Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives or stories that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods or supernatural humans. Stories of everyday human beings, although often of leaders of some type, are usually contained in legends, as opposed to myths.
Myths are often endorsed by rulers and priests or priestesses, and are closely linked to religion or spirituality. In fact, many societies group their myths, legends and history together, considering myths and legends to be true accounts of their remote past. In particular, creation myths take place in a primordial age when the world had not achieved its later form. Other myths explain how a society's customs, institutions and taboos were established and sanctified. There is a complex relationship between recital of myths and enactment of rituals.
The study of myth began in ancient history. Rival classes of the Greek myths by Euhemerus, Plato and Sallustius were developed by the Neoplatonists and later revived by Renaissance mythographers. Today, the study of myth continues in a wide variety of academic fields, including folklore studies, philology, and psychology. The term mythology may either refer to the study of myths in general, or a body of myths regarding a particular subject. The academic comparisons of bodies of myth is known as comparative mythology.
Since the term myth is widely used to imply that a story is not objectively true, the identification of a narrative as a myth can be highly political: many adherents of religions view their religion's stories as true and therefore object to the stories being characterised as myths. Nevertheless, scholars now routinely speak of Christian mythology, Jewish mythology, Islamic mythology, Hindu mythology, and so forth. Traditionally, Western scholarship, with its Judaeo-Christian heritage, has viewed narratives in the Abrahamic religions as being the province of theology rather than mythology; meanwhile, identifying religious stories of colonised cultures, such as stories in Hinduism, as myths enabled Western scholars to imply that they were of lower truth-value than the stories of Christianity. Labelling all religious narratives as myths can be thought of as treating different traditions with parity.
Definitions of myth to some extent vary by scholar. Finnish folklorist Lauri Honko offers a widely cited definition:
Myth, a story of the gods, a religious account of the beginning of the world, the creation, fundamental events, the exemplary deeds of the gods as a result of which the world, nature and culture were created together with all parts thereof and given their order, which still obtains. A myth expresses and confirms society's religious values and norms, it provides a pattern of behavior to be imitated, testifies to the efficacy of ritual with its practical ends and establishes the sanctity of cult.
However, while myth and other folklore genres may overlap, myth is often thought to differ from genres such as legend and folktale in that neither are considered to be sacred narratives. Some kinds of folktales, such as fairy stories, are not considered true by anyone, and may be seen as distinct from myths for this reason. Main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods or supernatural humans, while legends generally feature humans as their main characters. However, many exceptions or combinations exist, as in the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. Moreover, as stories spread between cultures or as faiths change, myths can come to be considered folktales, their divine characters recast as either as humans or demihumans such as giants, elves and faeries. Conversely, historical and literary material may acquire mythological qualities over time. For example, the Matter of Britain (the legendary history of Great Britain, especially those focused on King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table) and the Matter of France, seem distantly to originate in historical events of the fifth and eighth-centuries respectively, and became mythologised over the following centuries.
In colloquial use, the word myth can also be used of a collectively held belief that has no basis in fact, or any false story. This usage, which is often pejorative, arose from labeling the religious myths and beliefs of other cultures as incorrect, but it has spread to cover non-religious beliefs as well. However, as commonly used by folklorists and academics in other relevant fields, such as anthropology, the term myth has no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise.
In present use, mythology usually refers to the collected myths of a group of people, but may also mean the study of such myths. For example, Greek mythology, Roman mythology and Hittite mythology all describe the body of myths retold among those cultures. Folklorist Alan Dundes defines myth as a sacred narrative that explains how the world and humanity evolved into their present form. Dundes classified a sacred narrative as "a story that serves to define the fundamental worldview of a culture by explaining aspects of the natural world and delineating the psychological and social practices and ideals of a society". Anthropologist Bruce Lincoln defines myth as "ideology in narrative form."
The compilation or description of myths is sometimes known as mythography, a term which can also be used of a scholarly anthology of myths (or, confusingly, of the study of myths generally). Key mythographers in the Classical tradition include Ovid (43 BCE–17/18 CE), whose tellings of myths have been profoundingly influential; Fabius Planciades Fulgentius, a Latin writer of the late fifth to early sixth centuries, whose Mythologies (Latin: Mitologiarum libri III) gathered and gave moralistic interpretations of a wide range of myths; the anonymous medieval Vatican Mythographers, who developed anthologies of Classical myths that remained influential to the end of the Middle Ages; and the Renaissance scholar Natalis Comes, whose ten-book Mythologiae became a standard source for classical mythology in later Renaissance Europe. Other prominent mythographies include the thirteenth-century Prose Edda attributed to the Icelander Snorri Sturluson, which is the main surviving survey of Norse Mythology from the Middle Ages.
Because myth is sometimes used in a pejorative sense, some scholars have opted to use the term mythos instead. However, mythos now more commonly refers to its Aristotelian sense as a "plot point" or to a body of interconnected myths or stories, especially those belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition. It is sometimes used specifically for modern, fictional mythologies, such as the world building of H.P. Lovecraft.
The word myth comes from Ancient Greek μῦθος [mȳthos], meaning 'speech, narrative, fiction, myth, plot'. In Anglicised form, this Greek word began to be used in English (and was likewise adapted into other European languages) in the early nineteenth century, in a much narrower sense, as a scholarly term for 'a traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon'.
