Cronus and Rhea: The Second Dynasty of Greek Gods and Goddesses

The rise of Zeus. By E.M. Berens / 05.21.2014 Cronus (Saturn) Cronus was the god of time in its sense of eternal duration. He married Rhea, daughter of Uranus and Gaea, a very important divinity. Their children were, three sons: Aïdes (Pluto), Poseidon (Neptune), Zeus (Jupiter), and three daughters: Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), and Hera[…]

Aztec Sacrifice: Repayment to the Gods for Continued Prosperity

An Aztec ceremonial knife with a cedarwood handle and flint blade. The figure of the handle is covered in turquoise and shell mosiac and represents an Aztec Eagle knight. 1400-1521 CE. (British Museum, London) / British Museum The highest possible honor to the gods regarded as a necessity to ensure humanity’s continued prosperity. By Mark Cartwright / 05.03.2018[…]

The Enduring Appeal of Norse Gods

The stuff of legend. Shutterstock Norse mythology is having a moment as a leading author re-tells the tales for a new generation. By Dr. Carolyne Larrington / 02.21.2017 Professor and Tutorial Fellow in English St. John’s College University of Oxford The Norse gods are back and ready for a new generation in acclaimed fantasy author Neil Gaiman’s newly published book Norse Mythology. Yet the truth is[…]

Get Literate in Myth, Religion, and Theology

We need to move beyond assumptions that religion is simply about dogmatism. Daniel Montemayor We need to move beyond assumptions that religion is simply about dogmatism, and should continue teaching religion within a secular educational structure. By Dr. Constant Mews / 03.19.2015 Director, Center for Religious Studies Monash University Myth and religion are terms re-entering public debate in Australia. Certainly, myth is a[…]

Britannia, Druids and the Surprisingly Modern Origin of Myths

Sky Atlantic We think of the Druids as being embedded in British culture from the mists of ancient times. But what we think we know about Druids is of surprisingly modern provenance. By Dr. Matthew Kelly / 01.16.2018 Professor of Modern History Northumbria University, Newcastle The new TV series Britannia, which has won plaudits as heralding a new generation of British folk-horror, is clearly not intended to be strictly historical. Instead[…]

The Truth about the Amazons – the Real Wonder Women

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman: a true Amazonian, she is trained in a range of skills in both combat and hunting. Atlas Entertainment, Cruel & Unusual Films, DC Entertainment Since the epics of the Homeric poets, there have been tales of the mysterious, war-like Amazon women. The myth is likely based on the ‘strong, free’ women of the nomadic Scythian tribe. By Dr. Marguerite Johnson / 03.29.2017 Associate Professor of Ancient History[…]

‘Let Us Adore and Drink!’: A Brief History of Wine and Religion

Caravaggio’s 1595 masterpiece Bacchus. Wikimedia Commons Wine, more than other beverage, is intimately connected to celebration and worship. By Dr. Robert Fuller / 12.23.2014 Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Bradley University In a letter to the Abbe Morellet in 1779, Benjamin Franklin mused that the strategic location of the elbow is proof that God desires us[…]

How King Arthur Became One of the Most Pervasive Legends of All Time

Vuk Kostic/www.shutterstock.com Historic heroes like King Arthur have helped audiences through the ages to cope with troubling times. By Dr. Raluca Radulescu / 02.02.2017 Professor of Medieval Literature and English Literature Bangor University King Arthur is one of, if not the, most legendary icons of medieval Britain. His popularity has lasted centuries, mostly thanks to the numerous incarnations of his story that pop[…]

Adonis: A Legendary Love Story

Death of Adonis, by Luca Giordano, c.1685 / The Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons By Elias N. Azar / 02.21.2016 Introduction A marble statue of Adonis. 17th century CE restoration of an ancient marble torso. (Louvre Museum, Paris) / Photo by Mary Harrsch, Flickr, Creative Commons The myth of Adonis, a tale as old as time, is a legendary[…]

The Five Ancient Britons Who Make Up the Myth of King Arthur

Holly Hayes/Flickr, CC BY-NC A forensic dig into early British history means we can finally understand the heroes and stories that created a composite king. By Dr. Miles Russell / 11.10.2017 Senior Lecturer in Archaeology Bournemouth University King Arthur is probably the best known of all British mythological figures. He is a character from deep time celebrated across the world in literature,[…]

