Good Greek And Roman Mythology Essay Example
Human vs. Divine
Myths and divinity have always worked as enigma in the psyche of the people of the world. The enigma and the aura encompassing mythology have transcended the distinctions of culture, community and age. Myths are cultural and social markers of a community or religion. The world has always found the Greek and Roman mythology intriguing to the utmost degree. The content of the mythology of these civilizations have attained to limelight in research work for a long time owing to the intricacies, banalities, and superhuman transcendence. A close introspection into the nature of the mythological characters of Roman and Greek civilizations can make one have a holistic view of the matter with utmost clarity. The mythical representations intertwine the relationship between mortals and divine, and problematize the belief about divine power being immaculate.
Greek mythology was used quite similarly as the other cultures of the ancient times to explicate the milieu and environment in which humans dwelled. The myths endeavored to delve deep into the natural phenomena that they witness and also the passing of time.
These myths in context were intertwined with Greek religion and went on to describe the origins of the Gods and the nature of divinity. The myths got connected to the history of the land as the stories were used to keep contact with the ancestors, the wars that they waged, and the places that were explored by them.
Theogony by Hesoid went on to depict the universe as a place of chaos before the emergence of the divine beings like Abyss (Tartarus), Eros (Love), and Erebus (Darkness). After this, Gaia (Earth) came into existence, and gave birth to Uranos (Sky). Hesoid goes on to portray in his work how Cronus, one of the six male Titans born of Gaia and Uranos, came into power defeating his father.
Apart from the work of Hesoid, the Homeric hymns and the works of Homer elucidate with clarity regarding the gods of Greek culture. The Homeric hymns provide a detailed description of the occurrences and dynamics among the divine characters. The Iliad by Homer also explicates the relationships among the divine characters. However, these writings also delve deep into the human traits of the divine characters. Thus, the dichotomy between the divine and the human natures are explored in the portraitures of the characters in the texts.
As argued by many, there is quite a lot of similarity between Greek and Roman myths or portraiture of Roman Gods. Gods like Juno, Jupiter, Mars and Venus are also affiliated with the Greek Gods. At the time of adopting the Greek mythology, the Romans gave their own names to the adopted characters. However, just like all the other Roman deities, these Gods predate the influence of Greek pantheon on the Roman culture. In reality, the Roman Gods are quite ancient and they reflect the unique ways of the Romans in the interpretation of the unseen world that encompassed them.
It is very important for one to comprehend that Greek mythology is quite rife with inconsistencies. Many of the stories sound incredulous, and they even contradict one another. Nevertheless, while these stories are considered, one much reminisce the fact that the Greeks created the myths and stories based on the fallible nature of man. Thus, the Greek Gods are often found to be as inconsistent, brutal or sinful as humans.
It was not an intention of the Greek people to create a system of absolute truth. Rather, they simply resorted to telling stories so that they could explain the world around them. Likewise, Zeus was a benevolent and kind God at times, while in other scenarios she showed his vengefulness and mercilessness.
The Greek myths came to be widespread by the Iliad that came into existence almost 700 years prior to the Roman civilization. On the other hand, the Roman myths came into existence almost a thousand years after the inception of the Greek civilization. Just like Homer’s book Iliad that went on to chronicle the Greek myths, the myths of the Romans were chronicled by the book called Aeneid. While the origin of Greek myths is not known, the Roman myths are believed to be imbibed from the Greek ones that already existed in the society and culture.
In Greek mythology, the Gods and Goddesses are based on traits of human personality like Honor, Love, Dignity, Hatred, and so on. The roles of their lives played the detrimental role in ascertaining what they were Gods of. Likewise, Zeus was taken to be the God of weather and sky, while Hades was the God of the underworld, Poseidon was the God of sea, and so on. While the Gods of Greek mythology were based on characteristic traits of humans, all of them had distinct human characteristics that play the pivotal role in determining their actions.
However, in Roman mythology, the deities were named after specific objects, rather than on personality traits of humans. Apart from this, the Gods and Goddesses in Roman mythology were not gender specific. Hence, the individual characteristics were not central to all the myths that they entailed.