In turn, Ancient Greek μυθολογία [mythología] ("story," "lore," "legends," "the telling of stories") combines the word mȳthos with the suffix -λογία [-logia] ("study"), and meant 'romance, fiction, story-telling'. Accordingly, Plato used mythología as a general term for "fiction" or "story-telling" of any kind.
The Greek term mythología was then borrowed into Latin. Late Latin mythologia, which occurs in the title of Latin author Fulgentius' fifth-century Mythologiæ, denoted the explication of Greek and Roman stories about their gods, which we now call classical mythology. Fulgentius's Mythologiæ explicitly treated its subject matter as allegories requiring interpretation and not as true events.
The Latin term was then adopted in Middle French as mythologie. Whether from French or Latin usage, English adopted the word "mythology" in the fifteenth century, at first in the sense 'the exposition of a myth or myths; the interpretation of fables; a book of such expositions'. The word is first attested in John Lydgate's Troy Book of c. 1425.
From Lydgate until the seventeenth or eighteenth-century, mythology was used to mean a moral, fable, allegory or a parable, or collection of traditional stories, understood to be false. It came eventually to be applied to similar bodies of traditional stories among other polytheistic cultures around the world.
Thus the word mythology entered the English language before the word "myth"; Johnson's Dictionary, for example, has an entry for mythology, but not for myth.  Indeed, the Greek loanword mythos (pl. mythoi) and Latinate mythus (pl. mythi) both appeared in English before the first example of myth in 1830.
Like the related term λόγος (logos), mythos expresses whatever can be delivered in the form of words; these can be contrasted with ἔργον (ergon), a Greek term for action, deed, and work. The term mythos lacks an explicit distinction between true or false narratives.
In the context of the theatre of ancient Greece, the term mythos referred to the myth, the narrative, the plot, and the story of a play. According to David Wiles, the Greek term mythos in this era covered an entire spectrum of different meanings, from undeniable falsehoods to stories with religious and symbolic significance.
According to philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE), the spirit of a theatrical play was its mythos. The term mythos was also used for the source material of Greek tragedy. The tragedians of the era could draw inspiration from Greek mythology, a body of "traditional storylines" which concerned gods and heroes. David Wiles observes that modern conceptions about Greek tragedy can be misleading. It is commonly thought that the ancient audience members were already familiar with the mythos behind a play, and could predict the outcome of the play. However, the Greek dramatists were not expected to faithfully reproduce traditional myths when adapting them for the stage. They were instead recreating the myths and producing new versions. Storytellers like Euripides (c. 480–406 BCE) relied on suspense to excite their audiences. In one of his works, Merope attempts to kill her son's murderer with an axe, unaware that the man in question is actually her son. According to an ancient description of audience reactions to this work, the audience members were genuinely unsure of whether she would commit filicide or she will be stopped in time. They rose to their feet in terror and caused an uproar.
David Wiles points that the traditional mythos of Ancient Greece, was primarily a part of its oral tradition. The Greeks of this era were a literate culture, but produced no sacred texts. There were no definitive or authoritative versions of myths recorded in texts and preserved forever in an unchanging form. Instead multiple variants of myths were in circulation. These variants were adapted into songs, dances, poetry, and visual art. Performers of myths could freely reshape their source material for a new work, adapting it to the needs of a new audience or in response to a new situation.
Children in Ancient Greece were familiar with traditional myths from an early age. According to the philosopher Plato (c. 428–347 BCE), mothers and nursemaids narrated myths and stories to the children in their charge: David Wiles describes them as a repository of mythological lore.
Bruce Lincoln has called attention to the apparent meaning of the terms mythos and logos in the works of Hesiod. In Theogony, Hesiod attributes to the Muses the ability to both proclaim truths and narrate plausible falsehoods (falsehoods which seem like real things). The verb used for narrating the falsehoods in the text is legein, which is etymologically associated with logos. There are two variants in the manuscript tradition for the verb used to proclaim truths. One variant uses gerusasthai, the other mythesasthai. The latter is a form of the verb mytheomai (to speak, to tell), which is etymologically associated with mythos. In the Works and Days, Hesiod describes his dispute with his brother Perses. He also announces to his readers his intention to tell true things to his brother. The verb he uses for telling the truth is mythesaimen, another form of mytheomai.
Lincoln draws the conclusion that Hesiod associated the "speech of mythos" (as Lincoln calls it) with telling the truth. While he associated the "speech of logos" with telling lies, and hiding one's true thoughts (dissimulation). This conclusion is strengthened by the use of the plural term logoi (the plural form of logos) elsewhere in Hesiod's works. Three times the term is associated with the term "seductive" and three times with the term "falsehoods". In his genealogy of the gods, Hesiod lists logoi among the children of Eris, the goddess personifying strife. Eris' children are ominous figures, which personify various physical and verbal forms of conflict.
Comparative mythology is the systematic comparison of myths from different cultures. It seeks to discover underlying themes that are common to the myths of multiple cultures. In some cases, comparative mythologists use the similarities between separate mythologies to argue that those mythologies have a common source. This source may inspire myths or provide a common "protomythology" that diverged into the mythologies of each culture.
