Greek and Roman Mythology
Philip Matyszak defined myth as the ancient view of the world. Myths are deeply rooted in human’s culture because they address such critical matters as creation of the world, afterlife and nature of evil and good (Wasson 13). Myths include some elements that help to develop and communicate their themes. These elements are symbols, characters, patterns and themes. Some of the key themes of myths are fate and prophecy, supernatural or nonhuman characters, struggle for power and completion of task or quest among others.
Fate and Prophesy
Fate is a limitation that affects an individual and the society negatively. It is often the source of unhappiness, separation of families, dissatisfactions and great misfortunes among people. In the Greek mythology of Oedipus an oracle prophesize to King Laius, the ruler of Thebes. His son would slay him and marry his wife. When Jocasta, his wife, gave birth to a baby they exposed him to infanticide. An attempt meant to avert the prophesy but a shepherd takes pity and saves the infant who he is later adopted by the king and queen of Corinth. They bring him up like their own son. On learning that he was fated to kill his father and marry his mother, he flees Corinth vowing never to go back and instead sets off to Thebe. On his way towards Thebes, he kills Laius, his father, who started a quarrel and successfully beats Sphinx who had plagued Thebes. The queen Jocasta did not know she was his real mother as a reward (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica n.p.). Upon discovering the truth, Jocasta commits suicide while Oedipus blinds himself and goes into exile.
In Odyssey mythology, Odysseus is foretold by seer Halitherses that if he participates in Trojan Expedition it will take him long time to get back home. Not long after that Helen, the queen of Sparta, is abducted by Paris the prince of Troy. To evade prophesy, Odysseus fakes madness by harnessing a donkey and planting salt on the field. It is a plan that Palamades ruins when he grabs Telemachus (Odysseus’s son) and parades him in front of plow. After that Odysseus in the company of the rest of Helen’s suitors sails off to Troy to retrieve her. The prophesy comes true when it takes Odysseus 10 years to triumph over the Trojans and an additional 10 years to get home (Greek Mythology n.p.).
Struggle for Power
In struggle for power the witty always get triumph over the strong. In the Odyssey mythology during the Trojan War the Trojans trusted the strength of their wall to hold off enemies. Odysseus constructed a wooden horse on wheels and left it outside the Trojans’ gate having safely hidden inside it. The Trojans moved the horse into their city and began celebrating the end of war. Odysseus and his soldiers emerged from the horse killing the unsuspecting Trojan soldiers and opened the gate for the rest of the Greek soldiers who were waiting at a stone (The legendary story of Odysseus n.p.). In the same myth, Odysseus tactfully tricked Polyphemus, a gigantic cyclops by giving him a gourd of strong wine which got him drowsy. He then poked his eyes with a red-hot poker blinding him while he was sleeping. Odysseus critically thought of a response that got them out of further trouble with the other cyclops when Polyphemus cried and asked with rage who had poked his eyes on realizing that he had being blinded. Odysseus replies it was nobody (The legendary story of Odysseus n.p.). Eurylochus convinced Odysseus and his army to attack an island of the Cicones with promise that they would be harmed basing his conviction on the strength of the army. Ciconians on sight of anchored ships from a distance away retreated on the mountains leaving behind such their belonging as wine which Odysseus’ army drunk to drowsiness making them fall asleep. Before onset of the first light the Ciconians and their neighbours pound on the sleeping soldiers killing a handful of them.
King Utgard-Loki in Norse mythology, tactfully challenges Thor, the strongest god among men and other gods. In the drinking challenge, king Utgard-Loki, gave Thor a large horn which his followers always empty when they trespass in any way against law of the feast (Bulfinch 67). He then mocks drinkers that it is only a good drinker that can empty the cup in one draught, but most men empty it in two draughts and punny drinkers in three. With his might to prove Thor pounded on the horn ruthlessly but failed to succeed in emptying it even with the third draught prompting him to give up but in reality, one end of the horn was embedded in the sea.
