Mythology Essays

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Comparativist Approach Definition
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approach that focuses on studying and comparing myths between different cultures in an attempt to identify commonalities, trace the development of cultures, religion and support psychological theories. -Many of these scholars believed that all myths showed signs of having evolved from a single myth or mythical theme. -For example, the nineteenth-century philologist Friedrich Max Müller led a school of thought which interpreted nearly all myths as poetic descriptions of the sun’s behavior.
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Comparativist Examples
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The Titanomachy can be viewed with this approach as it was prevalent in both Greek myths as well as Near-Eastern (Babylonian) myths; Uranus overtaken by Cronos and Cronos overtaken by Zeus; Apsu—> Anu/Tiamat —->Marduk – the Hittite system it’s Anu/Uranus, Kumarbi/Cronus and Ullikummi/Zeus -Many cultures have a creation myth in which a group of younger, more civilized gods conquer and/or struggle against a group of older gods who represent the forces of chaos. In the Greek myth of the Titanomachy, the Olympian gods defeat the Titans, an older and more primitive divine race, and establish cosmic order. -This myth of the gods conquering demons – and order conquering chaos – is especially common in Indo-European mythologies. Some scholars suggest that the myth reflects the ancient Indo-Europeans’ conquest of native peoples during their expansion over Europe and India. However, non-Indo-European cultures also have such myths. For example, many Near Eastern mythologies include a “combat myth” in which a good god battles an evil or chaotic demon. An example is the Babylonian Enuma Elish. -Flood myths: Cultures around the world tell stories about a great flood. In many cases, the flood leaves only one survivor or group of survivors. For example, both the the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh (Utnapishtim) and the Hebrew Bible tell of a global flood that wiped out humanity and of a man who saved the Earth’s species by taking them aboard a boat.
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Comparativist Pros
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very academic, easy to compare and contrast various myths and see common ancestries.
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Comparativist Cons
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individual interpretation of specific myths. simply believes that myths were only a way for primitive man to make sense of what he did not understand, severely underestimates what myths actually meant, relationship between myths to trace the development of religion & cultures could be vague.
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Sociobiological Approach Definition
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studies animal behavior and applies it to myths. it’s because myths and rituals tap into the most basic and primitive contents of our minds (kind of like the animal side of us).
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Sociobiological examples
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SATYRS!! Prof. said something about this representing how a girl’s first sexual experience may seem animalistic. Another example would be Hermes that takes form in the herms (the pillars with the giant penises on them–a sculpture with a head, and perhaps a torso, above a plain, usually squared lower section, on which male genitals may also be carved at the appropriate height)–The phallus formed an essential part of the symbol, probably because the divinity represented by it was in the earliest times, before the worship of Dionysus was imported from the East, the personification of the reproductive powers of nature.–An erect phallus rose from the base. In the more primitive Mount Kyllini or Cyllenian herms, the standing stone or wooden pillar was simply a carved phallus. In Athens, herms were placed outside houses for good luck. “That a monument of this kind could be transformed into an Olympian god is astounding,” Walter Burkert remarked.
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Sociobiological Pros
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there is a large number of Greek myths that are associated with animals and animalistic behavior, easy to distinguish a relationship and a pattern
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Sociobiological Cons
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human communication is much more complex than animal communication so the comparison to the animal behavior may not fully explain the ritual (comparison may be too simple), and not all rituals are necessarily based off animal behavior. Csapo also said that this method “explicitly compared myths, beliefs and cultures but implicitly compared the mental powers of men of different races (in terms of agility, rationality, the capacity to rise above superstition, see truth, give direction, provide leadership)” essentially it was about Europe’s competing value systems. – nature v. nurture argument; rejects idea that practices are culture based, but merely manifestations of animalistic tendencies
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Structuralist/Ideological Definition
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seeks to understand the kinship relations, marriage practices, community relations etc. in a myth. Belief that social practices of ancient cultures can be extracted by looking at paradigmatic myths. Major player: Claude Levi-Strauss; Through approaching mythology as language, Lévi-Strauss suggests that it can be approached the same way as language can be approached by the same structuralist methods used to address language. a structural approach should account for all versions of a myth, as all versions are relevant to the function of the myth as a whole.
