HOME           GLOSSARY           RESOURCE           ART           LOGOS           CONTACT

Mytholoyía - (Mythology; Gr. Μυθολογία, ΜΥΘΟΛΟΓΙΑ) Also, Mýthos; (Gr. Μῦθος, ΜΥΘΟΣ) 

Generalities concerning Mytholoyía

Mythology is the body of traditional stories handed down from times long gone, stories which represent the world-view and beliefs of a society or a nation; they are the fundamental cultural background of a people which is, in a way, their collective soul and heart. Mythic tales include stories of ancestors and great heroes from the past, and these stories reflect how a society relates with the sacred and how mankind stands in relationship to the phenomenal world and the Kózmos (Cosmos; Gr. Κόσμος). Most importantly, mythology includes and presents as paramount, the stories of the origin and activity of divine beings and Gods, and how divinity works through nature. Typically, mythology represents a time in the remote past when Gods and mortals interact directly, in which deity makes itself manifest and intervenes in the lives of man. Every culture has such stories, but we are here concerned with the Mytholoyía (Mythology; Gr. Μυθολογία) of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, and, in particular, with the great origin-myth of the Gods, the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony (the most important page on the entire website). And we have many, many other stories.

Mythic tales are generally of anonymous authorship and the ideas contained within them are thought of as coming from great antiquity. They were originally disseminated orally, and their repetition both in antiquity as well as in the modern world, plays a huge role in cultural continuity and identity. In modern Greece, old grandmothers tell the ancient stories and fables to their beloved grandchildren, even if they themselves are Christian, which is a clear indication of how deeply ingrained the mythology is with the people. The myths are instructive as concerns the mores, the ethical values of a group. As a society develops and becomes literate, the stories are eventually written down. Mythology can also be deciphered from art-work found on pottery and the mætópæs (metopes; Gr. μετόπες) of temples.

Misunderstandings Regarding Myths

In the modern English language, the word "myth" is typically is used in a derogatory way, meaning a falsehood. Thus we say, "Oh, that is just a myth," dismissing whatever is the subject. And mythology is thought of as something for children, and we equate it to fairy-tales. It could be said that this understanding of mythology is, in part, the result of the diminution of the ancient religion by critics from the Christian tradition, critics who, nonetheless, do not wish to see the stories of their own religion as mythic or even symbolic. By the end of the third century CE, the term became associated with outright falsehood because of the exclusivity of the new conquering religion; the word mythology was not used in reference to any part of the Biblical writings until mostly the 20th century, and the application of that term in this context is still uncomfortable to those who come from those traditions. On the other hand, there is some truth in the Christian criticism, for if you have read the myths, it should be obvious that they usually cannot be taken literally. This is common sense and to properly understand anything in our religion, one must always be logical. Of course some of the stories may contain remnants of some kind of history, particularly when talking about lineages of people or the founding of cities, etc., but to accept the bulk of the stories concerning the Gods as literally true would require a degree of naïveté which would make us as children and superstitious.  

Typically, scholars who study mythology remark that from within a culture, mythology is viewed as true, but from outside the culture, the stories are seen as not literally true, but serve as a reflection of the world-view of the civilization from which the mythology originates. Ællinismόs is somewhat unique in that it recognizes that much of the mythology cannot be literally true, and this is the view not only in the modern religion, but in the ancient religion as well. Obviously there must have been simple people who did accept the stories in a naïve way, but there is considerable evidence from antiquity that educated people had a more subtle conception of the myths. As one example, it was well known that there were often many versions of a story and that the various versions contradicted each other. If it is established that there are different versions of a myth, if the story is to be taken literally, only one of the versions could be true; but this is not what we find in the literature; there is simply the acknowledgement that the different versions exist.

