. He visited princess Danae as a shower of gold, and from this union the hero Perseus was born. He abducted the Phoenician princess Europa, disguised as a bull, then carried her on his back to the island of Crete where she bore three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. Zeus also took as a lover the Trojan prince Ganymede. He was abducted by an eagle sent by Zeus (some legends believe it was Zeus disguised as an eagle). The prince was taken to Mount Olympus, where he became Zeus' cup-bearer. Zeus also used his charm and unprecedented power to seduce those he wanted, so when Zeus promised Semele that he would reveal himself in all his splendor, in order to seduce her, the union produced Dionysus, but she was destroyed when Zeus appeared as thunder and lightening. Themis, the goddess of justice bore the three Horae, goddesses of the seasons to Zeus, and also the three Moirae, known as these Fates. When Zeus had an affair with Mnemosyne, he coupled with her for nine consecutive nights, which produced nine daughters, who became known as the Muses. They entertained their father and the other gods as a celestial choir on Mount Olympus. They became deities of intellectual pursuits. Also the three Charites or Graces were born from Zeus and Eurynome. From all his children Zeus gave man all he needed to live life in an ordered and moral way.

Zeus had many Temples and festivals in his honor, the most famous of his sanctuaries being Olympia, the magnificent “Temple of Zeus,” which held the gold and ivory statue of the enthroned Zeus, sculpted by Phidias and hailed as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” Also the Olympic Games were held in his honor. The Nemean Games, which were held every two years, were to honor Zeus. There were numerous festivals throughout Greece: in Athens they celebrated the marriage of Zeus and Hera with the Theogamia (or Gamelia). The celebrations were many: in all, Zeus had more than 150 epithets, each one being celebrated in his honor.

In art, Zeus was usually portrayed as bearded, middle aged but with a youthful figure. He would look very regal and imposing. Artists always tried to reproduce the power of Zeus in their work, usually by giving him a pose as he is about to throw his bolt of lightening. There are many statues of Zeus, but without doubt the Artemisium Zeus is the most magnificent. It was previously thought to be Poseidon, and can be seen in the Athens National Archaeological Museum. (from the Encyclopedia Mythica)
kosmos (KOZ-moss) Literally translated, “order,” but is typically used by philosophers to refer to the “world order.” English synonyms include “universe” or “cosmos.”
Apollo (uh-POL-oh) is the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis. Apollo was the god of music (principally the lyre, and he directed the choir of the Muses) and also of prophecy, colonization, medicine, archery (but not for war or hunting), poetry, dance, intellectual inquiry and the carer of herds and flocks. He was also a god of light, known as "Phoebus" (radiant or beaming, and he was sometimes identified with Helios the sun god). He was also the god of plague and was worshiped as Smintheus (from sminthos, rat) and as Parnopius (from parnops, grasshopper) and was known as the destroyer of rats and locust, and according to Homer's Iliad, Apollo shot arrows of plague into the Greek camp. Apollo being the god of religious healing would give those guilty of murder and other immoral deeds a ritual purification. Sacred to Apollo are the swan (one legend says that Apollo flew on the back of a swan to the land of the Hyperboreans, he would spend the winter months among them), the wolf and the dolphin. His attributes are the bow and arrows, on his head a laurel crown, and the cithara (or lyre) and plectrum. But his most famous attribute is the tripod, the symbol of his prophetic powers.

Statue of Phoebus Apollo, in his aspect as sun-god, from the west pediment of the great temple of Zeus at Olympia. Dated to the first half of the fifth century BCE.

When the goddesss Hera, the wife of Zeus (it was he who had coupled with Leto) found out about Leto's pregnancy, she was outraged with jealousy. Seeking revenge Hera forced Leto to roam the earth in search of a place to give birth. Sicne Hera had forbidden Leto to stay anywhere on earth, either on terra-ferma or an island at sea, the only place to seek shelter was Delos, being in the center of the Aegean, and also difficult to reach, as there were strong under-currents, because it was said to be a floating island. Because it was a floating island, it was not considered either of Hera's prohibitions, and so Leto was able to give birth to the divine twins Apollo and Artemis (before Leto gave birth to Apollo, the island was encircled by a flock of swans, this is why the swan was sacred to him). As a gesture of thanks Delos was secured to the sea-bed by four columns to give it stability, and from then on it became one of the most important sanctuaries to Apollo. (A variation of Apollo's birth was that the jealous Hera had incarcerated Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth, but the other gods intervened forcing Hera to release Ilithyia, which allowed Leto to give birth ).

