roman and ancient greek mythology

Greek myths are epic legends of overcoming daunting challenges and the dominance of gods and goddesses over the world. A causal interpretation of the tales would yield only a few outstanding stories of battles, conflicts, and romance told by old storytellers. A deeper understanding, on the other hand, reveals morality, beliefs, and theology in addition to the traditional idea, through a more detailed glance at the legends showing morals, philosophies, and theology.
Discussing mythology offers colorful memories and dreams of great wars, the search for heroes and gods at a period when monsters roamed the world openly terrorizing mankind. Myths can be found in a variety of fields, including history, art, philosophy, and religion. Initially developed by narrators recognized as poets, they presented a unique version of their stories each time they narrated them. At times, the stories were considered unacceptable to the public and hence never repeated. The works of historians, e.g., Herodotus, Hippocrates, were different to those of poets since the former presented facts of incidents which had taken place. In line with this, the essay delves into the intricacies of how Greece and Rome applied religion and mythology in building their empires, including the Imperial Cult and Alexander the Great.

How the Greek Applied Religion and Mythology in Building their Empires
Historians, authors, and researchers share varied views about the concept of myths. While some think that these are some fancy tales to entertain their audience, others attach a level of importance to it. Another school of thought is these allegorical poems have some deep inner meaning with moral, social and cultural values. In many societies, ancient religious notions have played a major role in developing cultural and social values. The Roman Empire was not an exception, being one of the largest and influential civilizations in ancient time. Roman myths are based on history and heroes of Rome including those who built the empire. They had their pantheon of gods and goddess. These deities are mostly associated with Greek mythology. Romans added the Greek gods and other foreign cults to the deity collections as their empire expanded.
From the founding of the Roman empire to its fall in A.D. 476, Rome dominated Europe and much of North Africa, the Near East, and Asia Minor. Although this sprawling empire encompassed many cultures with their myths and legends, the mythology of the Romans themselves revolved around the founding history and heroes of the city. After the conquest of Greece, however, their deities became increasingly associated with the figures of Greek mythology. Disconnecting the history of Rome from the myths is difficult. Until 510 B.C. Rome operated a monarchical system of government. Then Rome became a republic government administered by officers. The foundation of Rome is associated with the national epic of poet Virgil name ‘Aeneid.’ The mythologies were developed during the early stage of the empire (20 B.C. to A.D. 20). Virgil and Ovid, who wrote metamorphoses, drew myths linked with the city’s founding deities and Greek legends. Ovid collected the near eastern and Greek myths and wrote in a unique way which portrayed the legends of founding city.
In ancient times, the religious view was polytheistic both in Roman and Greek civilization. Different from today’s monotheistic perspective, the gods and goddesses held different types of power for various aspects of life. The gods ruled over the region’s natural phenomenon and events, differing from today’s Messiah, salvation, and faith-based religion. The role of Greek myths and religion has a pervasive influence on society and every aspect of life.
In the Lower Peninsula Romans adopted many Greek gods as their own as a result of colonialism. The religious view was no different. The Greek and Roman gods were more anthropomorphic with human feelings such as love, hate, anger, wrath, and jealousy. However, adopting the Greek gods in religion the practice of rituals was different and had set rigid rules to avoid the hazardous religious zeal.
The fusion of Greek and Roman deities influenced the life of Rome in many ways. Although entertainment was the main function of these stories, poets were inspired to develop more characters interlinked with the previous plot and characters.
In Greek society, these myths serve many functions. The characters and plot of the stories give a view of the history of that time. Though the characters are fictional, the allegorical description provides more meaning when compared to actual historical texts. To understand the influence of these mythical heroes, there is a need to look at the names of the days and planets, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus, etc. The western culture and civilization have altered the religious views and science has also overruled the factual accuracy of these events. But mythology can be used to relate to the actions of past. Many historians have confirmed that some facts about Homer’s “Troy” were real. There may have been a war, and the war was fought for a runaway wife. These myths also serve an inspiration for further studies.
Myths have their explanation of the creation theory. It is fascinating to read the fancy stories of the clash between Supergiant and Gods. Prometheus the creator of mankind, Zeus the supreme power, every figure has some characteristics human mind for which always craved. Pandora’s Box is an excellent example of an allegorical story which explains how the sufferings have come to earth. There are some similarities between the biblical theories and the Greek myths. In both texts, it is found that curiosity was the reason behind the human sufferings. In Bible, Eve was curious about the forbidden fruit, on the other hand, Pandora was curious about the wooden box which was also prohibited from opening.
People try to understand the world and phenomenon in their ways and most often their questions were answered through stories, myths, and fairy tales. By the flow of time, some of these stories become a proverb and set moral notions in cultural tradition. Change of season, day and night and other natural phenomenon were mysterious in ancient time due to lack of scientific research and explanation.
People created superpowers and asked them for help, however, in recent times, Polytheistic religions have become obsolete, while Monotheistic God-based religion has gained popularity and acceptance among the people. But there are some basic similarities which will never be changed. The human quest for spirit and consciousness colors these stories in many ways. The creation myth was a complex process regardless of the long explanation. Erynome the goddess bore Titans, Uranus; the father had the power of government over the planets. Saturn was ruled by Rhea and Cronus, who rebelled against his father Uranus and castrated. When the drops of his blood fell on earth, it brought life to earth.