In our religion, we do not use the term myth or mýthos (Gr. μῦθος) in a negative way at all, and it should not be assumed that the myths are merely fables to entertain children, for they are often vehicles which reveal truth of great depth and majesty. Some of the stories lay out historical events and lineages of famous people. Some are explanatory; they speak of things in nature, the seasons and so forth; since nature is divine, mythology provides an explanation of things in the natural world. Other myths are mystic in content; such myths must be interpreted and these narratives are, generally, symbolic; a literal reading of such myths will actually yield an erroneous understanding. Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος), in the following quotation, explains this in reference to the Egyptian myths, but it equally applies to the Greek myths as well:

"...whenever you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the Gods, their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences of this sort, you must remember what has been already said, and you must not think that any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related." [1]

When understood properly and with sincerity and inspiration, mythology is a powerful tool which helps us to align ourselves with nature and its laws; it becomes a propulsive engine which pushes the soul forward to a great transformation. The most memorable of the myths speak of such transformations, but the myths can also help to inaugurate such transformations in one's own life.

Concerning the myths, the geographer Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας), who recorded many such stories in his travelogue of Greece, made this comment:

"When I began to write my history I was inclined to count these legends as foolishness, but on getting as far as Arcadia I grew to hold a more thoughtful view of them, which is this. In the days of old those Greeks who were considered wise spoke their sayings not straight out but in riddles..." [2]

The Authors and Authority of Myth

We have all these stories of the Gods, but where do they come from? How can we speak to their legitimacy. Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) acknowledges in Phaidros (Phaedrus) a type of divine madness, a gift from the Gods, which has produced divine oracles and stories (Φαῖδρος 244a–245c). Here follows a quotation of Plátohn from the Tímaios (Timaeus; Gr. Τίμαιος); it is believed by some scholars that he spoke it "tongue-in-cheek" but perhaps not so:

"It is, therefore, necessary in this case to believe in ancient men; who being the progeny of the Gods, as they themselves assert, must have a clear knowledge of their parents. It is impossible, therefore, not to believe in the children of the Gods, though they should speak without probable and necessary arguments: but as they declare that their narrations are about affairs to which they are naturally allied, it is proper that, complying with the law, we should assent to their tradition." [3]

And next we must consider those who wrote down these stories; these are the mythographers. In ancient Greece, the mythographers were not usually the creators of the stories but, rather, they were individuals who collected the myths and saved them for future generations. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Myth of the Cave in the Politeia (The Republic; Gr. Πολιτεία) of Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων), a fable which was never intended to be understood as an ancient myth, but was, rather, a story which illustrated a teaching of the author. The majority of the mythographers were not like this, however; they were the chroniclers of existing ancient myths about the Gods, not the authors of the stories contained within them.

It must be understood that all the ancient mythographers were not equally insightful; they were relating stories as they heard them, and sometimes they would add their own commentary. None of these writers should be thought of as some sort of "biblical" authority, and their commentary should be viewed as simply their opinion. There is no "final authority" in our religion. Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος) in Ǽrga kai Imǽrai (Works and Days; Gr. Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι) speaks of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) as making life difficult for man (42-53), so this is the way he sees it; of course elsewhere he calls Zefs the source of all justice. So in addition to having opinions, these authors also must be understood in the context of how such a writer would speak in the time that he lived, as well as taking into account his own particular style of telling stories.

One can point to the inconsistency of the stories from one Mythólogos (teller of myths; Gr. Μυθόλογος) to another. For instance, there is a myth which tells the story of how Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) was punished by Zefs for having killed the Kýklops (Cyclops; Gr. Κύκλωψ). Apóllohn had done so to take revenge on Zefs, who had killed his son Asklipiós (Asclepius; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός) for having brought a dead man back to life. Thus, Apóllohn was sentenced to a year of servitude to the mortal king, Ádmitos (Admetus; Gr. Ἄδμητος). But some authors say that Apóllohn was punished for having killed Dælphýni (Gr. Δελφύνη), the Python...not the Kýklops, and other authors say that Apóllohn was not punished at all, and that he simply stayed with Ádmitos out of his affection for him. Thus it can be seen that there are different versions of myths and that they do not agree.

And the most revered of mythographers, Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος), has had doubt cast on his information, causing one to question his reliability, with a most dishonorable accusation, not from modern times but from antiquity:

"This oracle most clearly proves that Asclepius was not the son of Arsinoë, but that Hesiod or one of Hesiod's interpolators composed the verses to please the Messenians." [4]

In simple words, he (or one of his interpolators) is being charged of distorting the content of a myth in order to flatter the people of one area, for whatever purpose.