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Structuralist Example
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EX: Zeus & Hera’s disagreements (Greater/Lesser Daedala Ritual), show marriage disagreements are normal. -Many of the myths also show that hospitality was very important to the Greek people. (ex. bellerophon and the myth of how king Proetus & Iobates could not kill him b/c of hospitality laws) EX: Baucis and Philemon are the only ones who take in zeus (in disguise) and for that he rewards them (for their hospitality), and everyone else is killed by a flood EX: Laius rapes Chrysippus while Laius is a guest, gods frown upon that and doom the family of Laius to a future of incest and nastiness
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Structuralist Pros
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An advantage may be that there are many myths in Greek mythology that involve rituals or that involve the relationships between communities, i.e. hospitality, or marriage, etc.
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Structuralist Cons
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Not all myths serve to explain those cultures, sometimes the myth came after the practice;
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In what respects does Achilles’ meeting with Priam in Book 24 of the Iliad resolve themes and tensions at play earlier in the epic?
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– when Hector is killed, Achilles refuses to give it back, desecretes it—> rage at Patroclus’ death -Zeus has Hermes escort Priam to Achilles, and supplicates Achilles and begs him to take pity on a father bereft of his son and return the body -invokes memory of Peleus, humanizes Achilles -“I have endured what no one on earth has ever done-I put my lips to the hands of the man who killed my son.” -Achilles knows he is not meant to return and his father will be as Priam (a father whose son is taken by the enemy) and melts his rage—–> resolves his theme and closes poem—->withering of Achilles wrath -relents and allows 11 days of peace for funeral and funeral games, war to resume on 12th day
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What is the mythological example that Achilles narrates to Priam, and what is its significance?
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-tells story of Niobe -stock story of mourning -punished for prideful hubris, not allowed to bury her children for days by Leto, who had Artemis and Apollo kill her children -shows Achilles understanding of Priam’s plight -Achilles tells the story of how Niobe eventually ate again, after losing all of her 14 children. niobe had boasted that she had had many children, while Leto could only bear two. apollo and artemis then killed her children in order to punish her for boaster over a goddess. the bodies of her children were then turned to rocks and laid by water. he then tells priam to accompany and eat a meal with him. for they too must eat and regain strength in order to continue on with life and greiving (serves to illustrate that even though a lot was lost in this war, they must move on)
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Is Achilles and Priam a good fitting close to the poem?
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That Achilles’ change of heart occasions the poem’s conclusion emphasizes the centrality of Achilles’ rage to the poem. Homer chooses to conclude The Iliad not with the death of Achilles or the fall of Troy but rather with the withering of Achilles’ mighty wrath. The lack of emphasis given to dramatic climax in favor of an exploration of human emotion complements the poem’s anticlimactic nature as a whole.
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For what purpose do characters in the Iliad employ mythological paradigms? Do the paradigms always succeed in making the point the character may want to convey?
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-Paradigm in The Iliad – Illustration through illusion to other myths; persuasion -usually; best way to relate to another
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Give several specific examples of paradigms and their effects on the interlocutors.
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-Hephaestus’ fall from Olympus. Appears to be the first appearance of both myths. -Book 1 lines 677-687 (line 590 in Lattimore’s translation) – Hephaestus tells Hera the story of his fall from Olympus, it was Zeus who threw him out in anger. He is trying to get her, his mother, to bite her tongue and not speak out against Zeus for fear that he would react against her. -Book 18 lines 457-473 (line 393 in Lattimore’s translation) – Hephaestus tells his wife, Aglaia (The Goddess of Glory and one of the three Kharites), about Thetis helping him after falling to Lemnos to clarify why he is willing to help her with a new suit of armor and shield for Achilles. In this version he says that Hera threw him out of Olympus to hide him because he was crippled. -Book 9 lines 624-737 – Phoenix tells the myth of Meleagros to Achilles to try and persuade him to return to the war like Meleagros had done. Meleagros was in a long standing dispute with his mother, Althea, and would not return to battle. In the prof’s notes: Meleager was in a fight over the spoils from the calydonian boar hunt, and so he withdrew from battle. things went badly for those still in battle and Meleager only returned once his personal interests were at stake. 