For the second feat, the king Utgard-Loki challenges Thor to lift his cat and he failed although the cat was the Midgard serpent that encompassed the earth and was so stretched by Thor that it was barely long enough to be enclosed between his head and tail. For the last feat, Thor ordered the king to give him someone who can challenge him in wrestling. The king called a toothless old woman who lifted Thor off the ground and put him on his knees (Bulfinch 75). The king shared ways with Thor by telling him never to come near him again lest he uses the illusions on him again defaming him and making him lose his labor.
The supernatural beings are the cause of human misery. In the Greek Creation Myth, Zeus the Father of Prometheus and Epithemeus, gifted Pandora, the wife of Epithemeus, two presents. These presents were curiosity and a box which he ordered her never to open (Murtagh n.p.). Due to the gifts nature, Pandora is overwhelmed by curiosity and opened the box to find out its content. Unleashed from the box were all the plagues that flood the world today- pain, sickness, envy and greed despite Epithemeus’ attempt to restore the box. Murtagh notes that in the Hebrew Creation Myth, God the Creator of Heaven and Earth instructs Adam to eat fruit from all the trees in the Garden of Eden except for the one at the center of the garden. He then creates Eve from the ribs of Adam to be his companion. That leads to the fall of human kind as Eve is tactfully tricked by a serpent which cunningly tells her that when she eats fruits from the tree in the center of the garden she will become wise like God. Moreover, God upon realizing that Adam and Eve had defied His order punishes all of them. According to men he bestowed the punishment of painfully toiling the ground to eat until he returns to the grounds (Murtagh n.p.). To the woman He bestowed the punishment of painful child bearing and being ruled over by man. After that He banished them from the Garden of Eden.
Completion of Task
The end always justifies the means. Odysseus has a task to get home sound and safe to his wife, son and kingdom. In his quest to get home, he encounters numerous challenges. During some of the challenges he narrowly escapes with his life and that of his men mostly by using his wits and some by strictly following the instructions given by the gods. He agrees to sleep with Circe, the Enchantress as a condition to turn his warriors back to their human forms after she had turned them into pigs. As instructed by the enchantress, he goes to the Underworld, a place where no living human has ever been. He continues with his journey and talks to Tiresius, a blind prophet who advices him to pass between Scylla and Charybdis to get home and be ready to sacrifice six of his men to the monsters. However, he obliges to all the pieces of advice since he is determined to get home and save more of his men (The legendary story of Odysseus n.p.). Thor loses his hammer which gets into the possession of Thrym, the giant who buries it deep under the rocks of Jotunheim. He sends Loki to retrieve it from Thrym who agrees to give it back on condition that Freya is given to him as a bride. This news terrifies Freya, the goddess of love. Thor overreacts raising Thrym suspicion but is assured by Loki that it is because the “bride” was hungry from their eight long night’s journeys in which she had not eaten out of eagerness to see him. According to Bulfinch, due to the ardent desire to see his bride, Thor is tempted to peep through her veil but is taken back seeing Freya’s eyes glisten with fire. He demanded to to know why Loki reassures him with the same answers as before in which he is satisfied. He orders the hammer be brought and put on the maidens lap upon which Thor throws off his disguise, reclaims his weapon slaughtering Thrym and all his followers.
Myths have hidden lessons that can define societies’ morals and values. Most of the myths which were mentioned help individuals to take every step possible to ensure they achieve the goals they have ahead of them. Moreover, it teaches people to be tactful in every situation they face.
Greek Mythology. Odysseus, Greek Mythology, 2018, www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Heroes/Odysseus/odysseus.html
Greeka. The legendary story of Odysseus. Greeka, 2018, www.greeka.com/ionian/ithaca/ithacamyths/odysseus.html
Bulfinch, Thomas. “Chapter XXXVIII. Northern Mythology — Valhalla — The Valkyrior. The Recovery of Thor’s Hammer.” The Age of Fables, Thomas Bulfinch, The University of Adelaide Library, 2016, ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bulfinch/thomas/b93fab/chapter38.html
Murtagh, Lindsey. “Common Elements in Creation Myths,” Williams, 2018, www.cs.williams.edu/~lindsey/myths/myths.htm
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Oedipus,” .Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/Oedipus-Greek-mythology
Wasson, Donald L. “Roman Mythology,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2018.