Legend of Ishtar, Sumerian Goddess of Love and War

Ishtar (on right) comes to Sargon, who would later become one of the great kings of Mesopotamia. Edwin J. Prittie, The story of the greatest nations, 1913 Love, it is said, is a battlefield, and it was no more so than for the first goddess of love andwar, Ishtar. By Dr. Louise Pryke / 05.07.2017 Lecturer, Languages and Literature of Ancient Israel Macquarie University As singer[…]

The Delphic Oracle: It’s History and Surprising Modern Incarnations

The Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where the wisdom of the oracle was dispensed. Janet Lackey/flickr, CC BY-NC Cicero asked: ‘how to become famous?’ Nero sought to know the timing of his death. TheOracle at Delphi offered pronouncements on all manner of topics – yet as with Google today, the question posed was as important as the answer. By Dr. Julia Kindt / 07.21.2016 Associate Professor and Chair Department of Classics and Ancient History University[…]

The Gods Behind the Days of the Week

The Roman weekday ‘dies Veneris’ was named after the planet Venus, which in turn took its name from Venus, goddess of love. Detail from Venus and Mars, Botticelli, tempera on panel (c1483). / Wikimedia Commons The origins of our days of the week lie with the Romans. Three are named for planets, the other four gods. By Dr. Margaret Clunies Ross / 01.01.2018 Emeritus Professor of English Language and[…]

Ancient Greek Mystery Cults and the Mother Goddess

Orphic Prayer Sheet, 350–300 B.C., Greek. Gold, 1 7/16 x 7/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 75.AM.19. Gift of Lenore Barozzi Mystery cults were an exception to the public and communal nature of ancient Greek religion. By Erin Branham / 03.20.2013 Education Specialist for Family Programs Getty Villa Ancient Greek religion was, by definition, public and[…]

Homer and Comparative Mythology

By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University Still under the spell of Heinrich Schliemann’s rediscovery of Troy, students of ancient Greece have been accustomed to regard the Greek epic tradition of Homer as a reporting of events that really happened in the[…]

Sacrifice Preparation as Communal Ritual in Ancient Rome

Preparations for a Sacrifice, fragment from an architectural relief, c. mid-first century C.E., marble, 172 x 211 cm / 67¾ x 83⅛ inches (Musée du Louvre, Paris)  [note: the date for this relief from the Louvre’s website—beginning of the second century C.E.—is at odds with the Louvre’s publication of its catalog, Roman Art from the Louvre (2009)[…]

The Hero as Savior in Classical Literature and Mythology

Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy. (From a panoramic fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion) / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of sōzein and sōtēr The key word here is the[…]

The Hero’s Agony in the Bacchae of Euripides

Pentheus torn apart by Agave and Ino. Attic red-figure lekanis (cosmetics bowl) lid, ca. 450-425 BCE / Photo by Jastrow, Louvre Museum, Paris By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of agōn The key word here is agōn, plural agōnes. I give three[…]

Heroic Aberration in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Mask of Agamemnon, from shaft grave V, grave circle A, c.1550-1500 B.C.E., gold, 12 inches / 35 cm (National Archaeological Museum, Athens) By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of atē The key word here is atē, the meaning of which can[…]

What Did ‘Hero’ Mean in Ancient Greece?

Dying Warrior sculpture from the East Pediment of the late archaic Temple of Aphaia in Aegina,c.500-480 BCE, Munich, Glyptothek / Photo by Barbara McManus, Creative Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The key word here is sēmainein, which means ‘mean [something],[…]

Krinein: Defining the Cult Hero

Statue of the ancient greek historian Herodotus at the parliament of Vienna / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of krinein The key word for this hour is krinein, the “middle voice” for which is krinesthai, and the meaning of[…]

The Cult Hero in Homeric Poetry and Beyond

Detail of a relief depicting the “Apotheosis of Homer,” attributed to Archelaos of Priene, ca. 225 BCE–205 BCE. In the British Museum. / Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of “olbios” “Ulysses Departing[…]