1. – Phoenix’s speech o Tries to persuade Achilles’ with parables and stories o Uses mythological paradigms in the Iliad o Phoenix’s father slept with many concubines while married and his mother was very jealous § She made Phoenix sleep with the concubines so his father would stop § Instead his father was angered and exiled him § Phoenix journeys to Achilles’ father’s kingdom and was accepted and given gifts o Phoenix uses this to persuade Achilles by saying I accepted gifts over a fight with a concubine and was happy so Achilles will too § Flaws in this thinking- Phoenix never reconciled his relationship with his father and accepted gifts from another family while Achilles must reconcile with the father figure giving him the gifts o Phoenix then talks about the spirits of prayer § They are pitiful wrinkled old goddesses and even the gods submit to them § So Achilles should submit to prayer also § This doesn’t work either because the gods don’t always submit to prayers and Agamemnon is not making a prayer to him o Phoenix then brings up the myth of Meleager and the Calydonian boar hunt § IN his story after the hunt, Meleager quarrels with his uncles who are from the neighboring city § The two cities fought because of the quarrel and in a point of battle Meleager withdraws from battle because he was fighting with his mother and the Calydonians began to lose § The people tried to persuade him to return to battle but he wouldn’t § Finally his wife convinced him and returned to battle § Phoenix says Achilles must also return to battle § Still flawed because he doesn’t return to battle for the gifts, he only does this because his family is then threatened § Meleager’s wife is named Cleopatra § This version is completely different from the story we know from other sources 2. Agamemnon finally apologizes to Achilles and says he was overcome by a goddess-Does Agamemnon tell Achilles he was over come by a goddess, like how Zeus as overcome by Hera when she delayed the birth of Heracles, causing Heracles to be ruled by a lesser man, Eurysteus n Other paradigm- He claims even Zeus has been overcome by goddesses o Tells the story of how Hera delays the birth of Heracles o Idea is that Zeus valued Heracles less then the delusion of granting Hera a promise o Real point is ironic- if you think about it this story is about a stronger man who had to serve a weaker man as king § Not a good story for Agamemnon to bring up when Achilles is so against serving Agamemnon who is a lesser man than he o Achilles actually invites Priam to sit and eat with him and offers hospitality § He uses a mythological pardigm to persuade him by saying that even after Niobe lost her 14 children she still ate § He claims that even in this sadness, you need to eat § Eating was a more ceremonious event than today § Ironic because in book 19 Achilles wouldn’t even let the soldiers eat
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Do the paradigms always relate traditional stories,or are they sometimes ad hoc inventions?
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No Phoenix told a different version of Meleager and the boar hunt than what is seen is most other sources so it can be considered an ad hoc invention.
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Similarities of Gilgamesh to Greek heroes
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Gilgamesh is similar in that he more or less follows the three part system of separation, isolation and reintegration -examples: Heracles, Perseus, Bellerophon — The epic hero Gilgamesh tries to avoid his death, does not want to die, is afraid. Tries to become immortal but some greek heroes pursue immortality too (Bellerophon). – He was physically beautiful, immensely strong, and very wise. (like most Greek heroes) -assistance from a god to help achieve great task (the slaying of Humbaba with the help of Shamash -retribution from gods disrupt his life (the spurning of Ishtar leads to the death of Enkidu)
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Differences of Gilgamesh to Greek heroes
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-Gilgamesh was a real historic figure who reigned Uruk in Sumeria around 2700BC -Gilgamesh is different because he is already the king of Uruk when the Epic begin. As opposed to the Greek heroic myth characters who might become kings but don’t ever start out that way. -2/3 god and â…“ man no greek hero is anything but ½ god -Gilgamesh epic myth comes from a written tradition rather than an oral tradition (greek). -Gods act as a counterweight to Gilgamesh to help correct his behavior. – His problem was mortality, he wanted to live forever.(usually the problems of the epic heroes are solved his was not literally solved. Gilgamesh had to accept the fact that he was going to eventually die) and forces him to find meaning in his life despite the inevitability of death. –this myth is also different because he is a hero with a counterpart – Enkidu, who helps him develop into a more heroic character. -Gods in Greek mythology actually appear in the stories directly in human form, gods in Gilgamesh only ever appear in dreams, not in human forms (What about Siduri??) Siduri dwells by the sea and at the ends of the earth, she is a goddess, and yes she appears to Gilgamesh so I guess you could argue it that way but the majority of the gods in the Gilgamesh epic are not in human form -starts off cruel: a cruel despot. He lorded over his subjects, raping any woman who struck his fancy, whether she was the wife of one of his warriors or the daughter of a nobleman. He accomplished his building projects with forced labor, and his exhausted subjects groaned under his oppression.

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