Greek Myth: Heroic Myth
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In what kinds of stories do heroes appear
Definition of a hero:
- 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)
- 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.
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.
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.
Perspectives: comparison to Lord of the Rings
- - 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)
- - 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.
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
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