Apollo's first achievement was to rid Pytho (Delphi) of the serpent (or dragon) Python. This monstrous beast protected the sanctuary of Pytho from its lair beside the Castalian Spring. There it stood guard while the “Sibyl” gave out her prophecies as she inhaled the trance inducing vapors from an open chasm. Apollo killed Python with his bow and arrows (Homer wrote “he killed the fearsome dragon Python, piercing it with his darts”). Apollo not only took charge of the oracle but rid the neighboring countryside of widespread destruction, as Python had destroyed crops, sacked villages and polluted streams and springs. However, to make amends for killing Python, as the fearsome beast was the son of Gaia, Apollo had to serve king Admetus for nine years (in some versions eight) as a cowherd. This he did, and when he returned to Pytho he came in the guise of a dolphin bringing with him priests from Crete (Apollo’s cult title “Delphinios” meaning dolphin or porpoise, is probably how Delphi was so named). After killing Python and taking possession of the oracle, the god of light (Phobus) became known as “Pythian Apollo.” He dedicated a bronze tripod to the sanctuary and bestowed divine powers on one of the priestesses, and she became known as the “Pythia.” It was she who inhaled the vision-inducing vapors from a fissure in the temple floor, while she sat on a tripod chewing laurel leaves. After she mumbled her answer, a male priest would translate it for the supplicant. Delphi became the most important oracle center of Apollo, there were several including Clarus and Branchidae.

Apollo, as with Zeus his father, had many love affairs with goddesses and mortals. Apollo's infatuation for the nymph Daphne, which had been invoked by the young god of love Eros, because Apollo had mocked him, saying his archery skills were pathetic, and Apollo’s singing had also irritated him. Daphne was the beautiful daughter of the river god Ladon, and she was constantly pursued by Apollo. To escape from Apollo's insistent behavior, she fled to the mountains, but the persistent Apollo followed her. Annoyed by this, she asked the river god Peneus for help, which he did. As soon as Apollo approached Daphne, he tried to embrace her, but when he stretched out his arms she transformed into a laurel tree. Apollo, distraught by what had happened, made the laurel his sacred tree. Apollo also loved Cyrene, she was another nymph, and she bore Apollo a son: Aristaeus, a demi-god, who became a protector of cattle and fruit trees, and a deity of hunting, husbandry and bee-keeping. He taught men dairy skills and the use of nets and traps in hunting.

The most famous mortal loves of Apollo was Hecuba, she was the wife of Priam, the king of Troy. She bore him Troilius. Foretold by an oracle, as long as Troilius reached the age of twenty, Troy could not be defeated. But the hero Achilles ambushed and killed him, when the young prince and his sister Polyxena secretly visited a spring. Apollo also fell in love with Cassandra, the sister of Troilius, and daughter of Hecuba and Priam. He seduced Cassandra on the promise that he would teach her the art of prophecy, but having learnt the prophetic art she rejected him. Apollo, being angry of her rejection punished her, by declaring her prophecies never to be accepted or believed.

Asclepius, the god of healing, was also Apollo's offspring, after his union with Coronis, who was daughter of Phlegyas, king of the Lapiths. While she was pregnant by Apollo, Coronis fell in love with Ischys, son of Elatus, but a crow informed Apollo of the affair. Apollo sent his twin sister Artemis to kill Coronis, and Artemis carried out he brothers wishes. While her body was burning on the funeral pyre, Apollo removed the unborn child, and took him to Chiron, who raised the child Asclepius.