A number of commentators have argued that myths function to form and shape society and social behaviour. Eliade argued that one of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior and that myths may provide a religious experience. By telling or reenacting myths, members of traditional societies detach themselves from the present, returning to the mythical age, thereby coming closer to the divine.
Honko asserted that, in some cases, a society reenacts a myth in an attempt to reproduce the conditions of the mythical age. For example, it might reenact the healing performed by a god at the beginning of time in order to heal someone in the present. Similarly, Barthes argued that modern culture explores religious experience. Since it is not the job of science to define human morality, a religious experience is an attempt to connect with a perceived moral past, which is in contrast with the technological present.
Pattanaik defines mythology as "a subjective truth of people that is communicated through stories, symbols and rituals". He adds, "unlike fantasy that is nobody’s truth, and history that seeks to be everybody’s truth, mythology is somebody’s truth."
One theory claims that myths are distorted accounts of historical events. According to this theory, storytellers repeatedly elaborate upon historical accounts until the figures in those accounts gain the status of gods. For example, the myth of the wind-god Aeolus may have evolved from a historical account of a king who taught his people to use sails and interpret the winds. Herodotus (fifth-century BCE) and Prodicus made claims of this kind. This theory is named euhemerism after mythologist Euhemerus (c. 320 BCE), who suggested that Greek gods developed from legends about human beings.
Some theories propose that myths began as allegories for natural phenomena: Apollo represents the sun, Poseidon represents water, and so on. According to another theory, myths began as allegories for philosophical or spiritual concepts: Athena represents wise judgment, Aphrodite desire, and so on. Müller supported an allegorical theory of myth. He believed myths began as allegorical descriptions of nature and gradually came to be interpreted literally. For example, a poetic description of the sea as "raging" was eventually taken literally and the sea was then thought of as a raging god.
Some thinkers claimed that myths result from the personification of objects and forces. According to these thinkers, the ancients worshiped natural phenomena, such as fire and air, gradually deifying them. For example, according to this theory, ancients tended to view things as gods, not as mere objects. Thus, they described natural events as acts of personal gods, giving rise to myths.
According to the myth-ritual theory, myth is tied to ritual. In its most extreme form, this theory claims myths arose to explain rituals. This claim was first put forward by Smith, who argued that people begin performing rituals for reasons not related to myth. Forgetting the original reason for a ritual, they account for it by inventing a myth and claiming the ritual commemorates the events described in that myth. Frazer claimed that humans started out with a belief in magical rituals; later, they began to lose faith in magic and invented myths about gods, reinterpreting their rituals as religious rituals intended to appease the gods.
Historically, important approaches to the study of mythology have included those of Vico, Schelling, Schiller, Jung, Freud, Lévy-Bruhl, Lévi-Strauss, Frye, the Soviet school, and the Myth and Ritual School.
The critical interpretation of myth began with the Presocratics. Euhemerus was one of the most important pre-modern mythologists. He interpreted myths as accounts of actual historical events – distorted over many retellings. Sallustius divided myths into five categories – theological, physical (or concerning natural laws), animistic (or concerning soul), material, and mixed. Mixed concerns myths that show the interaction between two or more of the previous categories and are particularly used in initiations.
Plato famously condemned poetic myth when discussing education in the Republic. His critique was primarily on the grounds that the uneducated might take the stories of gods and heroes literally. Nevertheless, he constantly referred to myths throughout his writings. As Platonism developed in the phases commonly called Middle Platonism and neoplatonism, writers such as Plutarch, Porphyry, Proclus, Olympiodorus, and Damascius wrote explicitly about the symbolic interpretation of traditional and Orphic myths.
Mythological themes were consciously employed in literature, beginning with Homer. The resulting work may expressly refer to a mythological background without itself becoming part of a body of myths (Cupid and Psyche). Medieval romance in particular plays with this process of turning myth into literature. Euhemerism, as stated earlier, refers to the rationalization of myths, putting themes formerly imbued with mythological qualities into pragmatic contexts. An example of this would be following a cultural or religious paradigm shift (notably the re-interpretation of pagan mythology following Christianization).
The first modern, Western scholarly theories of myth appeared during the second half of the nineteenth century — at the same time as the word myth was adopted as a scholarly term in European languages. They were driven partly by a new interest in Europe's ancient past and vernacular culture, associated with Romantic Nationalism and epitomised by the research of Jacob Grimm (1785–1863). This movement drew European scholars' attention not only to Classical myths, but also material now associated with Norse mythology, Finnish mythology, and so forth. Western theories were also partly driven by Europeans' efforts to comprehend and control the cultures, stories and religions they were encountering through colonialism. These encounters included both extremely old texts such as the Sanskrit Rigveda and the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, and current oral narratives such as mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas or stories told in traditional African religions.
The intellectual context for nineteenth-century scholars was profoundly shaped by emerging ideas about evolution. These ideas included the recognition that many Eurasian languages—and therefore, conceivably, stories—were all descended from a lost common ancestor (the Indo-European language) which could rationally be reconstructed through the comparison of its descendant languages. They also included the idea that cultures might evolve in ways comparable to species. In general, nineteenth-century theories framed myth as a failed or obsolete mode of thought, often by interpreting myth as the primitive counterpart of modern science within a unilineal framework that imagined that human cultures are travelling, at different speeds, along a linear path of cultural development.
