Once Upon a Time: The Gods | 5

Before launching into the myth of Venus, I thought it might be helful to post a brief refresher on the Greek ideas about the world into which Venus (and the other gods and goddesses) were born. I know that, unless I’m studying mythology, I forget the particulars and need to remind myself of them. I thought this might be true of others who don’t live with mythology day by day.

The Greeks, like many other ancient peoples, believed that the earth was flat and their country occupied the center of the world. The center of that center was Mount Olympus, the home of the gods. This was also known as Delphi, the familiar home of the Delphic oracle.

The flat, circular disk of the world was divided into two equal parts by the Sea (the Mediterranean). Surrounding the earth was a larger river called the River Ocean, which ran from north to south on the western side of the earth, and in the opposite direction on the eastern side. The Sea and all the rivers of the earth received their waters from the River Ocean.

The Greeks believed that different peoples occupied the four corners of the earth. To the north were the Hyperboreans, a happy, blissful people who never grew old and were never sick. They also never went to war.  To the south, near the River Ocean, lived the Æthiopians, a race just as happy as the Hyperboreans but even more favored than the northerners, for the gods often invited the Æthiopians to share their sacrifices and banquets.

On the western part of the earth, also near the stream of the River Ocean, was the Elysian Plain, where mortals who were particular favorites of the gods were taken without ever having to die. Also to the west lived giants, enchantresses, monsters, and other magical, mythical beings. The Sun and Moon rise out of the Ocean in the east and were driven through the air to the west by the gods to give light to all.

Mount Olympus, Home of the Gods

The gods lived at the peak of Mount Olympus, behind a gate of clouds guarded by goddesses called the Seasons. Through this gate, the gods could pass to and from the earth as they willed. Although each god had a separate dwelling, all met (when summoned) in the palace of Jupiter. The gods also gathered daily to eat in Jupiter’s great hall, their food and drink of ambrosia and nectar being served by the goddes Hebe. Apollo, the god of music, provided entertainment with his lyre, accompanied by the Muses.

The Gods

Though referred to as the father of gods and men, Jupiter (Zeus to the Greeks) had a beginning, being the son of Saturn (Cronos) and Rhea (Ops), who were both Titans (children of the Earth and Heaven, which sprang from Chaos). Already we see the parallels between the Greek and Roman ideas about our origins and the older Hebrew and Chaldean myths of creation. We see a race of beings who resulted from the union of gods (angels) and men; we have the heavens and the earth being created from chaos. Some may fear that common creation myths challenge the value of Biblical accounts, but I see it just the opposite: everywhere we look, we encounter truth. What we make of it is an individual decision, but I like to ask, what does it mean for me now?

In a second creation myth (the Bible has two also, remember?), the Earth and Love were the first beings. Love (Eros) issued from the egg of the Night, which floated on Chaos. By his arrows and torch he pierced and vivified all things, producing life and joy. There is much that a Jungian could do with this myth; for instance, we fear night (the shadow, our inner worst selves) because of its association with chaos; but loving what is rejected in the darkness (the rejected stone that becomes the chief cornerstone) produces life and joy. This is a familiar theme in depth psychology.

Saturn and Rhea and the other Titans eventually yielded their authority to gods such as Jupiter, Neptune, and Apollo. I’ll continue with a brief orientation to the rest of the gods so that the myth of Venus will make sense.

5 responses to “Once Upon a Time: The Gods | 5”

  1. Once Upon a Time: More Gods | 6 « The Third Eve Avatar

    […] about Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, which I use in my header and which is rich in symbolism. In Part 5, I wrote about the basic Greek world view in mythological terms, about the world’s beginning, […]

  2. […] mythological world view of the ancient Greeks from The Third […]

  3. renaissanceguy Avatar

    Hi, Eve. I’m sorry to put this comment on this thread but here goes. . .

    I’m tagging you. To find out what I’m tagging you for, click on my name and read my post called “Silly Blogosphere Game.”

  4. Henitsirk Avatar

    When I read “The Greeks, like many other ancient peoples, believed that the earth was flat and their country occupied the center of the world,” it sounded just like little children: I’m the center of the world, and the world is what I see around me.

  5. renaissanceguy Avatar

    You’re doing a great job, Eve, as usual.

    I’ve been reading but not commenting much.

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