The Greek Myths Setting & Symbolism

This Study Guide consists of approximately 34 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Greek Myths.
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Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus is a location deemed to be the home of the gods of a region of Greece centuries prior to the life of Jesus Christ. It is the home of Zeus, Hera and their children. It is first mentioned early in the book, within the first fifty pages and proceeds to be mentioned recurrently throughout the remainder of book. It is an actual mountain, as high places have typically been associated with the Divine particularly as it appears in close association with the sky and the extraordinary perspective that this gives.

Temple

This is a location used for worship of a deity. Here, offerings and sacrifices are made. Thanks are often given. Also, requests for assistance are made. There are many of these, of various kinds. Sometimes a temple is dedicated to only one deity but other times temple space has been shared by a small number of deities. Temples have also grown in their complexities over the centuries. Simple will still do, but ornate is more the fashion. The first temple in the book is described as having been made of beeswax and feathers. Centuries later, a great leap was made and mechanically formed bronze was used in the design.

Peloponnese

This is the southernmost region of Greece. This is a multiple peninsula that extends out into the Mediterranean Sea. It is typically referred to as a whole during legends and historical facts about the area.

Sacrificial Child

Sadly, but truly, there was one city in Arcadia where there was an established tradition of ritual sacrifice of a living boy child to Zeus. According to the book, Zeus at first liked this type of sacrifice but ceased to later on, and ultimately grew upset with the people of that area when he had ceased to want that type of sacrifice but they kept sending him some. Once they stopped giving him what he wanted no more of, the relationship between the deity and those people improved.

Sacrificial Bull, Ram, Goat or other animal

In some cases, the use of an animal was a successful change over from the human sacrifice. One instance referred to is the use a juvenile goat, a 'kid' instead of a human child for ritual murder. In other cases, an animal was not a substitute but an original choice for an offering. There were sects and regions of Greece that developed which refused to kill either humans or animals as part of their religious practices. For readers in North America, this is an accepted norm in this century. Elsewhere in the world, and in rare cases of extremely abnormal cultural behavior in North America, such types of religious sacrifices are made by some, but the mainstream of society frown upon this.

Athens

This is one of the most powerful cities of the ancient Grecian world. The book does not clarify that Athens was restored as the nation's capital city in 1834. Presently, Athens is flourishing. The city is located centrally in the country, making it powerful and endangering it at the same time.

Golden Fleece

This is the famed Fleece that pertains to the stories of Jason and the Argonauts. It appears later in the book during those few stories that are devoted to the events surrounding this item.

Tartarus

This is an abyssal location beneath that region governed by Hades. It is reported to be controlled by Titans.

Underworld

Rather than the criminal or subdominant social systems, here is the classical meaning of the land of the dead. This includes the souls of the majority of the deceased, but also includes some of the Earth itself. This is mentioned repeatedly throughout the book. The Underworld is the domain of Hades, Zeus's brother. Hades' wife is also his niece by Demeter and Zeus.

Elysium

This is near Hades, and also above Tartarus. This is a preserve also for the dead, but this part of the Underworld is reserved for the souls of those who were virtuous while alive. Elysium is a fun place where the souls have a great deal of freedom and special privileges. Among these privileges is the right to reincarnate into living mortal forms whenever they like. Alive or dead, these souls are allowed to have a good time.

Delphi

This is a town in Northern Greece. It continues to be a human settlement thousands of years after becoming the site of one of the most popular temples in all the region. The temple there, perhaps most famous for its time when dedicated to Apollo, became famous for the precision of the oracular pronouncements. This location is mentioned during the first two hundred pages of the book.

Soil

While mentioned many times during the book, in this case it is the ground Agamemnon kissed when he finally arrived home after a sea voyage following a military campaign. He did this shortly before he was murdered by his wife, who wasn't glad to see him for any of the right reasons. Robert Graves takes the trouble to explain to readers that Agamemnon married her forcibly as an immediate side effect of successfully murdering her husband and their baby. Once this is properly understood, the readers can see how relinquishing her resentments and forgiving Agamemnon might have been wise but also difficult, even though she had the good fortune to be his wife instead of being killed. Agamemnon left for ten whole years.