It would be absurd to accept the myths as literally true or even that one author or another is completely authoritative, for these reasons and others. An important point being that the ancient Greek mythology should not be viewed as creedal. Nonetheless, the stories contain surpassing wisdom...but they are like fingers pointing in a direction, they help us to understand, but they are not meant to be clung to and fought over.

Ways of interpreting Mytholoyía 

As an example of interpretation, here is a passage from Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) explaining the myth of Phaǽthohn (Phaeton or Phaethon; Gr. Φαέθων)

"There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Phaethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals; at such times those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore." [5]

Another example of interpretation:

According to the mythology, Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) is the king of Gods and the father of Gods and men. Íra (Hera; Gr. Ἥρη) is said to be his sister and wife. The meaning of this mythology is that Zefs is the manifestation and mature progression of the active kozmogonic substance, Water, called variously, from this perspective, Water/Fire/Aither. Íra is the manifestation of the receptive kosmogonic substance: Earth. These kosmogonic substances are primal, from the beginning, and exist together; therefore, poetically, they are siblings, i.e. brother and sister. Without the interaction of Earth and Water, Zefs and Íra, there is no creation; therefore, they are, poetically, married. (See Mystic Materialism)

Of particular concern are myths that have mystical meaning, of which many do. The myths are concealing something; they are constructed so as to deliberately hide information from the profane, as, for example, in the stories surrounding Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς):

"His (ed. Orphéfs') poetry is something strange and riddling for people. But Orpheus did not intend to tell them captious riddles (ed. in a manner meant to confuse), but momentous things in riddles. Indeed, he is telling a holy discourse from the first and up to his last word. As he also makes clear in the well-chosen verse: for having ordered them to put doors to their ears he says that he is [? not legislating] for the many...[? but only for] those pure in hearing..."  [6]

Scholastic Interpretation of Myth and Some Modern Viewpoints

The approach of this website incorporates the interpretation of myth from the religious perspective, not the scholastic perspective, while, at times, taking some of the scholastic ideas into consideration. We are speaking from the emic point of view...obviously...from within the tradition, and not from the etic perspective of the outside observer. Since we embrace our tradition, we see the mythology, when properly interpreted, as a reflection of reality.

 view of many scholars concerning a progression in world religions from Mother-Goddesses to the dominance of male sky deities is an idea that is appreciated by many of the Neo-pagan groups which have sprung up in the last century. Such arguments are convincing and seem obvious when weighed against the evidence. As applied to Ællinismόs, some scholars posit that the primary God is Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), a male deity, while his consort, Íra (Hera; Gr. Ἥρα), a female deity, has been subordinated to a status which is insignificant. Following this argument, it is proposed that the religion originally was Mother-Goddess-based but was transformed with the invasions of the Indo-Europeans, who brought with them male-dominated religious systems which eventually usurped the native feminine-based religion. They would point out that, for instance, in the Thæogonía (Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία) of Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος), Earth emerges first after Chaos and that she then gave birth to Ouranós (Uranus; Gr. Οὐρανός), a male deity whose name means "sky" and who is an ancestor of Zefs. This view goes on to say that the mythology is concealing what was originally a Mother-Goddess religion. 

Since the approach of this website is decidedly Orphic, we would argue that the above interpretation is not correct. From the perspective of Orphismós, the Kózmos is self-emerging and not the creation of a male or female deity. Even the terms 'male' and 'female' are used for convenience, giving more a hint of meaning rather than denoting anything actually sexual, male being the active principle and female being the receptive principle. The Orphic view is materialistic, so the word 'spiritual' is avoided, and the male-principle or substance, is present throughout the Kózmos, intertwined with the female substance. All is divine, and the male deity, including Zefs and all male deities, are part of Nature, not separate. One substance requires the other for any real movement to occur, so, from this perspective Íra requires Zefs, and vice-versa, or, using Orphic terminology, Earth and Water are primary...not only Earth (female or receptive), not only Water (male or active), but both. Orphic fragment 132 says that Zefs generates everything in conjunction with Íra and that she is his equal. Íra is enormously important in the Kozmogony and she has not been subordinated; her actions of "hounding" Zefs and what appears to be his illicit affairs are not the actions of a 'shrew' but, rather, are significant, when understood as to what she is actually doing.

