Myths are stories of men, Gods and other forms of fictional beings and their interaction with each other. It is hard to say exactly when these myths were born but it was first recognized as fictional stories by the Greek philosopher Plato during the 5th – 4th century BCE. Even to this day these stories and fables influence art, literature, culture, music, cinema etc. all over the world.
As entertaining as some of these mythical narratives can be, they are also gruesome and downright illicit. People now mostly believe these stories to be fictitious tales of imagination, but do you ever wonder what people living in ancient Greece thought of these tales?
Here are some Ancient ideas of Greek myth-
1.Anonymous account on an ancient manuscript
An account by an anonymous commentator was found scribbled at the side of a ancient manuscript where they say- “Among some people, these things are not permitted on account of the display of indecency”.
This could be with regards to certain sexual relations and violent acts done in some tales.
2.Plato (429-347 BCE)
Plato was of the idea that some of these ideas and fables are untrue could be harmful to people who hear them, he said – “Such utterances are both impious and false, they are furthermore harmful to those who hear them. For everyman will be lenient with his own misdeeds if he is convinced that such are and were the actions of the Gods”
3.Xenophanes (6th – 5th c. BCE)
Xenophanes a Greek philosopher said that mortals believe Gods are like them – they are born and that they have clothes, speech and bodies like their own. Each culture represents their Gods in ways they want to.
“Ethiopians say that their Gods are snub – nosed and black, the Thracians say that theirs have light blue eyes and red hair. But if cattle and horses or lions had hands or were able to draw, horses would draw the forms of their Gods like horses, cattle like cattle”.
4.Metrodorus of Lampsacus ( 5th c. BCE)
Metrodorus another Greek philosopher believed that Greek Gods and Heroes are not what people believe them to be, but they are manifestations of nature and arrangement of the elements in the nature… he said “Agamemnon is air, Achilles is the sun, Helen is the Earth, Paris is the air and Hector is the moon. But among the Gods Dionysus is the spleen and Apollo is bile”. Hence he believed that these myths told us about ideas of human life and nature.
5.Euhemerus ( 4th – 3rd c. BCE)
Euhemerus said that historical stories about real people were told and retold until they became Gods in the process of retelling.
6.Aristarchus of Samothrace (216 – 144 BCE)
Aristarchus was of the belief that the readers ought to take these stories told by the poet as legends which were written using poetic license and not bother themselves about what is outside the things told by the poet. These stories were written using poetic license hence were exaggerated.
The forth and the sixth idea are the two most prominent theories that have survived through the middle ages.