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Sunday, 11 August 2013

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Are myths at odds with science?

Greek and Roman mythology shows us the way the human race thought and felt untold years ago. Through myths we can retrace the path of civilised man who lives far from nature, to those who lived in close companionship with nature. Myths lead us back to a time when the world was young and people had a connection with the earth, trees, seas, flowers and hills. Manís imagination was alive and not checked by education. Myths reflect manís view of that beautiful and animated world.

The primitive man had his own share of fears. Death was imminent at the hand of a wild beast or some unknown disease. His life-span would have been short. But myths show us how he rose above such fears. He did not have the intelligence or the desire to create myths. In fact, myths were the creation of poets. For instance, Greek mythology begins with Homer who lived about 1,000 years before Jesus Christ. Greek myths show us how Greeks lived. With the advent of Greek civilisation mankind became the centre of the universe.

Greek poets created their gods in their own image. Probably, gods were not in existence before they did so. Before the Greeks, Egyptians had their own pantheon of gods. However, Egyptians made the shape of gods deliberately non-human. For instance, among the Egyptian gods and goddesses, we find a goddess with a catís head and a mysterious sphinx aloof from all living beings. Egyptian sculptors were bent on creating gods with birdsí heads or lions with bullsí heads giving rise to a sense of unreality.

Visible world



Roman Goddess Venus

Greek sculptors were preoccupied with the visible world. They were probably influenced by athletes. For instance, Apollo was a god with human features. Thus Greek poets and sculptors created a heaven on earth with handsome and strong gods and goddesses. Although the gods were in human shape Greeks had a reverence for them. They thought gods were very powerful and dangerous when angry.

It is strange but true that through the veneer of reverence, Greeks laughed at gods. They ridiculed Zeus who tried to hide his numerous love affairs from his wife. His wife, Hera, was the typical jealous woman who used many tricks to put her husband to shame and punish her rivals.

One salutary effect of Greek mythology is that it freed the people from the paralysing fear of an all powerful god. While the primitive man worshipped everything he did not understand mountains, rivers, the sun and huge trees. Greeks were rational enough to reject such beliefs. Despite the rationality, Greeks myths remain fantastic.

Supernatural powers

The characters in Greek myths had no supernatural powers. There were no wizards or witches as in fairy tales. Although Circe and Medea were witches, they were women of unsurpassed beauty. On the other hand, Greeks did not believe that stars influenced their lives. However, they believed in astronomy which yielded a wealth of knowledge. According to certain critics, Greek mythologists transformed a world full of terror into a world of beauty.

In Greek mythology we find stories of gods and goddesses. The myths had no connection with religion. Some of the myths tried to explain natural phenomena such as thunder and lightning.

Greeks believed that they were caused when Zeus hurled his thunderbolt. Similarly, a volcano erupted because a terrible creature imprisoned in the mountain was struggling to free himself.

Some Greek myths such as the Golden Fleece are meant only for entertainment. According to Greek mythology, the universe was not created by an all powerful god or a pantheon of gods. The ancient Greeks believed that the universe or the people created gods and goddesses.

Roman deities

The influence of Greek art and literature had a tremendous impact on Roman deities. Ancient Romans considered that Greek and Roman gods were the same. However, Romans gave their names to Greek gods. Some of the Roman gods and goddesses were: Jupiter (Zeus), Juno (Hera), Neptune (Poseidon), Vesta (Hestia), Mars (Ares), Minerva (Athena), Venus (Aphrodite), Mercury (Hermes), Diana (Artemis), Vulcan (Hephaestus) and Ceres (Demeter).

Authors and poets have drawn heavily from Greek and Roman myths. They keep primitive and modern myths alive through their creations. Although the Greek contribution to mythology exceeds that of Romans, we are more familiar with Roman gods and goddesses such as Jupiter, Mars, Minerva, Venus, Mercury, Diana and Ceres. Most of the myths may not stand the test of scientific reasoning. However, mythology is something we can fall back on when science fails to answer our questions.

 

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