Summary Class notes - Ancient Mythology

- Ancient Mythology
- Dr. Klooster & Prof. Nauta
- 2017 - 2018
- Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Groningen)
- English Language and Culture
248 Flashcards & Notes
1 Students
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Summary - Class notes - Ancient Mythology

  • 1518044400 Introduction

  • What are the origins of the word "history"?
    The word ("historia") was originally used by Herodotus and it meant "enquiry" rather than its modern meaning. This was because Herodotus was one of the first historians, who wrote about events that happened shortly before he was born, and his way of acquiring the details of what happened consisted of asking actual elderly witnesses about what they had seen.
  • Who was Thuryceides?
    A historian who wrote about the Peloponesian War, which took place during his lifetime.
  • Why don't we know a lot about the Trojan Wars?
    These happened before any real historians existed; only poets wrote about this time period, and their poems were typically a mixture of history and mythology (they included gods). While they treated the Trojan Wars as a fact, we don't know where they got their evidence from or how much they actually changed (because poets exaggerated a lot).
  • What does the Greek word "mythos" mean?
    Story. The word has nothing to do with gods, or with when the story was set.
  • In what way are myths and the Greek poets connected?
    The Greek poets lived in a time of oral tradition. They could only know what they had heard, which they then sung about. In other words, the tales kept changing as the poets embellished them. This is why different poets told different versions of the same tale/poem. However, after the advent of writing, these poems got written down, resulting in a broad variety of myths (and even by then, poets still had the freedom to change whatever details they wanted).
  • What is the relationship between gods, heroes and myths?
    Myths don't always have to be about gods and heroes, but tales about gods and heroes are per definition myths. However, often humans still play an important role, as they were present during all of these events (if they are about actualhistory).
  • How are Helen of Troy and ritual related?
    Helen was originally honoured as a goddess in Sparta, where she was the wife of Menelaos. In many tales, she had many suitors who wanted to abduct her to make her their wife, and then Menelaos would steal her in return from those suitors. This had very little to do with Troy; she was a godlike figure. However, because of this, she became part of the story about Troy and who she originally was was forgotten about. This story can actually be found all over the Indo-European world, with the beautiful, goddess-like wife.
  • Why can Greek mythology e considered a network of myths?
    Because Greece originally consisted of many different kingdoms, each with their own religions and their own stories, each connected to their own regions. However, Greece was very polycentric, and different city states were in contact with one another, which led to the exchange of these stories. The tale about Troy is a clear example of this, as most of its heroes are actually localised heroes from other tales.
  • Who are the wandering heroes?
    These are heroes who had to return home after a war and then had to overcome many other troubles and adventures before actually reaching their destination. The Odyssey is an example of this. Many of them founded new cities, such as Aeneas (ancestor to the Romans). These stories actually serve as a means of showing off Greek colonisation.
  • How are Aeneas and Romulus and Remus connected in Roman mythology?
    In Greek mythology, Aeneas travelled all across the Mediterrean Sea until he founded Rome. In Roman mythology, the twins Romulus and Remus were born to Rhea Silva and Mars, and then abandoned and raised by a wolf until they were strong enough to found Rome. This was a far newer and actually localised story, yet, to connect it to the network of stories, Aeneas was first made their father and later their ancestor (to let the story make more sense).
  • How did most of Roman mythology come into existence?
    As Rome started to grow and produce more literature, the literature started to focus more on Rome itself. Other localised stories from within the area that had been occupied by Rome were taken over and slightly changed to make them make more sense. For this reason, Romulus and Remus were added to the Greek tale about Aeneas, which first had nothing to do with them.
  • What is the link between Roman and Greek gods?
    Originally, both religions were very different, but people saw links between the gods and started using both Greek and Roman names for the same god. Soon, these Greek stories about Greek gods turned into Roman stories about the same gods, but with different names (although names could be used interchangably).
  • What are the three chronological groups of Greek poets?
