The Origin of Greek Mythology

The origin of Greek mythology remains an open question. Herodotus suggested that the Greek gods had been 'stolen' from the Egyptians.

By Balthazar Malevolent

The Origin of Greek Mythology

Sigmund Freud put forward the idea that symbolic communication depends not only on cultural history but also on the workings of the psyche. Freud thus presented a transhistorical and biological conception of man and a view of myth as an expression of repressed ideas. The interpretation of dreams is at the core of the interpretation of Freudian myth, and Freud's conception of dream work recognises the importance of contextual relationships in interpreting any single element in a dream. This assumption could find an important point of convergence between structuralist and psychoanalytic approaches to myth in Freudian thought.

Carl Jung extended the transhistorical, psychological approach with his theory of the "collective unconscious" and the archetypes (inherited "archaic" patterns) often encoded in the myths that emerge from it. According to Jung, myth-forming structural elements must be present in the unconscious psyche. Comparing Jung's methodology with Campbell's theory, Segal concludes that to interpret myth Campbell simply identifies archetypes in it. The Odyssey, for example, will show how Odysseus' life corresponds to a heroic pattern. Jung, on the other hand, considers the identification of archetypes to be only the first step in interpreting myth. For Jung, myth concerns the human mind and must be read symbolically. Karl Kerenyi, one of the founders of modern studies of Greek mythology, abandoned his earlier views on myth in order to apply Jung's archetype theories to Greek myth.

The origin of Greek mythology remains an open question. Herodotus suggested that the Greek gods had been 'stolen' from the Egyptians. Later Christian writers tried to explain Hellenic paganism through the degeneration of Biblical religion. According to scripture theory, all mythological legends (including Greek mythology) derive from scripture narratives, although the real facts have been disguised and altered. Thus Deucalion is another name for Noah, Hercules for Samson, Arion for Jonah and so on. According to the Historical Theory, all the persons mentioned in the mythology were once real people, and the legends relating to them are only additions of later times. Thus, the story of Aeolus presumably originated because Aeolus was the ruler of some islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The allegorical theory suggests that all ancient myths were allegorical and symbolic. According to the Physical theory, the elements of air, fire and water were originally objects of religious adoration and the main deities were personifications of the forces of nature.

Rubens - The Fall of Phaeton
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