Apollo also, as did his father Zeus, fall in love with one of his own gender, Hyacinthus, a Spartan prince. He was very handsome and athletic, which inflamed the passions of Apollo. One day while Apollo and Hyacinthus were practicing throwing the discus, Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, who was also attracted to the young prince, and jealous of Apollo's amorous affection towards the boy, made the discus veer off course by blowing an ill wind. The discus, which Apollo had thrown, hit Hyacinthus, smashing his skull. Apollo rushed to him, but he was dead. The god was overcome with grief, but to immortalize the love he had for the beautiful youth, he had a flower grow were his blood had stained the earth. Apollo also loved the young boy Cyparissus, a descendant of Heracles. The impassioned Apollo gave Cyparissus a sacred deer, as a love token. The young deer became tame, and was the constant companion of the boy, until a tragic accident occurred. As the young deer lay sleeping in the shade of the undergrowth, Cyparissus threw his javelin, which by chance hit, and killed the deer. Grief-stricken by what had happened, Cyparissus wanted to die. He asked Apollo to let his tears fall for all eternity. With apprehension Apollo transformed the boy into a tree, the cypress, which became the symbol of sorrow, as the sap on its trunk forms droplets, like tears.

Apollo could also be ruthless when he was angered. The mortal Niobe, boasted to Apollo’s mother Leto, that she had fourteen children (in some versions six or seven), which must make her more superior than Leto, who had only bore two. Apollo greatly angered by this slew her sons, and Artemis killed Niobe’s daughters. Niobe wept so much that she turned into a pillar of stone. Apollo was infuriated when the satyr Marsyas challenged Apollo to music contest. After winning the competition, Apollo had Marsyas flayed alive, for being so presumptuous, as to challenge a god.

Apollo was worshiped throughout the Greek world, at Delphi every four years they held the Pythian Games in his honor. He had many epithets, including “Pythian Apollo” (his name at Delphi), “Apollo Apotropaeus” (Apollo who averts evil), and “Apollo Nymphegetes” (Apollo who looks after the Nymphs). As the god of shepherds he also had the cult titles “Lukeios” (from lykos; wolf), protecting the flocks from wolfs, and “Nomius” (of pastures, belonging to shepherds). Being the god of colonists, Apollo influenced his priests at Delphi to give divine guidance, as to where the expedition should proceed. This was during the height of the colonizing era circa 750-550 BCE. Apollo’s title was “Archigetes” (leader of colonists). According to one legend, it was Apollo who helped either Cretan or Arcadian colonists found the city of Troy.

In art Apollo is at most times depicted as a handsome young man, clean shaven and carrying either a lyre, or his bow and arrows. There are many sculptures of Apollo and one of the most famous is the central figure from the west pediment of the Temple of Zeus (see above), at Olympia, showing Apollo declaring victory in favor of the Lapiths in their struggle against the Centaurs.

A song sung in honor of Apollo is called a paean. (from Encyclopedia Mythica)
Helios (HEE-li-ohs) is the young Greek god of the sun. He is the son of Hyperion and Theia. By the Oceanid Perse he became the father of Aeëtes, Circe, and Pasiphae. His other children are Phaethusa (“radiant”) and Lampetia (“shining”) and Phaeton.

Each morning at dawn he rises from the ocean in the east and rides in his chariot, pulled by four horses—Pyrois, Eos, Aethon and Phlegon—through the sky, to descend at night in the west. Helios once allowed Phaeton to guide his chariot across the sky. The unskilled youth could not control the horses and fell towards his death.

The reverence of the sun as a god came from the east to Greece. Helios was worshipped in various places of the Peloponnesos, but especially on Rhodes, where each year gymnastic games were held in his honor. Rhodos was also where the Colossus of Rhodes (the sixth the seven wonders of the ancient world) was built in his honor. This huge statue, measuring 32 meters (100ft), was built in 280 BCE by Charès of Lindos. In the earthquake of 224-223 BCE the statue broke off at the knees. On other places where he was worshipped, there were herds dedicated to him, such as on the island of Thrinacia (occasionally equated with Sicily). Here the companions of Odysseus helped themselves with the sacred animals. People sacrificed oxen, rams, goats, and white horses to Helios.