One of the dominant mythological theories of the later nineteenth century was "nature mythology", whose foremost exponents included Max Müller and Edward Burnett Tylor. This theory posited that "primitive man" was primarily concerned with the natural world. It tended to interpret myths that seemed distasteful European Victorians—for example tales about sex, incest, or cannibalism—as being metaphors for natural phenomena like agricultural fertility. Unable to conceive impersonal natural laws, early humans tried to explain natural phenomena by attributing souls to inanimate objects, giving rise to animism. According to Tylor, human thought evolved through stages, starting with mythological ideas and gradually progressing to scientific ideas. Müller also saw myth arising from language, even calling myth a "disease of language". He speculated that myths arose due to the lack of abstract nouns and neuter gender in ancient languages. Anthropomorphic figures of speech, necessary in such languages, were eventually taken literally, leading to the idea that natural phenomena were in actuality conscious beings or gods. Not all scholars, not even all nineteenth-century scholars, accepted this view. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl claimed "the primitive mentality is a condition of the human mind, and not a stage in its historical development." Recent scholarship, noting the fundamental lack of evidence for "nature mythology" interpretations among people who actually circulated myths, has likewise abandoned the key ideas of "nature mythology".
James George Frazer saw myths as a misinterpretation of magical rituals, which were themselves based on a mistaken idea of natural law: this idea was central to the "myth and ritual" school of thought. According to Frazer, humans begin with an unfounded belief in impersonal magical laws. When they realize applications of these laws do not work, they give up their belief in natural law in favor of a belief in personal gods controlling nature, thus giving rise to religious myths. Meanwhile, humans continue practicing formerly magical rituals through force of habit, reinterpreting them as reenactments of mythical events. Finally humans come to realize nature follows natural laws, and they discover their true nature through science. Here again, science makes myth obsolete as humans progress "from magic through religion to science."
Segal asserted that by pitting mythical thought against modern scientific thought, such theories imply modern humans must abandon myth.
The earlier twentieth century saw major work developing psychoanalytical approaches to interpreting myth, led by Sigmund Freud, who, drawing inspiration from Classical myth, began developing the concept of the Oedipus complex in his 1899 The Interpretation of Dreams. Jung likwise tried to understand the psychology behind world myths. Jung asserted that all humans share certain innate unconscious psychological forces, which he called archetypes. He believed similarities between the myths of different cultures reveals the existence of these universal archetypes.
The mid-twentieth century saw the influential development of a structuralist theory of mythology, led by Lévi-Strauss. Strauss argued that myths reflect patterns in the mind and interpreted those patterns more as fixed mental structures, specifically pairs of opposites (good/evil, compassionate/callous), rather than unconscious feelings or urges. Meanwhile, Bronislaw Malinowski developed analyses of myths focusing on their social functions in the real world. He is associated with the idea that myths such as origin stories might provide a "mythic charter"—a legitimisation—for cultural norms and social institutions. Thus, following the Structuralist Era (roughly the 1960s to 1980s), the predominant anthropological and sociological approaches to myth increasingly treated myth as a form of narrative that can be studied, interpreted and analyzed like ideology, history and culture. In other words, myth is a form of understanding and telling stories that is connected to power, political structures, and political and economic interests. These approaches contrast with approaches such as those of Joseph Campbell and Eliade that hold that myth has some type of essential connection to ultimate sacred meanings that transcend cultural specifics. In particular, myth was studied in relation to history from diverse social sciences. Most of these studies share the assumption that history and myth are not distinct in the sense that history is factual, real, accurate, and truth, while myth is the opposite.
In the 1950s, Barthes published a series of essays examining modern myths and the process of their creation in his book Mythologies, which stood as an early work in the emerging post-structuralist approach to mythology, which recognised myths' existence in the modern world and in popular culture.
The twentieth century saw rapid secularisation in Western culture. This made Western scholars more willing to analyse narratives in the Abrahamic religions as myths; theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann argued that a modern Christianity needed to demythologize; and other religious scholars embraced the idea that the mythical status of Abrahamic narratives was a legitimate feature of their importance. This, in his appendix to Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, and in The Myth of the Eternal Return, Eliade attributed modern humans’ anxieties to their rejection of myths and the sense of the sacred. The Christian theologian Conrad Hyers wrote that
...myth today has come to have negative connotations which are the complete opposite of its meaning in a religious context... In a religious context, however, myths are storied vehicles of supreme truth, the most basic and important truths of all. By them people regulate and interpret their lives and find worth and purpose in their existence. Myths put one in touch with sacred realities, the fundamental sources of being, power, and truth. They are seen not only as being the opposite of error but also as being clearly distinguishable from stories told for entertainment and from the workaday, domestic, practical language of a people. They provide answers to the mysteries of being and becoming, mysteries which, as mysteries, are hidden, yet mysteries which are revealed through story and ritual. Myths deal not only with truth but with ultimate truth.