Bridal Couch

In this case, this occurs late in the book when Jason of the Argonauts has the opportunity to see if he can marry Medea. There is the strong suggestion that she will definitely have free choice in the matter; at the same time, it is also noted that there are profound consequences of her decision for far more people than simply herself. She does; there are people who are happy about this and others who find the societal after effects to be disturbing - politics are affected.

Oracle

This is a religious position. Priests and priestesses could serve as an oracle when they received the proper training. This often included the combined use of trance, intoxication by laurel leaf, and other knowledge not necessarily specified. The most famous of these in the contemporary international scene is the Delphic Oracle. Oracles are able to transmit divine knowledge. Normally, this is done systematically. A priest or priestess serves a particular deity and is able to answer questions or riddles for the deity. Oracles are referred to in various parts of the text.

Laurel leaf

This is a plant that has great significance in the ancient cultures of Greece and Italy, at least. It was often used as a symbol of power and was highly valued. It is well known nowadays through the way it was formed into crowns and other types of adornment. However, as readers make their way through this book, within the first one hundred pages it becomes clear that there is more going on with laurel leaf than might first appear to the uninitiated eye. Laurel leaf was used as a ritual intoxicant. The evidence shows that there were conditions in which it could be used safely. However, there were also savage social customs associated with variants on that ritual usage. While it seemed okay for the Oracle's trance state, it was a severe problem when Wild Women rampaged during laurel intoxication and literally tore victims to pieces and then washed themselves clean together in a river in their little troupe of group murder. For this reason, mainly, the laurel leaf became a controlled substance within Grecian society.

Helen

There are two main usages of Helen of Troy in this book. One is the living woman who was a Queen or princess-heiress of Troy. She is known to have run off to a Prince of Sparta. Much later in the same book, Robert Graves also explains that Helen is the name of a moon-goddess of Troy. This religious figure and practice was taken by the Spartans from Troy.

Griffon-vulture

This is the creature that was tearing out the heart of Prometheus every day. Zeus had not brought this to an end. It was Sagitta, the Archer, who ended the torment of Prometheus by killing the bird who was eating the Titan's liver. Zeus had long since forgiven Prometheus and had ceased to wish him further harm ever since the Titan gave the god some wise advice. However, the god had not stopped torturing the Titan even though he had stopped wanting to hurt Prometheus.

Rings

In this case, this is a reference to rings worn to honor Prometheus the Titan. Robert Graves redefines Prometheus as being the concept and use of foresight. This comes up much later in the text, in chapter 133, which includes the story of how Heracles founded Thebes. There is a direct reference to a technological development: the first jewel or stone setting is created in the hand adorning item - the ring.

Graves goes on to explain that he believes the release of Prometheus was actually a fable created much later, rather than a myth from the true tradition. This difference is somewhat like the distinction that can be made between a real druidic bard, and a minstrel. The former are part of a specific tradition and take many oaths to preserve truth and tradition. The latter have artistic license and are mainly for entertainment and opinion but not guardians of history.

Herald

These people are cited in diverse locations throughout the book. These are messengers and are mentioned as being protected 'sancrosanct' from the normal operations of wars and other conversations between enemies. As such, in those rare instances when one of these is killed, it is viewed as unusually bad. This is mentioned in the middle of the text.

Troy

One of the cities of Greece, this one is famed for a battle fought over a woman or over rites to a Moon-goddess. It is referred to more than once in this book, but primarily is described in relation to the Trojan War with Sparta. It is also one of two cities cited as having had the land selected by a sacred cow.

Antioch

This is another Grecian city mentioned in the book. It is once mentioned for having been chosen by a sacred female bovine as the new location for a human settlement.

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