He was represented as a youth with a halo, standing in a chariot, occasionally with a billowing robe. A metope from the temple of Athena in the Hellenistic Ilium represents him thus. He is also shown on more recent reliefs, concerning the worship of Mithra, such as in the Mithraeum under the St. Prisca at Rome. In early Christian art, Christ is sometimes represented as Helios, such as in a mosaic in Mausoleum M or in the necropolis beneath the St. Peter in Rome.

His attributes are the whip and the globe, and his sacred animals were the cock and the eagle. Helios sees and knows all, and was called upon by witnesses. (from Encyclopedia Mythica)
Skamander or Scamander (Skuh-MAN-der) is the god of the river with the same name, near Troy. He was the father of Teucer and participated in the Trojan War. See Iliad XX, 73; XXI, 1).
Aphrodite (Ah-fro-DITE-ee) is the goddess of love, beauty, and sexual rapture. According to Hesiod, she was born when Uranus (the father of the gods) was castrated by his son Cronus. Cronus threw the severed genitals into the ocean which began to churn and foam about them. From the aphros (“sea foam”) arose Aphrodite, and the sea carried her to either Cyprus or Cythera. Hence she is often referred to as Kypris and Cytherea. Homer calls her a daughter of Zeus and Dione.

After her birth, Zeus was afraid that the gods would fight over Aphrodite’s hand in marriage so he married her off to the smith god Hephaestus, the steadiest of the gods. He could hardly believe his good luck and used all his skills to make the most lavish jewels for her. He made her a girdle of finely wrought gold and wove magic into the filigree work. That was not very wise of him, for when she wore her magic girdle no one could resist her, and she was all too irresistible already. She loved gaiety and glamour and was not at all pleased at being the wife of sooty, hard-working Hephaestus.

Aphrodite loved and was loved by many gods and mortals. Among her mortal lovers, the most famous was perhaps Adonis. Some of her sons are Eros, Anteros, Hymenaios and Aeneas (with her Trojan lover Anchises). She is accompanied by the Graces.

Her festival is the Aphrodisiac which was celebrated in various centers of Greece and especially in Athens and Corinth. Her priestesses were not prostitutes but women who represented the goddess and sexual intercourse with them was considered just one of the methods of worship. Aphrodite was originally an old-Asian goddess, similar to the Mesopotamian Ishtar and the Syro-Palestinian goddess Ashtart. Her attributes are a.o. the dolphin, the dove, the swan, the pomegranate and the lime tree. (from the Encyclopedia Mythica)

The famous “Venus de Milo,” an original Greek statue recovered from the Island of Melos. Dated to 130—100 BCE. In Roman mythology Venus is the goddess of love and beauty and Cupid is love’s messenger.
Hera (HAIR-uh) is the queen of the Olympian deities. She is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and wife and sister of Zeus. Hera was mainly worshipped as a goddess of marriage and birth. It is said that each year Hera’s virginity returns by bathing in the well Canathus. The children of Hera and Zeus are the smith-god Hephaestus, the goddess of youth Hebe, and the god of war Ares. According to some sources, however, her children were conceived without the help of a man, either by slapping her hand on the ground or by eating lettuce: thus they were born, not out of love but out of lust and hatred.

Writers represented Hera as constantly being jealous of Zeus’s various amorous affairs. She punished her rivals and their children, among both goddesses and mortals, with implacable fury. She placed two serpents in the cradle of Heracles; she had Io guarded by a hundred-eyed giant; she drove the foster-parents of Dionysus mad, and tried to prevent the birth of Apollo and Artemis. Even Zeus usually could not stand up to her. Sometimes when he got angry, he chained her to the mountain of Olympus by fastening anvils to her feet. However, most of the time Zeus resorted to stratagems: he either hid his illegitimate children, or he changed them into animals.

Hera's main sanctuary was at Argos in the Peloponnesus, where she was worshipped as the town goddess. Also, in this town the Heraia, public festivities, were celebrated. Other temples stood in Olympia, Mycene, Sparta, Paestum, Corinth, Tiryns, Perachora, and on the islands of Samos and Delos.

