Sources for Classical Mythology
Because much of the mythological writings started in the oral tradition, information about the authors is incomplete in many cases.
Limited information is available on the poet himself. The Greeks believed that he might have been a blind bard. A bard traveled from city to city, telling stories in song of heroes and their deeds. He is credited with composing two classic poems, the Iliad and its sequel, the Odyssey. Many scholars believe these were composed around 750 B.C. The Iliad is the story of the final years of the Trojan War. The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus’s return journey from Troy to Greece and to his wife Penelope.
This poet probably lived during the 700’s B.C.) He was known for poems that taught moral lessons as well as entertained. Two major works of poetry credited to Hesiod are the Theogony and Works and Days. The Theogony is a description of creation, the line of gods from Uranus to Zeus, war with the Titans, and other mythological accounts. It is the foundational work for understanding later Greek Mythology. In Works and Days , Hesiod examined human life and moral values through stories about mythical figures such as Prometheus and Pandora.
Other Greek poets
Three Famous Playwrights
(all of the following wrote tragic plays which were popular in the Greek theater)
Aeschylus (525 to 456 B.C.)
It is believed that he wrote ninety plays, of which seven survived. These plays are ThePersians, Seven Against Thebes, The Suppliants, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides, and Prometheus Bound. His plays contain the central theme of justice. Zeus often has a key part in the plays.
Aeschylus competed in an annual competition known as the Great Dionysia, which was dedicated to the god Dionysus.. After his first victory, he became the consistent favorite at the competition. Sophocles, who also became a playwright, was one of his students.
Sophocles (about 496–409 B.C.)
Throughout his life, Sophocles held many public offices and succeeded in most everything he put his hand to. He was also a fruitful playwright. He produced over 120 plays, of which only seven complete ones have survived.. The seven plays are Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Ajax, Trachinian Women, Philoctetes, and Electra. These plays were published along with seven by Aeschylus and ten by Euripides. This allowed Sophocles’plays to survive intact. He also participated in the Great Dionysia, winning it eighteen times. He lived during the time of Athens’ Golden Age. During this time, war was very common and was often portrayed in his plays. Sophocles’ plays were based on mythological interactions between man and the gods and goddesses. It is from his plays that we have been able to get a concept of the roles of the gods in relation to mankind.
Euripides (about 480-406 B.C.)
Euripes wrote over ninety plays, of which seventeen survive. The plays which survived are Andromache, Hecuba, Iphigenia at Aulis, Bacchants, Alcestis, Medea, The Children of Heracles, Hippolytus, The Suppliants, Electra, The Madness of Heracles, Ion,The Trojan Women, Iphigenia Among the Taurians, Phoenician Women, Helena, and Orestes. Like those of his peers, his plays were also based on mythological themes; but unlike the other writers, he often questioned the Greek religious system. Women played larger roles in his plays, and he often allowed the tragic part of a play to happen to young, innocent children.
Other Greek writers who included mythology in their writings
Herodutus – historian
Plutarch – writer/biographer
Apollodorus – mythographer
Pausanias – travel writer
Virgil (70–19 B.C.)
Virgil was the greatest poet of ancient Rome. He wrote the Aeneid, which could be considered the Roman version of the Greek Odyssey. The story follows Aeneas after the fall of Rome to the settling in a new land. According to legend, Romulus and Remus were the descendents of Aeneas.
Ovid (43 B.C.–A.D.17)
His full name was Publius Ovidius Naso. The son of a wealthy family, he began his career holding some minor government positions. He quit government to join the society of poets, where he enjoyed instant success. He produced a 12,000 line poem known as Metamorphoses. This poem covers a wide range of subjects from the Creation to Julius Caesar’s death. Other famous works by Ovid are Amores, Heroides, Fasti, and Tristia. In A.D.8, he was banished from Rome. He died in the city of Tomis on the Black Sea.
Other Roman writers who included mythology in their works
Horace – poet
Livy – historian
Propertius – poet
Seneca – playwright
Statius – playwright
Major Gods and Goddesses
Introduction | Creation Story | Olympians VS. Titans | Creation of Man |
Revolt of Giants | Abduction of Persephone | The Underworld
Visitors to Underworld | Amzon Warriors | Ares vs. Athena | Daedalus and Icarus
Echo and Narcissus | Judgement of Paris | Perseus and Andromeda | Trojan War