What is a Myth?

A myth is a story. Did you ever wonder why there are stars and planets in the sky? Who we are? Why things happen to us? If so, you are not alone. The ancient Greeks and Romans were intrigued with these questions. To make sense out of every day life, and to explain things we know today as science, they invented myths. Myths were created and passed on as stories about gods and goddesses, heroes, great deeds and supernatural powers.

At first, the stories were passed on from one person to another. Just like the "whisper in my ear and pass it on" game, details changed with each telling. This process evolved over hundreds of years. Eventually some of the myths were written down. Many of the Greek myths of today were first recorded by the poets Homer and Hesiod in the 8th century BC.

The most powerful Greek gods lived high atop Mt. Olympus. They looked and acted much like humans, but were more beautiful, powerful and far more gifted with supernatural powers. These gods and goddesses had human feelings and emotions, like love, anger, and jealousy. They married, had children, fought with each other, and generally acted like the Greek people they ruled. Each god or goddess had a special area of influence, such as love, war, hunting, music or agriculture.

Mythical stories similar to these were created all over the world in Americas by the Indians, in Asia and Egypt, and in Europe by the Norsemen and the Celts. People in ancient times believed the stories to be true.

Although myths took thousands of years to evolve into their present state, they are regarded as masterpieces of literature that have shaped worlds and cultures.

All throughout Homer's story, humans are taught powers and given help in accomplishing the impossible. The Greek gods and goddesses provided assistance to overcome significant obstacles by bestowing their mythological powers onto the humans. Rather than rule over the people as a princess, queen or empress would do, the gods and goddesses would interact with and help the people.