The peacock (the symbol of pride; her wagon was pulled by peacocks) and the cow (she was also known as Bopis, meaning “cow-eyed,’ which was later translated as “with big eyes”) are her sacred animals. The crow and the pomegranate (symbol of marriage) are also dedicated to her. Other attributes include a diadem and a veil. Hera is portrayed as a majestic, solemn woman. Hera’s Roman counterpart is Juno.

Statue of Hera. The “Juno Campana,” a Roman copy of a Greek original, dated to the 3rd century BCE.
Euhemeros (yoo-HEM-er-ohs, c. 330-260 BCE) A Greek citizen of Messene, a Greek colony on Sicily.
Kronos or Cronus (CROW-nohs) is the son of Uranus and Gaia and the youngest of the twelve Titans. His wife was also one of the Titans, since he married his sister Rhea. Their offspring were Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus.

It is written that Uranus, who in one version, hid his children away in the bowels of the earth (Tartarus) as he was aghast at the sight of them, in reality he was fearful of their great strength and power. Gaia found her offspring uncomfortable and also painful and when she found the discomfort too much to bear she hatched a plan, which was to end the passions of Uranus, so no more offspring could be produced and that would be the ending of her hurt. But to achieve this she required the help from one of her children. She asked them all, but only her youngest child Cronus would heed her call. To help Cronus accomplish his task Gaia gave him a adamantine sickle to serve as his weapon.

Cronus lay in wait hidden from view, and when Uranus came to lay with Gaia Cronus struck. With one mighty blow from the sickle Cronus severed the genitals from Uranus' body. From the blood which fell to the earth (Gaia) where born the Erinyes (Furies), the Giants and also the Meliae (Nymphs of the manna ash trees). In other versions Aphrodite was born from the foam created from the sex organs of Uranus, after they had been thrown into the sea by Cronus.

Once Cronus had castrated Uranus, he and his wife Rhea took the throne. Under their power a time of harmony and prosperity began, which became known as the “Golden Age”; a time when it was said that people lived without greed or violence, and without toil or the need for laws. But not all was well for Cronus, as it was fated that he would be overthrown by one of his own children. To prevent this from happening he began to swallow his newborn, taking them at birth then swallowing them whole, retaining them inside his own body where they could do him no harm.

Rhea did not like the thoughts of losing all her children, and with the help of Gaia she saved Zeus from this fate. Rhea wrapped a stone in Zeus’ swaddling clothes which Cronus took and immediately swallowed thinking it was the child. Gaia and Rhea’s plan worked well and the baby Zeus was taken to Crete, and there, in a cave on Mount Dicte, the divine goat Amaltheia suckled and raised the infant Zeus. When Zeus had grown into a young man he returned to his fathers domain, and with the help of Gaia, compelled Cronus to regurgitate the five children he had previously swallowed. (In some versions Zeus received help from Metis who gave Cronus an emetic potion, which made him vomit up Zeus’ brothers and sisters). Zeus led the revolt against his father and the dynasty of the Titans, defeated and then banished them.

The Romans compared Cronus with their Saturn, who was to the Romans a corn god. This is from the association of the “Golden Age.” In Athens on the 12th day of the month Hekatombaion a festival was held in honour of Cronus, which was known as the “Kronia.” It was a celebration of the harvest. In art, Cronus was depicted carrying a sickle used to gather the harvest, but this was also the weapon he used to castrate his father.

The name may derive from the verb kreno, which means “to exercise sway,” “to reign over,” “to govern.”
Freidrich Max Müller (December 6, 1823 – October 28, 1900), more commonly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of Indian studies, who virtually created the discipline of comparative religion. Müller wrote both scholarly and popular works on this subject, a discipline he introduced to the British reading public, and the Sacred Books of the East, a massive, 50-volume set of English translations prepared under his direction, stands as an enduring monument to Victorian scholarship. (From Wikipedia)
Sir James Frazer (January 1, 1854, Glasgow, Scotland – May 7, 1941), was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. The study of myth and religion became his areas of expertise. Except for Italy and Greece, Frazer was not widely traveled. His prime sources of data were ancient histories and questionnaires mailed to missionaries and Imperial officials all over the globe. Frazer’s interest in social anthropology was aroused by reading E. B. Tylor’s Primitive Culture (1871) and encouraged by his friend, the biblical scholar William Robertson Smith, who had linked the Old Testament with early Hebrew folklore.

