Mythology For Dummies
Many cultures create a mythology to help explain the workings of the world. Western civilization is most familiar with the gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman mythology, who have comparable powers, but different names. And, mythology is created often in response to human history, so a historical timeline can be a good reference to have.
Gods and Goddesses of Greek and Roman Mythology
The predominant mythologies handed down through the ages are those of the Greeks and Romans. The mythology of each culture includes gods and goddesses who interacted with humans, with good, bad, and indifferent motives. Each culture ascribed to deities with comparable powers and spheres of influence, and the following table shows those areas and the names of the important deities in each mythology:
|Greek Name||Roman Name||Description|
|Zeus||Jupiter||King of Gods|
|Hera||Juno||Goddess of Marriage|
|Poseidon||Neptune||God of the Sea|
|Cronos||Saturn||Youngest son of Uranus, Father of Zeus|
|Aphrodite||Venus||Goddess of Love|
|Hades||Pluto||God of the Underworld|
|Hephaistos||Vulcan||God of the Forge|
|Demeter||Ceres||Goddess of the Harvest|
|Apollo||Apollo||God of Music and Medicine|
|Athena||Minerva||Goddess of Wisdom|
|Artemis||Diana||Goddess of the Hunt|
|Ares||Mars||God of War|
|Hermes||Mercury||Messenger of the Gods|
|Dionysus||Bacchus||God of Wine|
|Persephone||Proserpine||Goddess of Underworld|
|Eros||Cupid||God of Love|
|Gaia||Gaea||Goddess of Earth|
A Timeline of World Civilizations for Mythology
Mythology seeks to explain the world and thus reflects the culture, events, and history of the societies that create the stories handed down as myths. Egypt’s Nile River and its cycle of overflowing its banks leaving fertile ground as it receded became the basis for Egyptian religion that demanded that the people help the gods prevent anything from interfering with the cycle.
Myths form around the founding of cities, including Athens and Rome — about 10,000 to 2,500 years ago, respectively — and the founding of civilizations, including the creation myths passed down in virtually every culture.
Chinese and Native American myths account for astrological occurrences as well as for more earth-bound events such as the Toltec invasion of the Mexican city of Teotihuacan in 900 CE. The myth of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, grew from this victory.
Famous poems, such as Beowulf and the Saga of the Volsungs are combinations of history and legend. The stories of the mythical Br’er Rabbit, who won every encounter despite his subservient position, inspired hope in African-American slaves in the Civil War era.
And don’t assume that all the myths are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. The mythical city of Brigadoon, a Scottish village that appears once every hundred years was essentially the invention of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe who wrote a play in 1947.
The following table offers historical highlights from 3,000 years before the common era to the eve of the 20th century.
|3300-1900||Beginning of Sumerian Civilization||31 BCE-476 CE||Roman Empire|
|2550-2150||Old Kingdom, Egypt||150 -750||Teotihuacan: Central America|
|1980-1640||Middle Kingdom, Egypt||27-30||Jesus of Nazareth preaches reforms in Palestine and is executed by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.|
|1792-1750||Hammurabi’s reign, height of Babylonian Empire||35-62||Paul, a Diaspora Jew, founds a series of churches in Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. Christianity separates from Judaism.|
|1600-1100||Greek Bronze Age||400-499||Historical King Arthur might have lived|
|1540-1070||New Kingdom, Egypt||250-900||Maya: Central America|
|1500-400||Olmec; Central America||570–632||The Prophet Mohammed writes the Qur’an and founds the religion of Islam.|
|1500||Aryans invade India; start of Vedic Age||632–750||Islam spreads to the Near East, North Africa, Spain, and France.|
|1250||Moses leads Israelite slaves from Egypt, establishes worship of Yahweh at Mt. Sinai (formerly sacred to the moon god Sin)||700-1000||Age of Vikings|
|1200-1000||Earliest Hindu Literature, the Rigveda||900-1180||Toltec: Central America|
|1100||Trojan War||1000-1300||Apache and Navajo Indians move to Southwestern United States|
|800-700||Age of Homer||1250||End of Anasazi culture, North America|
|776||First Olympic Games in Greece, in honor of Zeus||1325-1521||Aztec empire: Central America|
|753||Founding of Rome||1438-1532||Inca empire: South America|
|600-400||Age of Athenian Democracy||1492||Christopher Columbus lands in North America|
|599-500||Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism, active in China||1600-1700||North American Plains Indians incorporate horses|
|551-479||Confucius||1800-1899||North American Indians in United States mostly displaced by Europeans|
|563||Birth of Gautama (founder of Buddhism)|
|540||Birth of Vardhamana (founder of Jainism)|
|365-323||Alexander the Great|