    1. The "Old" poets, before the advent of writing: Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey, or the "Epic Cycle" about Troy.
    2. The tragedians from Athens, like the stories about Oedipus and Medea.
    3. The "New" poets, after the Greek world had been conquered by Alexander (the story about the Argonauts, although this also featured Medea).
  • What can be said about the poets from the Roman world?
    They can all be called "New" poets and they knew all about Homer and the Hellenistic poems. They just put their own twists to them.
    - Virgil's Aeneid
    Ovid's Metamorphoses
    Seneca's twists on Greek tragedies
  • From which three sources do we know about Greek and Roman mythology?
    1. The poets themselves
    2. Pictorial representations, like on altars and walls (murals)
    3. Scholarships and handbooks, some of which containing annotations by the original poets.
  • What are the two definitions of Classical mythology?
    1. The network of myths by itself.
    2. The study of these myths (either criticisms or allegorical interpretations).
  • Who criticised the Greek myths?
    - They were immediately criticized by historians.
    - Philosophers like Plato did not believe them (because of the gods)
    - The Christians did not agree with them, because of their God
    - The Enlightenment Rationalists could not agree with them, because they were too unlikely
  • What can be said about allegorical interpretations of myths?
    Allegoreses (allegoric interpretations) almost immediately came into existence at the same time as the myths, because the Greeks used hyponoia (information under the surface level) a lot. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, these were also used to explain the presence of these heathen gods. Freud and Jung saw deeper psychological meanings in them (Oedipus complex).
  • What did Plato have to do with myths?
    He was a philosopher who used allegories to explain his philosophical thoughts, so he wrote his own myths to support his thinking.
  • Why do myths always keep being retold?
    Because they are "bon à penser" (good to think with) because of their allegorical meanings, and that's also why they keep being adapted (to fit a modern contemporary public).
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What is the main point of Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers?
That mythology exists to be satirised, and that the gods control mythology to control what the people think of them. They don't care about morality, but about Public Opinion. This was all about society.
Why was Gluck's version of Orfeo ed Euridice very popular in the 19th century?
Because it contained lots of songs and dances.
What was Gluck's version of Orfeo ed Euridice about?
- The story starts with Orfeo at Euridice's grave, without any mention of Aristeo. In this version of the tale, Euridice gets angry at Orfeo for not looking at her, but when he does look, they are reunited by Amore (Love) to live happily ever after. This was also written for a festival, so it is a happy tale.
Although Orfeo, Euridce and Amore are the only real characters, there are many background dancers such as satyrs and nymphs.
Who as Christoph Willibald von Gluck?
He lived in the 18th century in Bohemia, worked in Vienna/Paris and was the creator of the "reform opera". He didn't like the enormous amount of singing in opera seria, as it came at the cost of dramatic consistency. The first opera he wrote still had Orpheus as theme, though, and was meant to refer back to Monteverdi. Orpheus was still the embodiment of song and emotion.
What are the two used endings of Monteverdi's Orfeo?
1. Originally, a chorus of Bacchantes sings a drinking song and does not kill Orpheus. Fitting, because this play was performed during Carnival and was not supposed to be very dark.
2. As published two years later, Apollo takes Orpheus to the stars to be reunited with Euridice in a happy ending. This is also the catasterismos of Orpheus turning into the constellation Lyre.
What is the big difference between Monteverdi's Orfeo and the Euridice?
In the Orfeo, Orpheus does not sing to Proserpina and Pluto but to the boatman Charon, who falls asleep.
Who was Claudio Monteverdi?
A music director at the court of Mantua. He wrote sacred music, madrigals (worldy, solo songs) and operas, with topics from ancient mythology.
Why was the opera Euridice, performed in 1600, so important?
Because it was performed for the marriage between Maria de Medici and Henry IV.
How was opera first created?
At the end of the 16th century in Florence, it was mistakenly thought that the dialogues in Greek and Roman theatre were sung entirely. This was basically called "singing speaking"/stile rapprasentativo. These dialogues soon turned into grand plays, that were performed at big festivals.
What is the role of song in Poliziano's play?
- Everyone is a shepherd, and like in pastoral plays, the shepherds typically sing.
- Orpheus sings because he is the singer and his song is what persuades Proserpina and Pluto.
- The Bacchantes sing when they kill Orfeo.