This is just one example of how our interpretation of myth differs from the scholars. In a similar vein to the Mother-Goddess theory, it has been argued that there is a natural progression which one can trace in the mythology, a progression from polytheistic religion to Sky-God polytheism, to Sky-God monotheism, and finally emerging into an atheism. And there are yet other modern ideas about mythology, such as the interpretation of myth from the psychological point of view, using Freudian or Jungian ideas, that we generally do not access. One cannot help notice that the interpretation of mythology seems to follow the bias of the author of the method of interpretation. Our interpretation of myth, however, as originally stated, is primarily religious, and uses means from within our tradition which at times may coincide with various modern scholastic views and at other times be in direct conflict with some of these ideas.

The Keys which unlock the meaning of Mytholoyía

When it is said that the myths must be interpreted, we are not trying to find meaning in the stories which was not originally intended. There is a consistency to the mythology of Ællinismόs. These stories reveal great truths, but they require keys to unlock their meaning, an understanding which is hidden while being in direct view. Indeed, the myths conceal something. To an a great extent...even if you know the keys...the myths are secret. It could be said that all the myths about the Gods are actually mystical, because like the Mystíria (Mysteries; Gr. Μυστήρια), they hide their actual meaning in poetic language. And if your understanding is inadequate, even with keys to their meaning, you will be unable to construe their full content. The myths are self-secret. And the mythology demonstrates that Orphéfs was the great theologian, not just for handful of initiates, but for all the people, because the myths were known to all, yet they contain the Orphic teaching.

It is known that the ancient Greeks hid things in the mythology, and this is true particularly of those who practiced Orphismós, yet by no means limited in that regard. Strangely enough, the Christian church-father Clement of Alexandria (150–215 CE) explains this very well:

"...I can adduce the Greeks as exceedingly addicted to the use of the method of concealment? Androcydes the Pythagorean says the far-famed so-called Ephesian letters were of the class of symbols. For he said that ἄσκιον (shadowless) meant darkness, for it has no shadow; and κατάσκιον (shadowy) light, since it casts with its rays the shadow; and λίξ if is the earth, according to an ancient appellation; and τετράς is the year, in reference to the seasons; and δαμναμενεύς is the sun, which overpowers (δαμάζων); and τὰ αἴσια is the true voice. And then the symbol intimates that divine things have been arranged in harmonious order--darkness to light, the sun to the year, and the earth to nature's processes of production of every sort. Also Dionysius Thrax, the grammarian, in his book, Respecting the Exposition of the Symbolical Signification in Circles, says expressly, 'Some signified actions not by words only, but also by symbols: by words, as is the case of what are called the Delphic maxims, "Nothing in excess," "Know thyself," and the like; and by symbols, as the wheel that is turned in the temples of the Gods, derived from the Egyptians, and the branches that are given to the worshippers. For the Thracian Orpheus says:

'Whatever works of branches are a care to men on earth,
Not one has one fate in the mind, but all things
Revolve around; and it is not lawful to stand at one point,
But each one keeps an equal part of the race as they began.'

"The branches either stand as the symbol of the first food, or they are that the multitude may know that fruits spring and grow universally, remaining a very longtime; but that the duration of life allotted to themselves is brief. And it is on this account that they will have it that the branches are given; and perhaps also that they may know, that as these, on the other hand, are burned, so also they themselves speedily leave this life, and will become fuel for fire.

"Very useful, then, is the mode of symbolic interpretation for many purposes; and it is helpful to the right theology, and to piety, and to the display of intelligence, and the practice of brevity, and the exhibition of wisdom. For the use of symbolic speech is characteristic of the wise man, appositely remarks the grammarian Didymus, and the explanation of what is signified by it..." 