This is an abridged version of the creation myth. Another puzzle in the minds of people includes answers to the question of “what will happen after death?” In Greek mythology, the deceased descend into the underworld. There is a river known as Styx Sharon has to be paid to cross the river. So after death, two gold coins were put on the closed eyes of deceased to pay Charon. The God of the underworld is Hades. The deceased souls can go into three places. Dreadful creatures protect the place from outside, so the living persons are unable to visit the place. The underworld was placed into a bottomless abyss.
Religion and mythology played a major role in the development of early empires. Alexander III of Macedon, commonly referred to as Alexander the Great, was a king in ancient Greece, having succeeded his father as the ruler of the kingdom of Macedon at the tender age of twenty. To date, he is still considered among the most successful military commander in history. Besides his major conquests after many successful battles, Alexander’s legacy is inclusive of syncretism and cultural diffusion brought about by his conquests. With twenty cities bearing his name, Alexander’s settlement of colonists from Greece and the ensuing spread of their culture in the east gave rise to the new Hellenistic civilization. Facets of the newly invented evolution were still present up to the mid-15th century as part of the Byzantine Empire. Further, the central and far eastern parts of Anatolia had a significant presence of Greek-speaking citizens until early 20th century. Alexander the Great prominently featured in the mythic and history customs of Greek and non-Greek traditions, becoming the gauge against which military leaders appraise themselves. To date, global military institutions apply his tactics as part of the curriculum.
Unlike any other ancient legend, Alexander’s greatness is prominent in contemporary Greek folklore as carried on from early generations. An example of a renowned fable tells of a lone sea mermaid who would take hold of a vessel’s prow in a storm and ask the ship’s captain whether the king was still alive. The preferred answer to this question that would send the mermaid back to sea and calm the storm was “He is alive and well and rules the world!” Any other response to the contrary would provoke the sea creature into a raging Gorgon that would pull the boat to the bottom of the ocean with all hands aboard. The influence of Alexander the Great also reached various religions as seen in his 334 BC financial donation towards completion of a new temple, Athena Polias, Priene. Currently domiciled in the British Museum, a message inscribed on one section of the temple reads, “King Alexander dedicated [this temple] to Athena Polias.”
How the Romans Applied Religion and Mythology in Building their Empires
Unlike the Greeks, the Romans were more imaginative when drawing the images of the God. The Roman traditions were based on ceremonies and the worship of God. The culture of Rome was not developed in one or a few days. Culture holds a nation’s art, literature, and religion. For instance, in ancient Rome, some gladiators fought in arenas for entertainment. Language is the medium for the flow of information where stories have been told for thousands of years and from one generation to another. Sometimes fables legitimize a claim to a land or a city which gives the right to rule the land or city. These types of stories are called founding myths.
In ancient times, people were busy collecting food and hunting animals. They strove to secure their generations from external threat, where they lived by tribes and fought for their land and shelter. Ancient Greek and Romans also fought for their land. The uncertainty of living and fear of the unknown prompted communities to come up with tales, offering answers and giving courage to youth to protect their families, supporting them to be heroes like Hercules. When analyzing myths and comparing them to daily life, mythic stories suggests thinking in between the “Fact” and “Myth” as a linear spectrum radically contrasted by the black and white. There are many “Gray areas” which are investigated in many pre-modern cultures have not been prioritized as scientific analysis.
The inclination leading to deification of the Roman emperors initially originated from the East, where Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and Pharaohs, Lysander of Sparta, and Lycurgus were worshipped both in life and after death. Upon the conquest of the East by Rome, the Romans shifted similar divine tributes to their proconsuls. Any time that a ruler of the empire would appear, he would eventually get celebrated as a god in the eastern region. In the meantime, this prepared a mindset of imperial worship amongst the Romans where legendaries such as Romulus, Latinus, and Aeneas considered founders of the nation were seen to be of divine descent. Accordingly, they were highly accorded the honor given to deities. Naturally, therefore, the originator of the empire, a fresh and better Rome, was deemed to receive equal homage and regarded as a god. The veneration of Dea Roma was also a forerunner to the imperial cult.
Christians and martyrologists deemed the cult that deitifying the emperors as an offensive instrument of paganism and persecution. As a result, it turned into a focus for theological and political debaters in the period of the ascendancy of Christianity under the leadership of Constantine I. Julian, the emperor, could not turn around the diminishing support for the official religious practices among the Romans, causing Theodosius I to adopt Christianity as the Roman state’s religion. This further led to the abandonment of the Roman imperial cult and traditional gods. However, a majority of the rituals, practices and status distinctions characterizing the sect to emperors were attained in the politics and theology of the Christianized Empire.
For the modern readers, it is difficult to contextualize the concepts of myths. Researchers have found much proof of mythical incidents although they are not like the fancy tales they have significant similarities and hints. For ordinary people, these stories are still an excellent source of entertainment. Books are yet being written, and movies are being made on these myths. Mythology still has the same appeal to people. Some people find moral messages; some find entertainment. Humankind is still captivated by ancient stories irrespective of how old there they are.


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Miller, Walter. “Roman History and Mythology. Henry A. Sanders”. Classical Philology 7, no. 1 (1912): 97-100. Doi: 10.1086/359620.
Stark, Rebecca, Karen Birchak, and Nelsy Fontalvo. Mythology. Hawthorne, N.J.: Educational Impressions, 2001.

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