Moreover, the Greek Gods were attributed with attractive, quintessential physical appearance, while the Gods in Roman mythology were not ascribed any physical form. These Roman Gods were represented in the imagination of the people of the Roman culture. The Greek deities had impressive muscles, eyes as well as hair that all worked together to catapult their looks.
Moreover, the Greek Gods’ and mortals’ actions can be taken to be greatly individualistic in nature. The actions of an individual in Greek mythology are of prime importance in comparison the deeds of a group. However, Roman mythology does not show such signs of individualism in the characters.
It is quite debatable if the Roman people in reality viewed the spirits of place to have human attributes, gender, or personalities. Cato goes on to record how it was quite usual on the part of the Romans to begin rites to the deities of the religion with the saying “be thou a god or a goddess.”
The shepherd God, Pales, was represented variably as male of female by the Romans. Moreover, Venus, who later came to be known as the epitome of divine femininity, was not originally represented as a Goddess. The name of the deity is a neutral noun- something that reiterates the fact that Venus was not gendered in originality. Apart from this, many a time the names of the deities were taken by the summation of the function they had. Janus got the name from Latin ianua that means “gateway”, while Ceres can be understood to be a corruption from the word gero that means “to bear.”
Since the Gods did not contain specific human attributes, the Roman people did not encompass the characters with complex mythology. However, when they came in contact with the Greek culture, the Romans comprehended the advantages of the Gods of their own culture with the ones of a prestigious and established culture like that of the Greek people.
Thus, the Romans started to fit their deities in to the mythological structure of the Greek people. The Roman deities were most applicable to match the roles of the Olympians. Thus, Jupiter, who was known as the Roman God became Zeus. Likewise, Juno who was a mother goddess came to be known as Hera. Mars who was the Roman God of war and agriculture was now known as Ares.
Apart from this, many minor gods of the Roman culture were promoted since they got cast in the rest of the Olympian roles. As such, while Venus became the goddess of love from being a minor garden deity, Neptune who was previously one of the many water deities of Rome became the sole God of the sea.
This amalgamation of the two cultures of the ancient times was very important for history. Not only was this a clear signifier of cross-cultural effect on civilizations, this also meant looking at the world around by the Greeks and Romans in a different way altogether. The Roman Gods now came to have human-like attributes just like the Greek myths.
The representation of the gods and goddesses in human form had its own significance. Gods and goddesses are taken to be the perfect beings with supernatural power that transcends the comprehension of human mind. However, representation of such supernatural beings in human forms showed the innate belief of human about the perfect male and female forms. The deities were created in the mythical descriptions with utmost clarity.
While male gods were attractively muscular, handsome, and strong with special powers attributed to them, the female gods were represented as extremely beautiful and pristine. Thus, the gods and goddesses represented the belief and perspective regarding perfect masculinity and perfect femininity.
One has to understand that the myths of the culture were used for the purpose of religion and education. Apart from this, myths also had the aesthetic function of entertainment. The myths were extremely popular among the common people of the society of the times, and these were popularized by their representation in art, sculpture, buildings, paintings, and pottery.
Cronus was a second generation god who had waged a war with his father to gain the rule of the universe. He finally triumphed with the help of Rhea, his sister-wife and the other Titans. But, Gaia and Uranos went on to foretell that Cronus would be put aside by his own offspring. At this, Cronus went on to swallow five of his children fearing that the prophecy would come true. However, Rhea tricked him and gave birth to Zeus. She also made Cronus vomit the five children. Later, these children went on to overthrow Cronus under the leadership of Zeus.
After having won the war that lasted for a span of 12 years, the Olympian Gods and Zeus went on to live in Mount Olympus- the highest mountain in the land of Greece. Zeus went on to become the leader of the Gods, with Hera as his sister-wife. Thus, the twelve Olympian Gods comprised Zeus and his siblings, and also a few children of Zeus who were born afterwards.
Zeus, even after being a divine character, showed many human traits. In spite of being married to Hera, he went on to cheat her quite frequently with many women who were moral, nymphs and other goddesses. On the other hand, Hera, who was portrayed by the mythical representations as a charming middle-aged woman, was considered to be the goddess who protected women and marriage. Hera was jealous in nature, and when she knew about the Zeus’ infidelity, she made his mistresses suffer a lot.