And further in the same chapter:

"Does not Epigenes, in his book on the Poetry of Orpheus, in exhibiting the peculiarities found in Orpheus, say that by "the curved rods" (κεραίσι) is meant "ploughs;" and by the warp (στήμοσι), the furrows; and the woof (μίτος) is a figurative expression for the seed; and that the tears of Zeus signify a shower; and that the "parts" (μοῖραι) are, again, the phases of the moon, the thirtieth day, and the fifteenth, and the new moon, and that Orpheus accordingly calls them "white-robed," as being parts of the light? Again, that the Spring is called "flowery," from its nature; and Night "still," on account of rest; and the Moon "Gorgonian," on account of the face in it; and that the time in which it is necessary to sow is called Aphrodite by the "Theologian." In the same way, too, the Pythagoreans figuratively called the planets the "dogs of Persephone;" and to the sea they applied the metaphorical appellation of the "tears of Kronus." Myriads on myriads of enigmatical utterances by both poets and philosophers are to be found; and there are also whole books which present the mind of the writer veiled, as that of Heraclitus On Nature, who on this very account is called "Obscure." Similar to this book is the Theology of Pherecydes of Syrus; for Euphorion the poet, and the Causes of Callimachus, and the Alexandra of Lycophron, and the like, are proposed as an exercise in exposition to all the grammarians." [7]

Some of the most important keys are as follows: 

Killing by one of the Twelve Olympian Gods is symbolic of the deification of the soul. Killing by a deity who is not an Olympian indicates a tremendous transformation. In most myths involving "killing" by a God, one will often find that the individual "killed" has some quality associated with the deity who is doing the "killing." For instance, consider the mythology of Aktaiohn (Actaeon, Άκταίων). He is a hunter; Ártæmis (Artemis, Ἄρτεμις) is also a hunter. Aktaiohn glimpses the Goddess naked in the woods, but a deity does not actually have a mortal body, so this indicates that Aktaiohn has experienced an impression of her true nature, her divinity. Ártæmis now transforms Aktaiohn into a stag, an animal which is sacred to her. His own dogs (the Agathós Daimohnæssee and "destroy" him and Aktaiohn is reborn as a God. Or consider the mythology of Marsýas (Μαρσύας) who is flayed by Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων) for having challenged the God in a contest of music, music being associated with Apóllohn. The Olympian Gods who deify have a bond with the soul that is being "killed" in the myth. When an Olympian "kills," the God deifies: always.

Sex with a God, similar to killing, is symbolic; the God is exerting an evolutionary power into a soul, causing an enormous transformation. Sexual activity of many kinds by primordial deities such as Ouranós (Uranus, Οὐρανός) and Yaia (Gaia, Γαῖα), Krónos (Cronus, Κρόνος) and Rǽa (Rhea, Ῥέα), and Zefs (Zeus, Ζεύς) and Íra (Hera, Ήρα) are examples of the genitive activity of the the Gods in the formation of the Kózmos (Cosmos, Κόσμος).

There are many other keys in Ællinismόs, but the most important are killing and sexual imagery. The snake is usually symbolic of Earth or something of the earth. The snake shedding its skin can refer to immortality. Horns on a God symbolize the Aithír (Aether; Gr. Αἰθήρ) which is said to flow out such that it appears as horns. Horned animals are often more than just animals in the mythology, as are other creatures. The horse can be a symbol of the Vehicle of the Soul, as well as ships and chariots and other moving things. The bull and lion, as well as the eagle, are sometimes symbolic of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς). Sometimes the bull is symbolic of Poseidóhn (Poseidon; Gr. Ποσειδῶν). And there are many other such associations in myth. 

There are these keys, these symbols, but there is also intuition involved with the interpretation of myth.

For a superb example of a deeper interpretation of myth, in this case a Neoplatonic interpretation, visit this page, The Fable of Cupid and Psyche; after the story you will find Thomas Taylor's understanding of the myth. 

The general concept of the interpretation of myth is commented on by Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος):

"If, then, you listen to the stories about the Gods in this way (ed. metaphorically), accepting them from those who interpret the story reverently and philosophically, and if you always perform and observe the established rites of worship, and believe that no sacrifice that you can offer, no deed that you may do will be more likely to find favour with the Gods than your belief in their true nature, you may avoid superstition which is no less an evil than atheism." [8] 

For additional keys to the mythology along with definitions of many words on the subject, both Greek and English, both modern and ancient, please visit this page: Glossary of Mythology in Hellenismos.

