The Origins Of Ancient Greek Creation Mythology
Since the beginning of humankind, there has been the pressing need to understand the reasons why humans were created. What purpose do humans serve? Each ancient and modern culture hold their own stories, some of which build on top of older tales. The ancient Greeks were no exception. Layering on events and beliefs that originated during the Mediterranean Bronze Age, bards such as Homer and Hesiod preserved a tradition of the creation of mankind. Typically, when one thinks of ancient Greek creation, the first thing that comes to mind is what is taught to Greek children at school, that is, 12 Olympian deities lived and ruled from Mount Olympus. Zeus was the leader of the pantheon and wielded the thunderbolt, Poseidon ruled the seas and Hades, the Underworld. The gods created mortals and the demigods to worship them. And during the Age of Heroes, these mortals went on fantastical voyages killing gorgons, avoided being eaten by the cyclopes, were enchanted by witches and endured so many more adventures, to tantalize the imagination of any child. However, setting imagination aside, spanning centuries, there was a cross-pollination of cultural traditions among the Mediterranean and Anatolian cultures, woven into the tapestry of the creation mythology of the Greeks.
Prometheus brings fire to mankind. (Public Domain)
The Golden Age Of The Mycenaeans
The earliest period to date Greek culture and cult is the Late Bronze Age period. The Greeks of the time are referred to as Mycenaeans (named after the citadel, Mycenae in the Peloponnese) and they spoke an early form of the Greek language. At their zenith, between the 15th - 12th centuries BC, they both occupied and maintained control of the entire Aegean. The Mycenaeans overpowered the weakened Minoan civilization in the same region. It is generally believed that the Minoans were weakened by the devastation brought on by the volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini or Thera in the 16th century BC. Mycenaean-ware (pottery, art, jewelry, wines, perfumes, olive oil, weaponry) was widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean and exported goods have been archaeologically discovered in Anatolia (Turkey), Megiddo (Israel), Egypt to as far east as Babylon (Iraq) in Mesopotamia. It was a time of prosperity for the Mycenaeans: the Golden Age or Golden Era, which lasted a few centuries.
Mycenaean Linear B tablets (CC BY-SA 2.5)
The Mycenaeans had a writing system, adopting the one used by the Minoans before them. It needs to be clarified that while the Minoans inhabited and ruled the Aegean prior to the Mycenaeans, they did not speak an ancient form of Greek.
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By profession, Petros Koutoupis is a software developer and an entrepreneur. He is fluent in the language of Greek, and has been a self-taught student of Septuagintal Greek and Biblical Hebrew; with additional knowledge in Aramaic, Ugaritic, and Akkadian grammar. His recent work focuses predominantly on the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Eastern Mediterranean, leading to a quest to unravel the mysteries of our history.
Top Image: Zeus rebuked by Aphrodite by Abraham Janssens I (1612) Art Institute of Chicago (Public Domain)
By: Petros Koutoupis