Both in nineteenth-century research that tended to see existing records of stories and folklore as imperfect fragments of partially lost myths, and in twentieth-century structuralist work that sought to identify underlying patterns and structures in often diverse versions of a given myth, there had been a tendency to synthesise sources to attempt to reconstruct what scholars supposed to be more perfect or underlying forms of myths. From the late twentieth century, however, researchers influenced by postmodernism tended instead to argue that each account of a given myth has its own cultural significance and meaning, and argued that rather than representing degradation from a once more perfect form, myths are inherently plastic and variable. There is, consequently, no such thing as the 'original version' or 'original form' of a myth. One prominent example of this movement was A.K. Ramanujan's essay Three Hundred Ramayanas.
Correspondingly, scholars challenged the precedence that had once been given to texts as a medium for mythology, arguing that other media, such as the visual arts or even landscape and place-naming, could be as or more important.
In modern society, myth is often regarded as a collection of stories. Scholars in the field of cultural studies research how myth has worked itself into modern discourses. Mythological discourse can reach greater audiences than ever before via digital media. Various mythic elements appear in television, cinema and video games.
Although myth was traditionally transmitted through the oral tradition on a small scale, the film industry has enabled filmmakers to transmit myths to large audiences via film. In Jungian psychology myths are the expression of a culture or society’s goals, fears, ambitions and dreams.
The basis of modern visual storytelling is rooted in the mythological tradition. Many contemporary films rely on ancient myths to construct narratives. The Walt Disney Company is well-known among cultural study scholars for "reinventing" traditional childhood myths. While many films are not as obvious as Disney fairy tales, the plots of many films are based on the rough structure of myths. Mythological archetypes, such as the cautionary tale regarding the abuse of technology, battles between gods and creation stories, are often the subject of major film productions. These films are often created under the guise of cyberpunk action films, fantasy, dramas and apocalyptic tales.
21st-century films such as Clash of the Titans, Immortals and Thor continue the trend of mining traditional mythology to frame modern plots. Authors use mythology as a basis for their books, such as Rick Riordan, whose Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is situated in a modern-day world where the Greek deities are manifest.
I think it can be well argued as a matter of principle that, just as 'biography is about chaps', so mythology is about gods.
The word 'myth' is popularly understood to mean idle fancy, fiction, or falsehood; but there is another meaning of the word in academic discourse .... Using the original Greek term mythos is perhaps a better way to distinguish this more positive and all-encompassing definition of the word.
More precisely, mythic discourse deals in master categories that have multiple referents: levels of the cosmos, terrestrial geographies, plant and animal species, logical categories, and the like. Their plots serve to organize the relations among these categories and to justify a hierarchy among them, establishing the rightness (or at least the necessity) of a world in which heaven is above earth, the lion the king of beasts, the cooked more pleasing than the raw.
Aquarius (♒) is the eleventh astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation Aquarius. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun is in Aquarius between about January 21 and about February 20, while under the sidereal Zodiac, the sun is in Aquarius from approximately February 15 to March 14, depending on the leap year.Atlantis
Atlantis (Ancient Greek: Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, "island of Atlas") is a fictional island mentioned within an allegory on the hubris of nations in Plato's works Timaeus and Critias, where it represents the antagonist naval power that besieges "Ancient Athens", the pseudo-historic embodiment of Plato's ideal state in The Republic. In the story, Athens repels the Atlantean attack unlike any other nation of the known world, supposedly giving testament to the superiority of Plato's concept of a state. The story concludes with Atlantis falling out of favor with the deities and submerging into the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite its minor importance in Plato's work, the Atlantis story has had a considerable impact on literature. The allegorical aspect of Atlantis was taken up in utopian works of several Renaissance writers, such as Francis Bacon's New Atlantis and Thomas More's Utopia. On the other hand, nineteenth-century amateur scholars misinterpreted Plato's narrative as historical tradition, most notably in Ignatius L. Donnelly's Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. Plato's vague indications of the time of the events—more than 9,000 years before his time—and the alleged location of Atlantis—"beyond the Pillars of Hercules"—has led to much pseudoscientific speculation. As a consequence, Atlantis has become a byword for any and all supposed advanced prehistoric lost civilizations and continues to inspire contemporary fiction, from comic books to films.
While present-day philologists and classicists agree on the story's fictional character, there is still debate on what served as its inspiration. As for instance with the story of Gyges, Plato is known to have freely borrowed some of his allegories and metaphors from older traditions. This led a number of scholars to investigate possible inspiration of Atlantis from Egyptian records of the Thera eruption, the Sea Peoples invasion, or the Trojan War. Others have rejected this chain of tradition as implausible and insist that Plato created an entirely fictional nation as his example, drawing loose inspiration from contemporary events such as the failed Athenian invasion of Sicily in 415–413 BC or the destruction of Helike in 373 BC.Christ myth theory
The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory, Jesus mythicism, or Jesus ahistoricity theory) is the view that "the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology", possessing no "substantial claims to historical fact". Alternatively, in terms given by Bart Ehrman paraphrasing Earl Doherty, "the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity."There are three strands of mythicism, including the view that there may have been a historical Jesus, who lived in a dimly remembered past, and was fused with the mythological Christ of Paul. A second stance is that there was never a historical Jesus, only a mythological character, later historicized in the Gospels. A third view is that no conclusion can be made about a historical Jesus, and if there was one, nothing can be known about him.
