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Edith Hamilton Mythology Essays

Hamilton’s approach in Mythology is to view Greek, Roman, and Norse myths as they appeared in poetry rather than in folklore. Unlike other scholars who have attempted to reconstruct lost oral traditions, Hamilton was interested in mythology solely because of its effect on ancient literature. She believed that the original oral form of most legends was unrecoverable and, in any case, would be less interesting than the later literary treatments of these stories. Because of this view, Hamilton avoided speculation about the role that myths played in Greek religion or their importance in justifying social customs. She regarded myths as little more than attempts to explain the natural world and to attribute human emotions to the gods and physical universe.

On those rare occasions when Hamilton does discuss the origin of a myth, however, her approach tends to be purely rational. For example, she suggests that Zeus was said to have had numerous love affairs because he was a composite of many local deities: As the primitive gods of various regions began to be merged into a single “supreme god,” their spouses and consorts were recast in mythology as Zeus’ many lovers. Similarly, Hamilton views the tragic death of Hyacinthus, with its description of the youth’s blood spattered over the ground, as an attempt to justify an ancient rite of human sacrifice. For most myths, however, Hamilton omits even these brief interpretations. She prefers merely to tell the stories and to allow readers to draw their own conclusions about why they are important.

Mythology was first published in 1942, and, probably as a result of that period’s social values, it presents a largely sanitized version of ancient legends. For example, myths that included homosexuals as major characters were rewritten by Hamilton so that the sexual nature of the myths was obscured. Thus, unlike Ovid’s Narcissus, who falls in love with “a handsome young man” whom he believes to live beneath the water of a pond, Hamilton’s Narcissus is immediately aware that the reflection is his own. In...

(The entire section is 862 words.)

Detailed Summary on Greek Mythology by Edith Hamilton Essay

7051 WordsSep 20th, 200629 Pages

ENTRY I
Part I – Section I
I-THE GODS
The Greeks believed that the Earth was here before the gods; the gods did not create the universe, instead the universe made the gods. So the heaven and earth were the first parents, after them came the titans, and following them came the gods and goddesses. The titans were known to be big and of great strength. The one titan who over-ruled the rest was Cornus, also known as Saturn. He reigned until Zeus- his son dethroned him. Zeus was amongst the twelve Olympians, the other eleven included his two brothers: Poseidon, and Hades, their sister: Hestia, Hera, Ares, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite, Hermes, Artemis, And Hephaestus. Much of the myths that include these characters have been set up in the…show more content…

And it was curiosity that led her to open a boxful of plagues and dangerous substances that each god had placed in it, but had told her not to open. Moreover, one last account, tells us that Zeus sent a great deluge over the Earth because the men grew wicked
ENTRY III
Part II, Sections I & II
CUPID AND PSYCHE,8 BREIF TALES OF LOVERS
Psyche was the youngest of three daughters born to a king. Between the three of them, she surpassed both her sisters in beauty. Psyche was even compared to Venus. Many things that once belonged to the goddess were given to her - a simple mortal. Venus was mad, and sent her son, cupid to make her fall for the ugliest, most despicable creature on earth; but before he could do that, he fell in love with her. Cupid had told Apollo the situation, and when Psyche's father went to go seek the oracle because no husband was found for his beautiful daughter, Apollo told him that she had to wait on a hilltop and, there a winged serpent would make her his. So she wept and with sorrow she waited at the top of the hill, while doing so, she felt like she was suspended from the land and taken to a beautiful garden. When she woke up the next day, she heard voiced that spoke to her, yet she saw no one, the voices led her to a beautiful palace, and told her it was all hers. There her unseen husband dwelt. One day he warned her about her sisters and how she should be kept unseen

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