Poseidon, the god of seas and earthquakes, was one of the most powerful gods of Egypt. Poseidon went on to have sexual ties with the nymphs of the water and thus had many offspring. While he was considered the protector of many cities that has naval communities, his attributes were mostly human-like.
Hades was another brother of Zeus who ruled over the Underworld- the realm of the deceased. He used a trick to marry an exquisite young girl named Persephone, who was the daughter of the goddess named Demeter. Thus, Hades also showed many human traits, in spite of being a divine character.
Hestia was another goddess whose domain was the hearth and the household. She was very noble in nature, and was loved by the people of the ancient times. She was symbolic of harmony in one’s family and the city. Each building in the land of ancient Greece kept an altar that was dedicated to her right at the center of the room. A fire used to burn there all through the day and night. While she was never married, or had children, she could not bear with the quarrels between the gods. Hence, she left Olympus, giving her place to Dionysus.
The goddess of beauty was known as Aphrodite. She was very beautiful and young. She was portrayed as a woman who was shallow in her nature with numerous affairs with mortal beings. Cupid was her son who had wings and made people fall in love with each other. Aphrodite was in all probability older than all the other Olympian Gods by a generation. Demeter was the goddess of fertility and nature. She was one of the powerful goddesses of Greek mythology.
Apollo on the other hand was a famous god who was the son of the mighty Zeus, born out of the womb of a mortal woman named Leto. He had a twin sister named Artemis. He was born in the island of Delos, and was the god of light, music, truth, and prophecy. He was represented by the people as a young, attractive and sensitive man.
Artemis is fierce in nature, and she took part in hunting and sports. She was believed to be wild in her nature. She never got married, and remained a virgin all her life. Athena was another woman goddess who dealt in the domain of strategic warfare. She was also considered to be the deity of justice and wisdom. She was the daughter of Zeus and a mortal lady. When her pregnant mother as killed owing to Hera’s jealousy, she was born out of Zeus’ head.
Thus, the human characteristic flaws of the gods and goddesses stand in stark juxtaposition to their divine nature. In contrast to other mythological beliefs that are rooted in different cultures across the globe, Greek and Roman mythology showed a new avenue to the people of the world. While it is widely believed that gods and goddesses are out of the reach of mortal human beings, Greek myths talked of a different story altogether.
The deities and divine characters of the myths exude a whole lot of flaws in their characters or personalities that bring them closer to human nature. But, these deities were attributed with supernatural powers that made them divine. A very interesting amalgamation of human and divine characteristics can be found in the mythological tales of the Greek and Roman culture.
One has to comprehend very well that the ancient Greek gods were divine owing to their supernatural powers, but not their character. These gods and goddesses in context were very different from the modern notion of deities. These Olympian characters were weak in their nature, they had faults. They went on to merge with mortals quite frequently, and interfered with their lives.
It can be opined that the Greek deities were representations of the human characters of the society of the time. Although these characters were immortals, they had to eat ambrosia and drink nectar to keep their immortality. It is quite interesting for one and all that a mortal person could very well be made immortal by one of the gods with a ritual.
While it is widely believed that gods represent morality and ethics, the myths of Greece and Rome put to question the very basic nature of gods that is almost universally accepted across religions and communities. The myths problematize the realm of divinity by incorporating human flaws in the divine characters. They show traits of hatred, revenge, jealousy, infidelity, and so on.
As such, the nature of the Greek gods works as mirrors to the intricacies of the dynamics among the people of the times. The representations of these occurrences like incest among the deities, murders, and struggle for dominance are reflections of the occurrences in the society of Greece and Rome at that time. In this way, one can very well opine that the Greek myths represent the human flaws that transcend the domain of mortality and get imbibed into the divine world. The intertwined relationship of the mortals and the divine characters bear testimony to the fact that the Greeks believed that the gods were accessible and communicable, in spite of their supernatural selves.
Ancient Greek Mythology. Dept. of Classics, University of California, Berkeley
and the University of California, Berkeley. Web. 4 April 2015.
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