Greek Mythology (7)
Greek mythology comprises the collected legends of Greek gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines, originally created and spread within an oral tradition. Hundreds of years later, in Classical times, circa 500 b.c.e., those stories were written down. The Greek myths are our window into the distant past, seen not only by the Greek poets but the past that existed in the hearts and minds of the humble citizens of ancient Greece.
While I am introducing students to Greek mythology, I'll show them the location of modern Greece: it is located in southern Europe; it forms an irregular-shaped peninsula in the Mediterranean with two additional large peninsulas projecting from it: the Chalcidice and the Peloponnese. Mount Olympus, rising to 9, 570 ft (2,909 m), is the highest point in the country. Olympus is the place where the most popular and celebrated mythological characters, the twelve deities that came to be known as the Olympians, lived. They shared a common belief and had a great number of followers. We know about them today, because they didn't forbid or punish the pursuit of knowledge; The Immortals (the other name for the Greek gods) considered beauty, poetry, and creative activities their blessings, which became a vital part of the Greek tradition.
Because ancient Greek stories survived hundreds of years of transformations, they may have different versions. But in all of them the Greek gods, most familiar from ancient Greek religion and Greek art, are depicted as human in appearance. They may have birth myths but they never grow old. They are capable of becoming invisible, able to travel vast distances almost instantly, and able to speak through human beings with or without their knowledge. Each has his or her specific appearance, genealogy, interests, personality, and area of expertise. The Olympian twelve gods are described in epic poems as having appeared in person to the Greeks during the "age of heroes." They taught the long suffering ancestors of the Greeks little miracles, useful skills, and the ways of worshipping the gods. They judged humans' deeds: rewarded virtue and punished vice. They also fathered children by humans: these half-human, half-divine children are collectively known as "the heroes."
Icarus and Daedalus
This famous Greek myth will acquaint students with the characters Icarus and Daedalus, as well as with king Minos and the history of building the Labyrinth, Daedalus's architectural masterpiece. Notorious Minos made up his mind to keep Daedalus and his son Icarus in his kingdom, Crete, so that the skillful architect could invent more wonderful devices for him. He locked up Daedalus and Icarus in a high tower beside the sea. But the clever inventor sketched out a winglike framework to which he applied birds' feathers. He built a second pair of wings for his son. During their escape, in spite of Daedalus's numerous instructions how to "fly," Icarus became giddy with exhilaration. He probably saw himself being a god. He flew so close to the sun, that the wax that held the wings together melted, and Icarus plunged into the sea.
This myth has a rather distinct moral: parents bear responsibility for their children in many ways, especially for their children's safety. In their turn, children are to obey their parents, mostly because this obedience garantees them safety and, ultimately, success. Safe childhood and successful upbringing require a measure of obedience, as Icarus finds out the hard way.
However, the other significant theme here is the importance for a human being to be free. The means of achieveing this goal may be fatal, because, according to the myth, Icarus dies. But his glorious flight up to the sun becomes symbolic in the sense that the beauty of the moment should be experienced even if right after that death is inevitable.