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Myths and Legends

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Here you'll find information on the ancient myths and legends, particularly those of the Greeks and Romans. The myths are stories generally not believed to be true, or at least, not literally so and they may involve impossible adventures or supernatural creatures. Legends are stories people tell about themselves that often have improbable elements.
  1. Classical Myths
  2. Define Myth
  3. Creation
  4. Afterlife
  5. Stars & Constellations
  6. Flood Myths
  7. Modern Versions of Classical Myths
  8. Trojan War
  9. Hercules (Heracles)
  1. Thebes - Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus
  2. Heroes
  3. Proverbial Expressions Based on Legends
  4. Myth Writers
  5. Glossary
  6. Ancient Literature & Art
  7. Gods and Goddesses
  8. Classical Myth-Makers

Classical Myths

Theseus and the Minotaur Mosaic

Here are individual stories from Greek mythology and some from the Romans. These are the ones most often told and re-told, so they should either be familiar or help with references in movies and elsewhere. Some of the versions are really my adaptations rather than faithful renderings, but such is the nature of myths that they change with the retelling.

Define Myth

Aphrodite by Boticelli

What we mean by mythology is subject to discussion. For the purposes of this site, it is used to cover religions with multiple gods and the stories about the involvement of the gods in the life of humans. Usually, it refers to Greek mythology and the Roman re-tellings of the ancient Greek myths.

Creation

Stories about creation of the gods, mankind, and the world feature creator gods and almost spontaneous generation. Here are some of the ancient explanations of our existence on this earth.

Afterlife

Rape of Persephone, by Luca Giordano. 1684-1686.

Some Greek and Roman heroes visited the Underworld, the land of the dead. There they met the deceased. While going to the land of the dead may have been frightening, it was returning from the Underworld that was the heroic task.

Stars & Constellations

Orion

In Greek and Latin mythology when deserving humans died, the gods sometimes turned them into constellations.

Flood Myths

Noah's Ark by Edward Hicks (1780–1849)

There are stories of floods from all over the world, including the famous story of Noah and the Ark. Here are flood myths and articles on characters involved in the Greco-Roman flood story.

Modern Versions of Classical Myths

Pandora's Box

There are some wonderful, inspiring, stories in myth and legend and some that may make you scratch your head wondering why. The stories have been re-told so many times that for many of them there is no longer a single, coherent version.

Trojan War

Trojan Horse

Information on Homer, the name credited with the creation of the epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, as well as information on the Trojan War, mostly from Greek mythology.

Hercules (Heracles)

Heracles fighting Alcyoneus

Hercules to the Romans and Heracles to the Greeks, is just one mythological hero and demigod, but his innumerable adventures warrant their own section.

Thebes - Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus

Cadmus and the Dragon. At the Louvre. Side A of a black-figured amphora from Euboea, c. 560-550 B.C.

Thebes was founded by Cadmus, husband of Ares' daughter Harmonia. They sowed the land with dragon's teeth to produce the sown men and also bore children the normal way. Their family suffered from a series of curses making the city of Cadmus a popular topic in the Greek tragedies.

Heroes

Theseus and the Minotaur Mosaic

Most of the Greek myths focus on one of these usually divinely-sired heroes.

Proverbial Expressions Based on Legends

The Sword of Damocles (1539) by Francesco Xanto Avelli

These stories from myth, legend, ancient history, and fable are often used to add color to discourse. Because they are so familiar, the moral or point is often used without need to provide background, but they have been in use as sayings for so long that many have forgotten their origins.

Myth Writers

Publius Ovidius Naso in the Nuremberg Chronicle

There were some ancient authors who are still looked to for information on the stories from mythology. These writers tied ancient myths together or used them to illustrate points. The works in which the major myths are located are indicated after the writer's name.

Glossary

The main glossary is the place for the most basic information on names in ancient/classical history.

Ancient Literature & Art

Socrates

Ancient literature, especially epic poetry and tragedy tells most of the major stories we know of as myth. Scenes from art also fill in gaps and show up many of the inconsistencies in the stories.

Gods and Goddesses

Assembly of the Gods with Leto, Artemis, Apollo, Athena, Zeus, and Hera

Gods and goddesses interact with humans and heroic demigods in myths.

Classical Myth-Makers

Hesiod

The people who wrote down the stories of classical mythology include the poets Homer and Hesiod, Latin poets Vergil (Virgil) and Ovid, as well as later prose writers, and the writers of Greek tragedy.

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