Mythology and the Nature of the Gods

The mythology helps us to understand the Gods, but also what is know concerning the nature of the Gods helps us to interpret mythology. Please visit this page for some of the general ideas passed down to us concerning deity:
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

Arguments against the use of Mytholoyía

In the Politeia (The Republic; Gr. Πολιτεία) II 377-385 (and elsewhere), Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) speaks out strongly and extensively concerning misrepresentation of the Gods by the poets, including even Ómiros (Homer; Gr. Ὅμηρος), going so far as to suggest censorship. Plátohn has a great point and in the early church the Christians used our mythology to humiliate our religion. The way they did this was by interpreting the mytholoyía literally. This can be seen very clearly in The Case Against the Pagans by Arnóvios (Arnobius; Gr. Αρνόβιος) of Sicca [third century CE], books IV and V, just one of many, many such writings by the early church fathers. The text cannot be quoted as it is highly offensive; regardless, Arnóvios was able use simple logic to argue that it is absurd to believe in what he refers to as false gods, because when interpreted literally, the stories present the Gods as behaving in ways which could be seen as worse than even mortals behave. Of course, it was very convenient for Arnóvios to take advantage of the naive reader and to ignore the fact that there may be anything deeper than this ordinary interpretation. He used the stories presented in mythology to say that the Gods acted in shameful ways and could not possibly be real deities, which would, actually, be true if the stories were literally true. Those who wish to live in superstition, to follow the folk-religion version of Ællinismόs, and to ignore logic, are subject to this kind of argumentation which can easily destroy things built on a bad foundation. And this is what Plátohn perceived with great precision.

Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος), at the conclusion of his essay on the life of Pæriklís (Pericles; Gr. Περικλῆς), uses similar logic concerning mythology and the poets:

" accordance with our conceptions of the divine beings, to whom, as the natural authors of all good and of nothing evil, we ascribe the rule and government of the world. Not as the poets represent, who, while confounding us with their ignorant fancies, are themselves confuted by their own poems and fictions, and call the place, indeed, where they say the Gods make their abode, a secure and quiet seat, free from all hazards and commotions, untroubled with winds or with clouds, and equally through all time illumined with a soft serenity and a pure light as though such were a home most agreeable for a blessed and immortal nature; and yet, in the meanwhile, affirm that the Gods, themselves are full of trouble and enmity and anger and other passions, which no way become or belong to even men that have any understanding." [9]

Plátohn in Nómi (The Laws; Gr. Νόμοι) is very matter-of-fact regarding the problems of mythology:

"At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true." [10]

"The theft of money is, indeed, illiberal, but rapine (ed. plunder of another's property) is base. But no one of the sons of Jupiter (ed. Zefs; Gr. Ζεύς) will ever do any thing of this kind, in consequence of being delighted either with fraud or force. Let no one, therefore, acting in a disorderly manner through poets, or certain mythologists, be falsely persuaded that if he thieves either by fraud or force, he does not act basely, but does that which the Gods themselves have done. For this is neither true nor becoming: but he who illegally acts in this manner, is neither a God, nor a son of the Gods." [11]

The position of this website is that interpretation is preferable to discarding the myths, because despite the danger of criticism and misinterpretation, the myths contain great wisdom; it is hidden safely inside. Nonetheless, the stern warnings of such great personages as Plátohn and others serve as a warning to those who would not take care when reading and re-telling stories about the Gods. 

In conclusion, let us consider the words of Próklos (Proclus; Gr. Πρόκλος) as recounted by his student, the Neoplatonist philosopher Marínos of Næapolítis (Marinus of Neapolis; Gr. Μαρίνος ὁ Νεαπολίτης) in the last words of his biography of his teacher: 

"It was a frequent habit of his (ed. Próklos) to say this also: 'If I had the power, of all the books of the ancients I would have only the Oracles and the Timaeus survive, and all the rest I would conceal from the men of the present, since they have even caused harm to some of those who approached them in a casual and uncritical manner.' " [12]


In virtually any work written in antiquity, you can find mythology, but the following authors are particularly known for the stories. 

