Philosophical thinking as a prerequisite to study the Greek Mythology

Here we present an excerpt from Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ book ‘The Roman Antiquities‘ (The Loeb Classical Library). Dionysius provides us with valuable information on what Greek Mythology really is, and why only people like the Philosophers could make proper use of it.


“Let no one imagine, however, that I am not sensible that some of the Greek myths are useful to mankind, part of them explaining, as they do, the works of Nature by allegories, others being designed as a consolation for human misfortunes, some freeing the mind of its agitations and terrors and clearing away unsound opinions, and others invented for some other useful purpose. But, though I am as well acquainted as anyone with these matters, nevertheless my attitude toward the myths is one of caution, and I am more inclined to accept the theology of the Romans, when I consider that the advantages from the Greek myths are slight and cannot be of profit to many, but only to those who have examined the end for which they are designed; and this philosophic attitude is shared by few.

The great multitude, unacquainted with philosophy, are prone to take these stories about the gods in the worse sense and to fall into one of two errors: they either despise the gods as buffeted by many misfortunes, or else refrain from none of the most shameful and lawless deeds when they see them attributed to the gods.”

NovoScriptorium: Dionysius is one of a number of ancient sources that explain to us what Greek Mythology really is. In NovoScriptorium we have already posted a number of relative articles on the subject. Greek Mythology is all that Dionysius describes here, plus History of very old times. It appears, not surprisingly at all, that Philosophy/philosophical thinking is a prerequisite for anyone who would like to study the Myths. If someone lacks of it, then calamities like superstition, atheism, and a multitude of other distortions emerge. And, of course, there can be no real comprehension and interpretation of the Myths.

Research-Selection for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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