Frazer’s legacy has been mixed. He was far from being the first to study religions dispassionately, as a cultural phenomenon rather than from within theology. He was, though, the first to detail the relations between myths and rituals. Yet, his theories of totemism were superseded by Claude Lévi-Strauss and his vision of the annual sacrifice of the Year King has not been borne out by field studies. His generation’s choice of Darwinian evolution as a social paradigm, interpreted by Frazer as three rising stages of human progress—magic giving rise to religion, then culminating in science—has not proved valid. Nevertheless, The Golden Bough, his twelve-volume study of ancient cults, rites, and myths, including their parallels with early Christianity is still consulted by modern mythographers for its detailed information. (Adapted from Wikipedia)
Stoicism (from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) was one of the new philosophical movements of the Hellenistic period. The name derives from the porch (stoa poikilê) in the Agora at Athens decorated with mural paintings, where the members of the school congregated, and their lectures were held. Unlike ‘epicurean,’ the sense of the English adjective ‘stoical’ is not utterly misleading with regard to its philosophical origins. The Stoics did, in fact, hold that emotions like fear or envy (or impassioned sexual attachments, or passionate love of anything whatsoever) either were, or arose from, false judgements and that the sage--a person who had attained moral and intellectual perfection--would not undergo them. The later Stoics of Roman Imperial times, Seneca and Epictetus, emphasise the doctrines (already central to the early Stoics' teachings) that the sage is utterly immune to misfortune and that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Our phrase ‘stoic calm’ perhaps encapsulates the general drift of these claims. It does not, however, hint at the even more radical ethical views which the Stoics defended, e.g. that only the sage is free while all others are slaves, or that all those who are morally vicious are equally so. Though it seems clear that some Stoics took a kind of perverse joy in advocating views which seem so at odds with common sense, they did not do so simply to shock. Stoic ethics achieves a certain plausibility within the context of their physical theory and psychology, and within the framework of Greek ethical theory as that was handed down to them from Plato and Aristotle. It seems that they were well aware of the mutually interdependent nature of their philosophical views, likening philosophy itself to a living animal in which logic is bones and sinews; ethics and physics, the flesh and the soul respectively (another version reverses this assignment, making ethics the soul). Their views in logic and physics are no less distinctive and interesting than those in ethics itself.
The Stoics, like the Epicureans, make God material. But while the Epicureans think the gods are too busy being blessed and happy to be bothered with the governance of the universe, the Stoic God is immanent throughout the whole of creation and directs its development down to the smallest detail. God is identical with one of the two ungenerated and indestructible first principles (archai) of the universe. One principle is matter which they regard as utterly unqualified and inert. It is that which is acted upon. God is identified with an eternal reason (logos, Diog. Laert. 44B ) or intelligent designing fire (Aetius, 46A) which structures matter in accordance with Its plan. This plan is enacted time and time again, beginning from a state in which all is fire, through the generation of the elements, to the creation of the world we are familiar with, and eventually back to fire in a cycle of endless recurrence. The designing fire of the conflagration is likened to a sperm which contains the principles or stories of all the things which will subsequently develop (Aristocles in Eusebius, 46G). Under this guise, God is also called ‘fate.’ It is important to realise that the Stoic God does not craft its world in accordance with its plan from the outside, as the demiurge in Plato's Timaeus is described as doing. Rather, the history of the universe is determined by God's activity internal to it, shaping it with its differentiated characteristics. The biological conception of God as a kind of living heat or seed from which things grow seems to be fully intended.
I Corinthians 10:1-4: “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank he same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” (New American Standard Version)
