Greek Myth: Heroic Myth

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Greek Myth: Heroic Myth
2010-11-07 19:08:37
Hero Lecture Heroic Myth

Description of a Hero, No myth
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  1. In what kinds of stories do heroes appear
  2. Definition of a hero:

    - birth
    - what kind of figure, when
    - heroes of epic. chthonic
    • - well born, noble warrior (Homer - at first used to describe any noble, always alive; but then all dead)
    • - marvelous figure in the distant past
    • - heroes of epic: worshipped as powers dwelling beneath the earth - chthonic (KNOW THIS **chth = ground. will be on exam)
  3. Hero Cults

    - heroa
    - tombs/tumuli
    effect of cult activity
    - encouraged by ...
    • - heroa - places of cult worship of heroes (c 800 BC)
    • - focus on ancient tombs (tumuli - sacrifice and offerings that happened at the tomb) --> normally had the shape of enormous earthen mounds heaped up to protect and monumentalize the grave of the hero - usually built in conspicuous locations to give the hero long lasting renown
    • - religious cult/activities reinforce belief in an earlier age of heroes.
    • - encouraged by spread of heroic texts? maybe.
  4. Common Motifs of Heroic Myth (folktale motifs)
    • - divine parentage, miraculous birth - know little of childhood
    • - great strength, menace to those around him
    • - faithful male companion
    • - falls under enemy's power
    • - compelled to perform impossible labors
    • - breaks a taboo --> terrible price demanded
    • - resists temptation (often a woman)
    • - responsible for death of a companion
    • - may have help from gods, spirits, or magical objects
    • - quest, katabasis
    • - return home; great rewards (at death big funeral or become a god)

    * some do have true basis (Gilgamesh was a real king), but also changed (real history mixed with other stories) to enhance the reputation --> usually for a city. But also to preserve a memory of the words and deeds of a real man whose life was exceptional.
  5. The Hero Caught Betwen Nature and Culture
    • - Mesopotamia: 1st quest for truth
    • - contrast and hostility between natural world and the cultural world of humans
    • - Ex: Enkidu is a "natural man" - long hair, eats grass, live with beast in field. After sex with women (become wise) - separated from natural world --> humankind. Same with Adam and Eve. When Enkidu is dying blames the world of culture for his undoing --> trapper who found him, woman who undid him. Similarly, Gilgamesh (sympathizing with Enkidu) wanders wearing animal skins through nature, but when that fails returns to the world of culture --> clean clothes, rejoyce w/in city walls --> symbolic of the divide between man and nature.

    We live between nature and culture as mortals, destined to anguish in life and then death.
  6. Perspectives: comparison to Lord of the Rings
    • Similarities
    • - set in Middle Earth
    • - Frodo (hero, although humble) has a faithful male companion Samwise Gamgee. receives help from the fellowship of the ring, as well as Gandalf
    • - falls under the power of and enemy: the ring, seeks its master Sauron
    • - goes on a quest to the land of death: Mordor, edge of world
    • - Aid of magical object: ring - invisible, elven-made cloak - light and warm, elven crystal phial - light in dark places, lembas - compact high energy food from elves, Bilbo's sword Sting, made by ancient elces
    • - returns home to Shire after quest.
    • - finally joins Bilbo, Gandalf, and the elves leaving middle-earth for the Blessed Realms (Helen lives in the blessed isles)

    • Differences
    • - Frodo is humble, doubts his ability to complete task
    • - not seeking glory - surprised to find himself volunteering for task
    • - Frodo is a hobbit - not clear strength like Heracles, Theseus, Perseus - he avoids violence where he can
    • - He fails to destroy the ring - only because gollum tried to take it and fell was it destroyed.
  7. Observations: Heroic nudity
    • - Archaic and Classical Periods: male nudity, never female
    • - Bronze age: males clothed, females naked: female "idols" had magical functions to perform
    • - male nudity in Greek art - "heroic nudity", but Homer's heroes always clothed, and naked dead warrior stripped of armor is pinnacle of shame.
    • - heroic nudity may have come from athletics? (play nude - male physique)
    • - kuorui - huge nude male statues usually as dedications in sanctuaries or markers for graves
    • - Female nudity in public greek art not til end of classical period
    • - korai (counterpart of kuorui)- archaic period - wear elaborately carved and painted garments
    • - mortals claiming divinity adopt heroic nudity for portraits - advertise close relations to the gods and the great men of early times