Origins of Greek Mythology for Term Paper

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Mycenaean Greece's relationship to Crete during the two centuries between 1600 and 1400 B.C. is complex, as both civilizations competed for control of the Mediterranean Sea. "To judge from the known tablets, there appear to have been a number of distinct kingdoms within Mycenaean Greece, all of which seem to have been independent" (Stanley 277). Following the destruction of Knossos in or about 1400 B.C., supremacy was given to the Myceneaens, and the Minoan culture and tradition dominated the mainland (Taylour 1964 57).

In Mycenaean culture chaos reigned while Cronus fought his offspring. In mainland Greece and its environs, political chaos appeared to reign, finally resulting in one powerful, unified group who agreed that the son of Cronus, Zeus, should rule the pantheon ("Uranus" Encyclopedia Mythica). At last, Greek dominance over the lands, and thus over the religion, seems to have stopped the creation of creation stories some time during the 13th century, B.C. according to dating of the writing system of Linear B. tablets (Ventris 1973: 42).

In the cosmogony of Mesopotamia, the god, Enki, who lived underwater, created the limited human to serve the gods and goddesses during their short lives. This underwater god, Enki, may have also been the original of the god Poseidon, ruler of the seas. Also, as in Mycenae, the Minotaur existed in Sumerian cosmology. Ishtar, the morning and evening star, was the goddess of love and war (Venus) and in her Sumerian personification is shown holding weapons, with her foot on the head of a

Above: In one depiction from Mesopotamia, an unknown goddess, probably Ishtar, is shown with birds' feet, standing on two lions, holding symbols that resemble the Greek "Alpha" in her hands, with the drooping wings representing holiness, flanked by two owls. In many ways she reminds one of the fearless Greek goddess, Athena, whose symbol was the owl.

The goddess Lama, considered the protector of Sumerian individuals, is familiar in Mycenaean culture as the goddess in the tiered skirt shown leading humans into the presence of other gods and goddesses. At (h)anapotnia is her name in Knossos. In Knossos she is shown with snakes in her fists, who presence denotes the their rule over the earth. She is known as Athena in Delphi, according to scholars such as L. Godart and J. Chadwick, experts in analysis of ancient documents, who substantiate the similarity of their names.

The classical Greeks, as scholars came to know them through their writings, professed faith in their pantheon of gods and goddesses, whose characteristics are strikingly similar to the chief gods and goddesses of ancient Sumer, Akkad and Babylonia. Zeus is the son of Cronus, whose origin may have been in Bel, who created order out of chaos and peopled it with humans. Ishtar or Lama may have become Athena or Demeter or both, being the symbol of earth, yet a fighter with owls at her side. Enki the god of the seas in both cultures, became Poseidon to the Greeks. Given more time and space, one could expound more fully on other similarities among the Greek gods, Apollo, Zeus, Hephaestus, Ares, Poseidon, Hermes, Hestia, Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, and Athena, and the ancient gods of the Mesopotamian lands.

Much of Greeks cosmogony appears to have come from the Fertile Crescent, made up of the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates, a cosmogony which continued to evolve as the ages progressed, even until much later, as trade and other intercourse continued between the lands of the Fertile Crescent and the Greeks. Throughout history, through migrations of peoples, influences of the religions, through wars and more friendly mutual associations between these countries, they have each profoundly influenced the other.


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Drury, Nevil. Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult. San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1985.

Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 1979.

Homer (ed. Butler, Samuel). The Illiad. With an English Translation by a.T. Murray. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.

Stanley, Phillip V. "KN Uc 160 and Mycenaean Wines" American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 86(4) Oct 1982, pp. 577-578.

Taylour, Lord William. The Mycenaeans. London. 1964.

Uranus." Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online. [Accessed March 25, 2008].

Ventris, M. And Chadwick, J. Documents in Mycenaean Greek. (2nd edition) Boston,…

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