Aiskhýlos (Aeschylus; Gr. Αἰσχύλος): The five extant plays.

Apollódohros (Apollodorus; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος): Vivliothíki (Bibliotheca or The Library; Gr. Βιβλιοθήκη), which is a concise, but rather complete set of the stories. 

Apollóhnios Ródios (Apollonius of Rhodes; Gr. Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος): Argonaftika (Argonautica; Gr. Ἀργοναυτικά)

Apuleius - Cupid and PsycheApuleius was a Numidian Berber from Madaurus, North Africa, who wrote in Latin. He studied philosophy in Athens and elsewhere. His work, Cupid and Psyche, is very beautiful and a very valuable source on the ancient Mystíria.

Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodorus Siculus; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης): Vivliothíki Istorikí (Historical Library; Gr. Βιβλιοθήκη Ἱστορική)

Evripídis (Euripides; Gr. Εὐριπίδης): All of his plays.

Hyginus: Fabulae. This is a collection of mythology, similar in scope to that of Apollódohros. Gaius Julius Hyginus, a freedman of Augustus Caesar, was a Latin author, who was, possibly, from Alexandria, and was a student of the Greek scholar Alǽxandros o Polyístohr (Alexander Polyhistor, also known as Cornelius Alexander; Gr. Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Πολυΐστωρ). This collection of the myths is particularly valuable because it incorporates versions of the stories which had appeared in Greek tragedies that have been lost.

Iródotos (Herodotus; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος): Istoría (The Histories; Gr. Ἱστορία)

Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος): Thæogonía (Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία), Ǽrga kai Imǽrai (Works and Days; Gr. Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι), Gynaikóhn Katálogos (Catalog of Women; Gr. Γυναικῶν Κατάλογος)

Kallímakhos (Callimachus; Gr. Καλλίμαχος): Various hymns to Gods.

Nónnos of Panópolis (Gr. Νόννος) Διονυσιακά. The Dionysiaká of Nónnos of Panópolis (Gr. Πανόπολις, modern Akhmim in upper Egypt) is a voluminous work on the life of Diónysos.

Ómiros (Homer; Gr. Ὅμηρος): Iliás (The Iliad; Gr. Ἰλιάς) and Odýsseia (The Odyssey; Gr. Ὀδύσσεια)

Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς,): Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony (The Orphic Rhapsodies; Gr. Ιερός Λόγος σε 24 Ραψωδίες) This page is the most important page on the entire website because it gives the mythological background for all our philosophy and practices. The Orphikí Ímni (Orphic Hymns; Gr. Ορφικοί Ύμνοι) are hymns in honor of Gods; they include many epithets associated with mythology.

Ovid - Metamorphoses, Fasti and others. Ovid was a Latin poet who compiled many stories of the Gods. Some scholars say that these were written tongue-in-cheek and that the author was impious, but it is not really true.

Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας): Ælládos Pæriígisis (Description of Greece; Gr. Ἑλλάδος Περιήγησις)

Perseus Project - Numerous ancient texts online: Perseus under PhiloLogic Home

Píndaros (Pindar; Gr. Πίνδαρος): The poems.

Sophoklís (Sophocles; Gr. Σοφοκλῆς): All the plays.

Theogony - Please visit this page for a reconstruction of the story of the birth of the Gods and the Kózmos, reconstructed from the fragments collected by Prof. Otto KernOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony. is one of, if not the best sources for Greek mythology for the student who cannot afford books. This source is so extraordinary that I could never possibly express the vastness of what they have accomplished:

For an extensive dictionary of words, both ancient and modern, concerning mythology, please visit this page: 

The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

[1] Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος) Pærí Ísidos kai Osíridos (Isis and Osiris; Gr. Περὶ Ἴσιδος καὶ Ὀσίριδος) Sections 11 (355b), trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936, in the volume entitled Plutarch's Moralia in Sixteen Volumes, Vol. V, published by William Heinemann (London, England UK) and Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA USA). We are using the 1969 edition where this quotation may be found on p. 29.

