What Is Mythology?

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user1450001's profile pic

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Henry David Thoreau said (in his deep poetic language) - "Mythology is the crop which the Old World bore before its soil was exhausted, before the fancy and imagination were affected with blight."

user1450001's profile pic

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Henry David Thoreau said- "Mythology is the crop which the Old World bore before its soil was exhausted, before the fancy and imagination were affected with blight."

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The word "myth" comes from the Greek word mythos, which means a spoken or written story. The purpose of a myth is to explain human experience. Many events in a myth are not realistic or based on fact, since the message communicated by the story is more important than telling about an actual event. Because all groups of people have myths, and often myths are associated with religion, the stories have been passed down through the ages to become the basis of a society. A collection of myths is called a "mythology." People study mythology because the stories provide a way of understanding ancient cultures.

Ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Aztecs, and Mayas, created myths to explain many aspects of life: how they came into existence as a people; the reasons for good and evil; the seasons; the weather; and the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. Because science as a mode of inquiring about the natural world did not yet exist, ancient peoples used myths to explain the natural world. For example, the Greeks worshiped Zeus as the supreme ruler of the universe. He was believed to rule from a court on Mount Olympus, which was inhabited by other deities, including Demeter (goddess of the harvest) and Hestia (goddess of the home). Hercules, the son of Zeus, was known for his feats of strength, especially the twelve labors thrust upon him.

Further Information: Bellingham, David. "What Is a Myth?" Goddesses, Heroes, and Shamans: A Young People's Guide to World Mythology. New York: Kingfisher, 1994, pp. 7–13; Nardo, Don. Greek and Roman Mythology. San Diego: Lucent, 1998.

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