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Greek Beginnings

Bronze Age Aegean (30001150 B.C.)

Mycenaean Greece

Minoan Crete

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2a. Context and Origins

4. Greek Beginnings

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The Greek Dark Age (1100750 B.C.)


The collapse of Bronze Age Greece ushered in a confusing period of myth and legend

Invasions brought new peoples such as the Dorians into Greece who used iron Few material remains outside of pottery

Modern scholars are largely in the dark about what happened in this period!

Literacy and palace culture were lost with collapse of Mycenaean Civilization Oral poetry preserved myths and stories for later ages

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2a. Context and Origins

Archaic Greece (c. 750500 B.C.)

The age of Old (i.e., pre-Classical) Greece saw the rise of distinctive aspects of Greek culture

The city-state system, political developments, Greek writing and literature, foundation of Greek art, and Greek religion Homer and Hesiod are traditionally dated about the time of the shift from the Dark Ages to the Archaic Period

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4. Greek Beginnings

4. Greek Beginnings

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Greek Religion and Oral Poetry

In a period without a written literature, the great stories of the past were preserved in the Dark Ages through oral poetry

Homers epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey Both their innate greatness and the advent of writing in the Archaic Period allowed the preservation of the Homeric epics the gods and goddesses became major characters of the oral tradition Because of geographical divisions, these stories varied from region to region, and new incoming peoples brought new gods with them Hesiods Theogony or Birth of the Gods was a successful attempt in Theogony, Gods, the early Archaic Period to systematize and set the Greek pantheon

Greek religion was systematized in the Dark ages


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2a. Context and Origins

Greek Myths of Creation

Influences on the Greek view of the universe:

Mediterranean Minoan

Focus: fertility, earth-mother goddesses Focus: sky-father gods

Indo-European Mycenaean

Near Eastern throughout Bronze Age and again with early Archaic; succession myths

Difficult to reconstruct what the Minoan, Mycenaean, and Dorian t i D i stories were since no cosmogony prior t i i to Hesiods survives We do, however, have Near Eastern texts

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3a. Mythical Beginnings

4. Greek Beginnings

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Hesiods Background

Late eight century B.C. (roughly 750700 B.C.) Younger contemporary of the epic poet Homer Father f F th from Kyme in Aiolis, settled i mainland village of A k K i Ai li ttl d in i l d ill f Askra Rivalry with brother Perses over fathers inheritance Becomes a shepherd Askra was near Mount Helicon, the sacred mountain of the Muses Daughters of Memnosyne (Memory) and Zeus Called Hesiod by appearing to him on Helicon, giving him a laurel staff, and teaching him a beautiful song Won a poetic competition at the funeral games of Amphidamas of Chalkis Presumably the poem was Theogony Dedicated his prized, a tripod, to the Muses at the site where they called him
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Succession Myth

Hesiods Theogony organized the growing pantheon through a succession myth, a device known from Near Eastern mythology th l Son replaced father, often violently, in a generational scheme

Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky) gave birth to Titans The Titan Kronos castrated and overthrew his father Kronos swallowed his children as his wife Rhea gave birth to each Zeus escaped through a trick saved siblings trick, Zeus and allies overthrew Titans Zeus emerged as the paramount and permanent leader

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3a. Mythical Beginnings

4. Greek Beginnings

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Kronos Swallowing his Children

Francisco de Goya, Saturn Devouring his Son, Prado, Madrid

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3a. Mythical Beginnings

Genealogies in Theogony

The Theogony is a genealogical table in verse, interrupted (and relieved) by expansions and digressions Caldwell, 317, C ld ll 3 17 provides several h l f l genealogical charts ( d id l helpful l i l h t (and many overly complex ones!)

From Caldwell, Hesiods Theogony, 4 9/9/2009 3a. Mythical Beginnings 10

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Structure of the Theogony

Three sections, each beginning with an invocation to the Muses Background of Hesiods Call (lines 135) Description of Patronesses (the Muses, 36103) How the Gods Came to Be (lines 1041022)

After the initial cosmogony and history, the story is gy increasingly focused on Zeus

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Narrative/Dramatic Chiasmus

Intro Genealogy of Earth Birth of Kronos Genealogy of Night Birth of Zeus PROMETHEUS CENTERPIECE Battle of Titans Tartaros T t Typhoeus Children of Zeus
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Narr. Dram. Narr. Dram. Dram. Narr. N Dram. Narr.


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Important Passages to Note


Theme, lines 44-49 Third Invocation and Reintroduction of the Theme, lines 108 110, 115 108-110, Primordial Powers, lines 116-122 The Dethroning of Ouranos, lines 176-200 Birth of Olympian Gods, lines 453-458 Titanomochy, lines 664-720 The Defeat of Typhoeus, lines 820-868 Early Marriages of Zeus, lines 886-929

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4. Greek Beginnings