[2] Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας) Ælládos Pæriíyisis (Description of Greece; Gr. Ελλάδος Περιήγησις), Book VIII (Arkadía).3. As found in Pausanias: Description of Greece, trans. W. H. S. Jones, 1918-1935, in four volumes. We are using the 1961 Loeb Classical Library edition, William Heinemann (London, England UK) and Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA USA), where this quotation may be found in Volume III on p. 381.

[3] Πλάτων Τίμαιος 40d-e, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1894. We are using the 1996 Prometheus Trust edition entitled The Works of Plato Vol. 2 (Somerset UK), where this quotation may be found on p. 442.

 Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος) Yinaikóhn Katálogos (Catalog of Women; Gr. Γυναικῶν Κατάλογος) 63, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914. We are using the 1936 edition entitled Hesiod: The Homeric Hymns and Homerica, published by Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge MA USA) and William Heinemann LTD (London England), Loeb Classical Library, where this quotation can be found on p. 189.

[5] Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) Tímaios (Timaeus; Gr. Τίμαιος) 22c-d, translated by Benjamin Jowett 1892; found in the 1937 Random House edition (New York NY USA) of The Dialogues of Plato, Vol. 2, p. 8.

[6] Dærvǽni (Derveni; Gr. Δερβένι) Papyrus Col. 7, trans. by Gábor Betegh in the book The Derveni Papyrus, 2004, by Gábor Betegh, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge UK), p. 17.

[7] Λόγος Στρώματα Κλήμεντος του Ἀλεξανδρέως 5.8, trans. by William Wilson, 1885.

[8] Ploutarkhos Pærí Ísidos kai Osíridos (Isis and Osiris; Gr. Περὶ Ἴσιδος καὶ Ὀσίριδος) Section 11 (355c-d). Trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936, in the volume entitled Plutarch's Moralia in Sixteen Volumes, Vol. V, published by William Heinemann (London, England UK) and Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA USA). We are using the 1969 edition where this quotation may be found on p. 31.

[9] Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος) Víï Parállili (Parallel Lives; Gr. Βίοι Παράλληλοι) Life of Pæriklís (Pericles; Gr. Περικλῆς), penultimate paragraph, trans. John Dryden in 1683. We are using the 1992 Modern Library Edition, Random House (New York, NY USA), entitled Plutarch's Lives (The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Plutarch) where this quotation can be found on p. 234.

[10] Plátohn (Plato; Gr. ΠλάτωνNómi (The Laws; Gr. Νόμοι) Book 10.886 b-c, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892, as found in The Dialogues of Plato, published in 1937, by Random House (New York, NY USA), where this quotation may be found on p. 628.)

[11] Plátohn (Plato; Gr. ΠλάτωνNómi (The Laws; Gr. Νόμοι) Book 12.941b, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1804, as found in The Works of Plato Vol. II, Vol. X of The Thomas Taylor Series, published in the year 2007 by The Prometheus Trust (Dorset, England UK), where this quotation may be found on p. 316.

[12] Marínos of Næapolítis (Marinus of Neapolis; Gr. Μαρίνος ὁ Νεαπολίτης) Próklos 38, trans. by Mark Edwards in Neoplatonic Saints: The Lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their Students, Translated Texts for Historians Vol. 35© 2000 Mark Edwards, Liverpool Univ. Press (Liverpool UK), p. 115.

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages: 

PHOTO COPYRIGHT INFORMATION: The many pages of this website incorporate images, some created by the author, but many obtained from outside sources. To find out more information about these images and why this website can use them, visit this link: Photo Copyright Information

DISCLAIMER: The inclusion of images, quotations, and links from outside sources does not in any way imply agreement (or disagreement), approval (or disapproval) with the views of by the external sources from which they were obtained.

Further, the inclusion of images, quotations, and links from outside sources does not in any way imply agreement (or disagreement), approval (or disapproval) by of the contents or views of any external sources from which they were obtained.

For more information:

For answers to many questions: Hellenismos FAQ

© 2010 by  All Rights Reserved.

HOME           GLOSSARY          RESOURCE          ART          LOGOS          CONTACT
Web Analytics