Most Christ mythicists follow a threefold argument: they question the reliability of the Pauline epistles and the Gospels to establish the historicity of Jesus; they note the lack of information on Jesus in non-Christian sources from the first and early second centuries; and they argue that early Christianity had syncretistic and mythological origins, as reflected in both the Pauline epistles and the gospels. Therefore, Christianity was not founded on the shared memories of a man, but rather a shared mytheme.
The Christ myth theory is a fringe theory, supported by few tenured or emeritus specialists in biblical criticism or cognate disciplines. It is criticised for its outdated reliance on comparisons between mythologies, and deviates from the mainstream historical view. According to this mainstream view, Paul's letters and the gospels are religious documents which present the early Christian understanding of the life and death of a historical Jesus, who was crucified in the 1st-century Roman province of Judea and subsequently deified, after his early followers had visionary experiences of Jesus' presence, from which they concluded that he had risen from the dead and was exalted to heaven.Creation myth
A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) is a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it. While in popular usage the term myth often refers to false or fanciful stories, members of cultures often ascribe varying degrees of truth to their creation myths. In the society in which it is told, a creation myth is usually regarded as conveying profound truths, metaphorically, symbolically and sometimes in a historical or literal sense. They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths—that is, they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.Creation myths often share a number of features. They often are considered sacred accounts and can be found in nearly all known religious traditions. They are all stories with a plot and characters who are either deities, human-like figures, or animals, who often speak and transform easily. They are often set in a dim and nonspecific past that historian of religion Mircea Eliade termed in illo tempore ('at that time'). Creation myths address questions deeply meaningful to the society that shares them, revealing their central worldview and the framework for the self-identity of the culture and individual in a universal context.Creation myths develop in oral traditions and therefore typically have multiple versions; found throughout human culture, they are the most common form of myth.Etiology
Etiology (; alternatively aetiology or ætiology) is the study of causation, or origination. The word is derived from the Greek αἰτιολογία, aitiología, "giving a reason for" (αἰτία, aitía, "cause"; and -λογία, -logía). More completely, etiology is the study of the causes, origins, or reasons behind the way that things are, or the way they function, or it can refer to the causes themselves. The word is commonly used in medicine, (where it is a branch of medicine studying causes of disease) and in philosophy, but also in physics, psychology, government, geography, spatial analysis, theology, and biology, in reference to the causes or origins of various phenomena.
In the past, when many physical phenomena were not well understood or when histories were not recorded, myths often arose to provide etiologies. Thus, an etiological myth, or origin myth, is a myth that has arisen, been told over time or written to explain the origins of various social or natural phenomena. For example, Virgil's Aeneid is a national myth written to explain and glorify the origins of the Roman Empire. In theology, many religions have creation myths explaining the origins of the world or its relationship to believers.Flood myth
A flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primaeval waters found in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who "represents the human craving for life".The flood myth motif is found among many cultures as seen in the Mesopotamian flood stories, Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrative, Pralaya in Hinduism, the Gun-Yu in Chinese mythology, Bergelmir in Norse mythology, in the lore of the K'iche' and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca, and Cañari Confederation, in South America, Africa, and the Aboriginal tribes in southern Australia.Genesis creation narrative
The Genesis creation narrative is the creation myth of both Judaism and Christianity. The narrative is made up of two stories, roughly equivalent to the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis. In the first, Elohim (the Hebrew generic word for God) creates the heavens and the Earth in six days, then rests on, blesses and sanctifies the seventh. In the second story, God, now referred to by the personal name Yahweh, creates Adam, the first man, from dust and places him in the Garden of Eden, where he is given dominion over the animals. Eve, the first woman, is created from Adam and as his companion.
Borrowing themes from Mesopotamian mythology, but adapting them to the Israelite people's belief in one God, the first major comprehensive draft of the Pentateuch (the series of five books which begins with Genesis and ends with Deuteronomy) was composed in the late 7th or the 6th century BCE (the Jahwist source) and was later expanded by other authors (the Priestly source) into a work very like the one we have today. The two sources can be identified in the creation narrative: Priestly and Jahwistic. The combined narrative is a critique of the Mesopotamian theology of creation: Genesis affirms monotheism and denies polytheism. Robert Alter described the combined narrative as "compelling in its archetypal character, its adaptation of myth to monotheistic ends".Misunderstanding the genre of the Genesis creation narrative, meaning the intention of the author(s) and the culture within which they wrote, can result in a misreading; misreading the story as history rather than theology leads to Creationism and the denial of evolution. As scholar of Jewish studies, Jon D. Levenson, puts it:
How much history lies behind the story of Genesis? Because the action of the primeval story is not represented as taking place on the plane of ordinary human history and has so many affinities with ancient mythology, it is very far-fetched to speak of its narratives as historical at all."Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.The Greek myths were initially propagated in an oral-poetic tradition most likely by Minoan and Mycenaean singers starting in the 18th century BC; eventually the myths of the heroes of the Trojan War and its aftermath became part of the oral tradition of Homer's epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths are also preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians and comedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age, and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.
