Greek Mythology: What are its divisions and the reasons it should be studied

If we think simply of Mythology, it would justifiably seem as something useless and unnecessary, and unworthy of any attention and curiosity, valuable only for talk-games and dissertations. But if regarded as Archaeology*, and as history of the beginnings of the most ancient nations, their customs, politics, tactics, arts, sciences, theology and philosophy, it then appears to be a primary lesson, worthy of much curiosity and research, so that no scientist , or a philosopher, or a philologist, or a politician, or a strategist, or a craftsman would exclude himself from this knowledge, not merely for the understanding of antiquity, and simple curiosity, but as a necessity, for his own benefit through it. And if someone would say that they are not in need of this kind of knowledge, they can be criticized in the same way someone is criticized for denying the necessity of historical knowledge.

*[‘Archaeology‘ literally means ‘to talk about the beginnings/origins’. Αρχαίος-ancient (αρχή-αρχικός-origin/beginning-original) + λόγος (word)]

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Archaeologists divide the ancient history of the world into three (a)eons (Αιώνας), according to the national history. And the first one is called Latent (Άδηλος), the second one is called Mythological (Μυθολογικός), and the third one is called Historical (Ιστορικός). The Latent is defined from the beginning of the world, until the Cataclysm of Ogygos (Ωγύγος), which they also define as the (A)eon of the Gods, because it was then that the gods, Uranus, Cronus, Zeus, and the others, ruled. It was during that (a)eon that the archaic habit of deification of humans, for their virtues, existed, as stated in various circumstances. That is why the Poets refer to several things binomial, saying that gods and Men called the very same thing with a different word.

It was called Latent because it was actually as such; having no temporal reference, neither of its beginning, nor its duration, nor its end. There was ignorance as to its temporal position. Because it is impossible to make a certain conclusion, by generations, because most ancient nations refer to their various ancestors, the different persons and their numbers, and there is ignorance as to which is the oldest. And their date is incomprehensible. Because of the many thousands of years of human life. And so the tests and examinations so far have not found the probability. And the births of those persons are doubtful, and the places, and the names, and almost everything surviving from that (a)eon. Therefore it was justifiably named ‘latent’.

The Mythological was defined from the Cataclysm of Ogygos to the beginning of the Olympiads, which they also call Heroic, because during that (a)eon the Heroes lived, thought to be the descendants and successors of the gods. Mythological was named because it presents the heroic deeds mixed with myths, according to the ancient custom. However, its duration is defined by a probable chronology.

The Historical is defined from the beginning of the Olympiads to the birth of Jesus Christ, where the new History commences. It was called Historical, because since then the Greeks’ chronology regularly begins.

So, as things are, history occasionally mentions events only of the Historical (a)eon; the rest of the events, of the two previous (a)eons, must be sought in Mythology, that is, in Archeology.

The ignorant of the history, mythology, and customs of those (a)eons, must not think that it is possible to understand a poet, or a writer.

I named this treatise Ogygía (Ωγυγία), because it deals with antiquity, and the most ancient things were called ogýgia (ωγύγια) by the Greeks, because of the antiquity of Ogygos (Ωγύγος).

But since it is impossible for Man to learn all the teachings completely, for life is short, as Theophrastus said, he learns the most necessary. And he who learns more, the more philosophical he is, because he understands, and judges things better, through erudition. We should not hope that we can understand an author without erudition.

(Source: The first volume of ‘Ogygia‘ by Athanasios Stageiritis*, p. 9-22)

*Athanasios Stageiritis was Professor of Greek Language at the Caesar’s Royal academy of Eastern languages Austria, Vienna (in German: Kaiserlich-königliche Akademie für Orientalische Sprachen). His memorable five-volume book ‘Ogygía’ was first published in Vienna during 1815.

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Research-Selection-Translation for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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