Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Greek Mythology in Everyday Use

I've always found Greek Mythology really fascinating, so I thought of posting about many words that we use which have Greek or Roman myth origin.

There are some really interesting myths which the Greek used to explain natural phenomena, for example the story of how the peacock got eyes on it's tail. Argus was a monster who was famous in legend for having many eyes. Hera, the Queen of the Olympian gods and goddesses, commanded Argus to watch over Io. Io was a woman with whom Zeus - the ruler of the Olympians - had conducted a passionate love affair. However, in order to protect his mistress from the wrath of his wife, Zeus had transformed Io into a heifer. So Hera, who was quite clever, had Argus guard her rival, the heifer Io. Zeus was not pleased. He sent the god Hermes (son of Zeus) to dispatch the monster. Hermes managed to kill Argus. Hera paid tribute to Argus by placing his eyes into the tail of the peacock, her favorite bird. In this way, Argus was immortalized, his eyes adorning the feathers of Hera's peacock.

The owl has been one of my favourite birds for a long time. Espectially the Wise Owl wearing glasses :0) I think the owl being considered as wise would have come about from the fact that the Owl is the symbol of Athena (Minerva in Roman mythology) Greegoddessss of Wisdom. She had a strange birth. One day, Jupiter King of the gods had a bad headache. Nothing would cure it. Eventually Vulcan (the smith of the gods, who made Jupiter's thunderbolts) split open Jupiter's head. Out jumped Minerva in armour with shield and spear! Jupiter felt much better afterwards.

Most of the phrases that wusees today also have origins in Greek Mythology. I just thought of posting a few here.

Midas touch - an uncanny ability for making money in every venture

Once, Dionysus (God of Wine) found his old school master and foster father, Silenus, missing. The old man had been drinking, and had wandered away drunk, and was found by some peasants, who carried him to their king, Midas (alternatively, he passed out in Midas' rose garden). Midas recognized him, and treated him hospitably, entertaining him for ten days and nights with politeness, while Silenus entertained Midas and his friends with stories and songs. On the eleventh day he brought Silenus back to Dionysus. Dionysus offered Midas his choice of whatever reward he wanted. Midas asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold. Dionysus consented, though was sorry that he had not made a better choice. Midas rejoiced in his new power, which he hastened to put to the test. He touched and turned to gold an oak twig and a stone. Overjoyed, as soon as he got home, he ordered the servants to set a feast on the table. Then he found that his bread, meat, daughter and wine turned to gold.
Upset, Midas strove to divest himself of his power, he hated the gift he had coveted. He prayed to Dionysus, begging to be delivered from starvation. Dionysus heard and consented.

Trojan Horse - an apparent advantage that is actually a trick; "Trojan horse" tactics are those considered sneaky, underhand, deceitful. The term "Trojan" is also widely used today to refer to malicious computer software that looks harmless to the user but actually contains a virus.

If you watched the movie Troy, you might remember this picture. The Trojan Horse is part of the myth of the Trojan War, as told in Virgil's Latin epic poem The Aeneid. The Greek siege of Troy had lasted for ten years. The Greeks devised a new plan, a giant hollow wooden horse. It was to be filled with Greek warriors. The rest of the Greek army appeared to leave, but actually hid in Troy.
Meanwhile, a Greek spy, Sinon, convinced the Trojans the horse was a gift and they accepted it. The Trojans hugely celebrated the end of the siege, so that, when the Greeks emerged from the horse, the city was drunk. The Greek warriors opened the city gates to allow the rest of the army to enter, and the city was destroyed. All the Trojan men were killed, and all the women and children were taken into slavery.

Oedepus Complex - a concept developed by Sigmund Freud to explain the origin of certain neuroses in childhood. It is defined as a male child's unconscious desire for the exclusive love of his mother. This desire includes jealousy towards the father and the unconscious wish for that parent's death.

Oedipus son of Laius and Jocasta. At his birth, it was prophesied that he would kill his father. Seeking to avoid such a fate, Laius had the infant's ankles pierced with nails and had him exposed (placed in the wilderness to die). King Polybus and Queen Merope (or Periboea) of Corinth found him and raised him as their own son. Since his feet were swollen when he was found he was called Oedipus meaning "swollen-foot”.
While travelling Oedipus met an unarmed man, riding a chariot, on his own pilgrimage. The man in the chariot demanded that Oedipus stand aside so he could pass. They argued, and Oedipus killed the stranger. The man was King Laius, Oedipus' father.
As he traveled, Oedipus encountered a mystical creature that was terrorizing Thebes. Oedipus saved the city by answering the riddle of the Sphinx ("What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?") and was rewarded with the now-vacant throne of Thebes and the widowed queen Jocasta's hand in marriage.
Within a short time, divine signs of misfortune and pollution began to appear in Thebes, which caused the king to seek out their cause. Finally, the seer Teiresias reveals to Oedipus that Oedipus himself was the source of the pollution. Oedipus discovered he was really the son of Laius and Jocasta and that the prophecy had indeed come to pass. Jocasta commits suicide and Oedipus blinds himself by forcing her brooch pins into his eyes.

This legend has inspired several works of art, such as Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy, the so called Three Theban plays (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone)

3 Comments:

Blogger ipodmomma said...

have you seen Monty Python's Holy Grail? they send a trojan rabbit out, trying to get into a castle... it's very silly....

8:31 pm, May 23, 2006  
Blogger smiley said...

Actually I haven't seen this movie, but sounds very funny :0)

4:23 am, May 24, 2006  
Anonymous Luminus said...

Whoa! and she does Mythology too. Are you sure I don't know you in some other life? Maybe we should move in together, we'll have a blast (lol).

I'm meeting quite a number of Kindred Spirits these days

11:59 am, May 26, 2006  

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