The origin of the universe can be explained by modern astronomers and
astrophysicists, while archaeologists and historians try to clarify the origin of human societies. In the distant past, however, before any sciences existed, the beginnings of the world and of society were explained by MYTHOLOGY.
The dictionary defines mythology as the myths dealing with the gods, demigods,
and legendary heroes of a particular people. The word myth is often mistakenly understood to mean fiction-something that never happened, a made-up story or fanciful tale. Myth is really a way of thinking out the past. Myths do not correctly explain what literally happen but suggest that behind the explanation there is a reality that cannot be seen and examined. One of the best-known mythological books is Homer s Iliad , which tells of the Trojan War. No one reading the book today believes Homer s story as a historically
factual account. However it is believed that at some time, many centuries before Homer lived-there really was a war between the Greek city-states and the residents of northwestern Asia Minor. Myths try to answer several questions. Where did the world come from? What are the gods like, and where did they come from? How did humanity originate? Why is there evil in the world? What happens to people after they die? Myths also try to account for a society s customs and rituals. Myths are used to justify the way a society lives.
Ruling families in several ancient civilizations found justification for their power in myths that described their origin in the world of the gods or in heaven. Myths did not originate in written form. They developed slowly as an oral tradition that was handed down form generation to generation among people who were trying to make sense of the world around them. They tried to imagine how it could have come into being in the first place. In the Greek city-states cults centering around the worship of a particular god developed very early.
The legends of ancient Greece are more familiar because they have become so
permanently set in literary traditions of western civilization. Greek mythology followed the pattern other mythologies: the forces of nature were given personalities and were worshipped. There was no worship of animals or of gods in animal form. Greek gods and goddesses were pictured as being much like men and women. The gods were conceived as more heroic in stature, more outstanding in beauty and proportion, and more powerful than humans. They did have many human weaknesses. They could be jealous, envious, spiteful, and petty. Among them only Zeus was known as the Just. The earliest record of Greek mythology comes form clay tablets dating back to the
Mycenaean civilization, which reached its peak between 1450 and 1200 B.C.. This
civilization consisted of several city -states in Greece, including Mycenae. The basic sources for classical Greek mythology are Hesiod s Theogony and Homer s Iliad and Odyssey , which date from about the 700 s B.C.. Hesiod and Homer rank among the greatest poets of ancient Greece. The books contain most of the basic characters and themes of Greek mythology.