Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Greek to Me

       I love Greek Mythology. I was so excited for this seminar because I have been an avid reader of Greek Mythology since I first learned how to read. I was so absorbed into everything Mrs. White said and also she related how many of the moral stories and themes in literature we see today stemmed from the ancient stories of the Mesopotamian, which was then stolen by the Greeks then adopted and adapted by the Romans and so on to what we have now. I love how through story telling people are able to communicate important lessons of culture and life to be a universal message common amongst any society. This has grown to influence and change the way we tell stories, uniting cultures and people in ways that show how though the characters, names, endings, and ways of telling a story may vary; they're generally all the same, which is powerful in the meaning of story telling.  
       The seminar went through as a brief, surface run through of the beginning of mythology and how it expanded from the first Gods of Hesiod's Theology that consisted of Chaos, Gaia, Eros, and Tartaros and what eventually became the Olympians, who are more widely known through mythological stories and myths. The Olympians were Gods of greater might but many imperfections that made them relate-able and real for the Greeks. They were human like in character but greater in might. Therefore, each was revered but also feared for what good and bad they had the potential of bestowing upon mankind. Telling stories of the Gods was a way of explaining why certain events in life occurred, such as the changing of the seasons or why the sun set.
    This painting depicts the goddess of the harvest, Demeter, as she mourns the loss of her daughter Persephone who has been taken to the underworld to be with her husband-by-force, Hades. This story is used to explain how the seasons change, beginning with Persephone's return in the spring, when everything comes alive and Demeter is happy, to the summer harvest, then the beginning of fall when she leaves again, to Demeter's mourning once again and everything dies in the winter. I find this extremely interesting just for the fact that, before there was any notion of creation or science, this is what people had to explain the world around them; and it actually makes a lot of sense.
       After we were given our brief introduction and run down of the Gods, we were charged with the task of researching whoever we liked. I love strong women of history ( a refreshing break from just masculine historical figures ). I chose Athena, who not only was the goddess of wisdom, agriculture, and weaving, but was also a skilled military strategist. She represented what Ares didn't: the art of winning the war, not just the brutal mayhem.

Athena was cherished for the success she brought to the heroes and wars she assisted. She was more resourceful and as formidable a God as any of the top three: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades; she even outdid Poseidon for the position as the deity of the city of Athens. Though she represented female strength and virtue, her birth was an example of the slow replacing of the strong female figure in history. The position of head God and creator was an image generally associated with a female, motherly creator of all things. However, the birth of Athena completely eliminated the mother figure all together, instead she was born from the forehead of Zeus. This was to show that a female was not even needed in order for life to be created. As the Romans adopted the Greek gods to their own culture, the character of Athena was changed and diluted to a minor and lesser image. The image of a strong female was lost, instead leaving the feminine Aphrodite (Venus) as the only image of women; she only represented sex and love, not intelligence of heroic glory. 
I came away from this seminar a lot more informed about the importance of cultural influences and how story telling can relate across centuries and societies. I would really hope to have more experiences like this in Rome, where my basic understanding of something can be broadened and enriched through personally interacting and experiencing for myself. And also having well informed docents and scholars explain and elaborate about the content in ways no book could ever allow me to understand or analyze something.
Simone Sheppard


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