Aside from this narrative deposit in ancient Greek literature, pictorial representations of gods, heroes, and mythic episodes featured prominently in ancient vase-paintings and the decoration of votive gifts and many other artifacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of Heracles. In the succeeding Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence.Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture, arts, and literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in the themes.Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is a treasure that serves as an important motif in Arthurian literature. Different traditions describe it as a cup, dish or stone with miraculous powers that provide happiness, eternal youth or sustenance in infinite abundance, often in the custody of the Fisher King. The term "holy grail" is often used to denote an elusive object or goal that is sought after for its great significance.A "grail", wondrous but not explicitly holy, first appears in Perceval, le Conte du Graal, an unfinished romance written by Chrétien de Troyes around 1190. Here, Chrétien's story attracted many continuators, translators and interpreters in the later 12th and early 13th centuries, including Wolfram von Eschenbach, who perceived the Grail as a stone. In the late 12th century, Robert de Boron wrote in Joseph d'Arimathie that the Grail was Jesus's vessel from the Last Supper, which Joseph of Arimathea used to catch Christ's blood at the crucifixion. Thereafter, the Holy Grail became interwoven with the legend of the Holy Chalice, the Last Supper cup, a theme continued in works such as the Vulgate Cycle, the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and Le Morte d'Arthur.Icarus
In Greek mythology, Icarus (the Latin spelling, conventionally adopted in English; Ancient Greek: Ἴκαρος, Íkaros, Etruscan: Vikare) is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth. Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus' father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea's dampness would not clog his wings nor the sun's heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father's instructions not to fly too close to the sun; when the wax in his wings melted he tumbled out of the sky and fell into the sea where he drowned, sparking the idiom "don't fly too close to the sun".
This tragic theme of failure at the hands of hubris contains similarities to that of Phaëthon.MythBusters
MythBusters is an Australian-American science entertainment television program created by Peter Rees and produced by Australia's Beyond Television Productions. The series premiered on the Discovery Channel on January 23, 2003. The series was transmitted by numerous international broadcasters, including SBS Australia (first-run episodes, with repeat episodes shown on 7mate Australia), and other Discovery channels worldwide. The show's hosts, special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, used elements of the scientific method to test the validity of rumors, myths, movie scenes, adages, Internet videos, and news stories. The show was one of the most popular on Discovery Channel, being preceded only by How It's Made and Daily Planet, both in Canada. From 2006 to 2016, the show was overseen by British show-runner Dan Tapster, working out of Sydney, San Francisco and Manchester.
Filmed in San Francisco and edited in Artarmon, New South Wales, Australia, MythBusters aired 282 total episodes before its cancellation at the end of its 2016 season in March. Planning and some experimentation took place at Hyneman's workshops in San Francisco; experiments requiring more space or special accommodations were filmed on location, typically around the San Francisco Bay Area and other locations in northern California, going to other states or even countries on occasion when required.
During the second season, members of Savage's and Hyneman's behind-the-scenes team were organized into a second team of MythBusters ("The Build Team"). They generally tested myths separately from the main duo and operated from another workshop. This arrangement continued until August 2014, when it was announced at the end of "Plane Boarding" that Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara would be leaving the show. Savage and Hyneman subsequently hosted the final two seasons alone. On October 21, 2015, it was announced that MythBusters would air its 14th and final season in 2016. The show aired its final episode on March 6, 2016.
On November 15, 2017, sister network Science Channel revived the series with the new hosts Jon Lung and Brian Louden, who were selected via the competition spin-off MythBusters: The Search. It is now filmed in Santa Clarita and on location in other parts of southern California.
MythBusters refers to both the name of the program and the cast members who test the experiments.Norse mythology
Norse mythology is the body of myths of the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition.
The source texts mention numerous gods, such as the hammer-wielding, humanity-protecting thunder-god Thor, who relentlessly fights his foes; the one-eyed, raven-flanked god Odin, who craftily pursues knowledge throughout the worlds and bestowed among humanity the runic alphabet; the beautiful, seiðr-working, feathered cloak-clad goddess Freya who rides to battle to choose among the slain; the vengeful, skiing goddess Skaði, who prefers the wolf howls of the winter mountains to the seashore; the powerful god Njörð, who may calm both sea and fire and grant wealth and land; the god Frey, whose weather and farming associations bring peace and pleasure to humanity; the goddess Iðunn, who keeps apples that grant eternal youthfulness; the mysterious god Heimdall, who is born of nine mothers, can hear grass grow, has gold teeth, and possesses a resounding horn; the jötunn Loki, who brings tragedy to the gods by engineering the death of the goddess Frigg's beautiful son Baldr; and numerous other deities.
Most of the surviving mythology centres on the plights of the gods and their interaction with various other beings, such as humanity and the jötnar, beings who may be friends, lovers, foes or family members of the gods. The cosmos in Norse mythology consists of Nine Worlds that flank a central tree, Yggdrasil. Units of time and elements of the cosmology are personified as deities or beings. Various forms of a creation myth are recounted, where the world is created from the flesh of the primordial being Ymir, and the first two humans are Ask and Embla. These worlds are foretold to be reborn after the events of Ragnarök when an immense battle occurs between the gods and their enemies, and the world is enveloped in flames, only to be reborn anew. There the surviving gods will meet, and the land will be fertile and green, and two humans will repopulate the world.