Clement of Alexandria (adapted from Wikipedia) was born c. 150 BCE as Titus Flavius Clemens. His place of birth is unknown, but his writings tend to confirm the traditional view that he was born in Athens, was well-educated, and traveled widely throughout the Mediterranean world. He eventually became a member of the Church of Alexandria and one of its most distinguished teachers. His most enduring contribution to the development of Church doctrine was to apply principles of the Greek philosophical tradition to Church tradition, thus transforming them into a systematic dogmatic theology. He died between 211 and 216.
Origen (185–ca. 254) was an Early Christian scholar, theologian, and one of the most distinguished of the early fathers of the Christian Church. He is thought to have been born at Alexandria, and died at Caesarea Maritima. His writings are important as one of the first intellectual attempts to describe Christianity. He espoused a Platonic view of eternal souls achieving perfection while escaping the temporary, imperfect material world. He imagined even demons being reunited with God. Not surprisingly, his views on a hierarchical structure in the Trinity, the temporality of matter, “the fabulous preexistence of souls,” and “the monstrous restoration which follows from it” were declared anathema in the 6th century.
Justin Martyr or Justin the Martyr or Justin of Caesarea (100 – 165) was an early Christian apologist. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian apologies of notable size. Most of what is known about the life of Justin Martyr comes from his own writings. He was born at Flavia Neapolis (modern Nablus) in Palestine. The city had been founded by Vespasian in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. According to church tradition Justin suffered martyrdom at Rome under Marcus Aurelius when Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168). He calls himself a Samaritan, but his father and grandfather were probably Greek or Roman, and he was brought up a Pagan. It seems that he had property, studied philosophy, converted to Christianity, and devoted the rest of his life to teaching what he considered the true philosophy, still wearing his philosopher’s gown to indicate that he had attained the truth. He probably travelled widely and ultimately settled in Rome as a Christian teacher.
Tertullian, born Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus ca. 155–230, was a church leader and prolific author of Early Christianity. He also was a notable early Christian apologist. He was born, lived and died in Carthage, in what is today Tunisia. Tertullian denounced Christian doctrines he considered heretical, but later in life adopted views that themselves came to be regarded as heretical. He was the first great writer of Latin Christianity, thus sometimes known as the “Father of the Latin Church.” He introduced the term Trinity to the Christian vocabulary and also probably the formula “three Persons, one Substance” and also the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament. In his Apologeticus, he was the first Latin author who qualified Christianity as the “true religion” and symmetrically relegated the classical Empire religion and other accepted cults to the position of mere “superstitions.” Despsite these many contributions, Tertullian did not atttain sainthood because he left the Church of Rome late in his life and joined the heretical Montanists who taught that God’s revelations were ongoing and that He spoke to his followers through ecstatic visions.
Porphyry (234?–305? C.E.) was a Neoplatonist philosopher born in Tyre in Phoenicia. He studied with Longinus in Athens and then with Plotinus in Rome from 263–269 C.E. and became a follower of the latter’s version of Platonism. Porphyry wrote in just about every branch of learning practiced the time but only portion of his large output is extant. Porphyry was an influential thinker. He applied Neoplatonism to pagan religion and other spheres and is as such a key figure the promulgation of Neoplatonic thought. His writings on Aristotle's logical works, preserved in part and influential in the Latin West through Boethius' translations, contain attempts to harmonize Aristotle's logical writings with Platonism. (from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Augustine of Hippo, or Saint Augustine, was born Aurelius Augustinus (November 13, 354 and died on August 28, 430. He is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. In Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation teaching on salvation and grace. In Orthodox Churches he is considered Blessed or even a saint by some while others are of the opinion that he is a heretic, primarily for his statements concerning what became known as the filioque clause, which added the phrase “and the Son” to the original Nicene Creed which reads, “We believe in the Holy Spirit . . . who proceeds from the Father.” Born in Africa as the eldest son of Saint Monica, Augustine was educated in Africa and baptized in Milan. His works—including The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography—are still read around the world.
Märchen Pronounced MEER-shin