Mythology was an integral part of the lives of all ancient peoples. The myths of
Ancient Greece are the most familiar to us, for they are deeply entrenched in
the consciousness of Western civilization.
The myths were accounts of the lives of the deities whom the Greeks worshipped.
The Greeks had many deities, including 12 principal ones, who lived on Mt.
Olympus. The myths are all things to all people – a rollicking good yarn,
expressions of deep psychological insights, words of spine-tingling poetic
beauty and food for the imagination. They serve a timeless universal need, and
have inspired great literature, art and music, providing archetypes through
which we can learn much about the deeper motives of human behavior.
No-one has the definitive answer as to why or how the myths came into being, nut
many are allegorical accounts of historical facts.
The Olympian family were a desperate lot despite being related. The next time
you have a bowl of corn flakes give thanks to Demeter the goddess of vegetation.
The English word "cereal" for products of corn or edible grain derives from the
goddess' Roman name, Ceres. In Greek the word for such products is demetriaka.
Demeter was worshipped as the goddess of earth and fertility.
Zeus was the king and leader of the 12. His symbol was the thunder and in many
of his statues he appears holding one.
Poseidon, god of the sea and earthquakes, was most at home in the depths of the
Aegean where he lived in a sumptuous golden palace. When he became angry (which
was often) he would use his trident to create massive waves and floods. Ever
intent upon expanding his domain, he challenged Dionysos for Naxos, Hera for
Argos and Athena for Athens.
Ares, god of war, was a nasty piece of work – fiery tempered, bloodthirsty,
brutal and violent. In contrast Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, symbol of
security, happiness and hospitality, was as pure as driven snow. She spurned
disputes and wars and swore to be a virgin forever.
Hera was not a principal deity; her job was a subservient one – she was Zeus'
Athena, the powerful goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens, is said to have
been born (complete with helmet, armor and spear) from Zeus' head, with
Hephaestus acting as midwife. Unlike Ares, she derived no pleasure from fighting,
but preferred settling disputes peacefully using her wisdom; however, if need be
she went valiantly into battle.
Hephaestus was worshipped for his matchless skills as a craftsman. When Zeus
decided to punish men he asked Hephaestus to make a woman. So Hephaestus made
Pandora from clay and water, and, as everyone knows, she had a box, from which
sprang all the evils afflicting humankind.
Apart fro one misdemeanor, Hephaestus' character seems to have been exemplary.
During the Trojan War Athena asked the god to make her a new suit of armor.
Poseidon, on hearing this, teased Hephaestus by saying that when Athena came to
his forge she would expect him...