Norse mythology has been the subject of scholarly discourse since the 17th century, when key texts were brought to the attention of the intellectual circles of Europe. By way of comparative mythology and historical linguistics, scholars have identified elements of Germanic mythology reaching as far back as Proto-Indo-European mythology. During the modern period, the Romanticist Viking revival re-awoke an interest in the subject matter, and references to Norse mythology may now be found throughout modern popular culture. The myths have further been revived in a religious context among adherents of Germanic Neopaganism.Origin myth
An origin myth is a myth that purports to describe the origin of some feature of the natural or social world. One type of origin myth is the cosmogonic myth, which describes the creation of the world. However, many cultures have stories set after the cosmogonic myth, which describe the origin of natural phenomena and human institutions within a preexisting universe.
In Western classical scholarship, the terms etiological myth and aition (from the Ancient Greek αἴτιον, "cause") are sometimes used for a myth that explains an origin, particularly how an object or custom came into existence.Prometheus
In Greek mythology, Prometheus (; Greek: Προμηθεύς, pronounced [promɛːtʰeús], possibly meaning "forethought") is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilisation. Prometheus is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind and also seen as the author of the human arts and sciences generally. He is sometimes presented as the father of Deucalion, the hero of the Greek flood story.
The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft is a major theme of his mythology, and is a popular subject of both ancient and modern art. Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression. The immortal Prometheus was bound to a rock, where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, which would then grow back overnight to be eaten again the next day. (In ancient Greece, the liver was often thought to be the seat of human emotions.) Prometheus is freed at last by the hero Heracles (Hercules).
In another myth, Prometheus establishes the form of animal sacrifice practiced in ancient Greek religion. Evidence of a cult to Prometheus himself is not widespread. He was a focus of religious activity mainly at Athens, where he was linked to Athena and Hephaestus, other Greek deities of creative skills and technology.In the Western classical tradition, Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowledge, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences. In particular, he was regarded in the Romantic era as embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy: Mary Shelley, for instance, gave The Modern Prometheus as the subtitle to her novel Frankenstein (1818).Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. "Roman mythology" may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period.
The Romans usually treated their traditional narratives as historical, even when these have miraculous or supernatural elements. The stories are often concerned with politics and morality, and how an individual's personal integrity relates to his or her responsibility to the community or Roman state. Heroism was an important theme. When the stories illuminate Roman religious practices, they are more concerned with ritual, augury, and institutions than with theology or cosmogony.The study of Roman religion and myth is complicated by the early influence of Greek religion on the Italian peninsula during Rome's protohistory, and by the later artistic imitation of Greek literary models by Roman authors. In matters of theology, the Romans were curiously eager to identify their own gods with those of the Greeks (interpretatio graeca), and to reinterpret stories about Greek deities under the names of their Roman counterparts. Rome's early myths and legends also have a dynamic relationship with Etruscan religion, less documented than that of the Greeks.
While Roman mythology may lack a body of divine narratives as extensive as that found in Greek literature, Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf is as famous as any image from Greek mythology except for the Trojan Horse. Because Latin literature was more widely known in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, the interpretations of Greek myths by the Romans often had a greater influence on narrative and pictorial representations of "classical mythology" than Greek sources. In particular, the versions of Greek myths in Ovid's Metamorphoses, written during the reign of Augustus, came to be regarded as canonical.Romulus and Remus
In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus () are twin brothers, whose story tells the events that led to the founding of the city of Rome and the Roman Kingdom by Romulus. The killing of Remus by his brother, and other tales from their story, have inspired artists throughout the ages. Since ancient times, the image of the twins being suckled by a she-wolf has been a symbol of the city of Rome and the Roman people. Although the tale takes place before the founding of Rome around 750 BC, the earliest known written account of the myth is from the late 3rd century BC. Possible historical basis for the story, as well as whether the twins' myth was an original part of Roman myth or a later development, is a subject of ongoing debate.Uranus (mythology)
Uranus (; Ancient Greek Οὐρανός, Ouranos [oːranós] meaning "sky" or "heaven") was the primal Greek god personifying the sky and one of the Greek primordial deities. Uranus is associated with the Roman god Caelus. In Ancient Greek literature, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth. According to Hesiod's Theogony, Uranus was conceived by Gaia alone, but other sources cite Aether as his father. Uranus and Gaia were the parents of the first generation of Titans, and the ancestors of most of the Greek gods, but no cult addressed directly to Uranus survived into Classical times, and Uranus does not appear among the usual themes of Greek painted pottery. Elemental Earth, Sky, and Styx might be joined, however, in a solemn invocation in Homeric epic.Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend is a modern genre of folklore. It usually consists of fictional stories, often presented as true, with macabre or humorous elements, rooted in local popular culture. These legends can be used for entertainment purposes, as well as semi-serious explanations for random events such as disappearances and strange objects.
Urban legends are spread by any media, including newspapers, e-mail and social media. Some urban legends have passed through the years with only minor changes to suit regional variations. More recent legends tend to reflect modern circumstances, like the story of people ambushed and anesthetized, who awaken minus one kidney, which was supposedly surgically removed for transplantation.Urban Legends are commonly told and used in folklore and tend to play on the fears and emotions of people. Urban Legends are used to contribute to the fears of society creating anxiety and even adding to the prejudice of a society. Urban legends are also referred to as Contemporary legends.
Folklore genres, types, and subtypes
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