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What do myths reveal about the values of ancient Greek society?
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By and large, Hamilton is not necessarily concerned with Greek myths as windows to Greek culture, and she believes that many of the Roman writers who translated Greek myths did not take them seriously at all as religious texts or stories. Yet she still believes that they reflect something about the Greek worldview. In the Introduction to Mythology, Hamilton suggests that the "Greeks made their gods in their own image," an inversion of a Judeo-Christian belief that is intended to suggest that we can learn much about Greek values from studying their mythology. Ultimately, Hamilton believes Greek civilization to be superior to that of other contemporary cultures, many of which she views to be "savage" and unenlightened. So where other cultures (including, she seems to suggest, early Christians) lived under the "paralyzing fear of an omnipotent Unknown," Greeks imagined their deities as both beautiful and flawed, noble and capricious, just like humans themselves. "The early Greek mythologists transformed a world full of fear into a world full of beauty," Hamilton argues, and this reflects a deep sense of humanism and even reason among the ancient Greeks.
Source: Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (New York: Mentor Books, 1969) 13-23.
Posted by rrteacher on March 2, 2013 at 7:57 PM (Answer #1)
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