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How Greek Mythology Subdued the Stress of Natural Phenomena

Introduction

People have always created various stories to describe the world surrounding them. They were known as myths several millennia ago, which attracted individuals regardless of their backgrounds. Slaves, peasants, artisans, poets, and rulers appreciated them, as tales made their lives more meaningful and less stressful. Even though many people doubted their authenticity or refused to believe in them at all, they were extremely popular. Greek mythology is an excellent illustration of how people lived and perceived the world around them in ancient times. Undoubtedly, the Greeks were incredibly creative, as they produced one of the most remarkable pantheons and described almost every event happening in their daily lives. They regarded every natural phenomenon as a result of different gods’ emotions, thoughts, or actions. The reason for it was that people back then possessed little knowledge and experience to explain uncertain situations; thus, they created stories clarifying them to feel more confident and less anxious.

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Natural Phenomena

The Greek pantheon is extremely rich and provides a good understanding of the way the ancient Greeks perceived their surroundings. They succeeded in illustrating and clarifying almost everything that happened around them. Undoubtedly, various natural phenomena were described as well, as they affected every individual. Gordon (xi) notes that one of the best ways to study the Greek pantheon is to select a god and trace his or her ancestry to a natural phenomenon. Most divinities are connected with various natural occurrences and give them some meaning. For example, Helios is the god of the sun, Poseidon represents the sea, and Aeolus keeps the winds. The Greeks were aware of them and their powers, and when they observed droughts, floods, and storms, they knew who caused them and why. Hence, the relations between natural phenomena and gods reveal critical aspects of the Greeks’ worldview.

Furthermore, the Greeks associated everything with mount Olympus and its residents. According to Burkert (245), “It is true, of course, that much that we call natural, using the terminology developed by philosophy in the fifth century, was known to earlier times as divine.” Even though many individuals believe in different religious stories nowadays, they know that earthquakes are caused by seismic waves but not by gods living underground. Most natural phenomena are well defined due to the considerable progress in sciences in the modern world; thus, people no longer need to invent different stories to interpret them. However, in ancient times, little information on natural processes was available. Besides, many Greeks disrespected those who disagreed with myths and searched for truth. They believed that all events are related to Gods, as they could not explain them scientifically.

Naturally, every human being needs some stories to feel safe and avoid anxiety. The Greeks had to develop various fictional stories to interpret natural phenomena occurring in their environment. Unless they had done so, they would have felt completely powerless and regarded the world as meaningless. It is a great tragedy when people cannot find any sense in life, as it suspends progress. The Greeks needed a multitude of engaging myths to deal with their daily problems more successfully and find hope for the future. Natural disasters indicated that gods were disappointed or furious about mortals’ thoughts, words, or actions. Hence, they motivated people to change their behavioral patterns, adopt good qualities, and appreciate gods. Greek mythology-inspired people to live better lives, as the anger of divinities was likely to cause serious challenges such as storms, wildfires, droughts, and floods.

Volcanic Eruptions

The ancient Greeks suffered from several volcanic eruptions, which caused numerous deaths, ruined cities, and devastated lands. Burkert (34) mentions that one of the greatest natural disasters was the unprecedented eruption of the volcano on Thera, which was the turning point for the history of the region. The event led to adverse consequences and forced survivors to encounter serious challenges. People suffered and knew that the gods caused the disaster. The Greeks could not foresee volcanic eruptions due to the lack of scientific information; thus, numerous of them lost their lands or died. However, the idea that gods produced natural catastrophes because of their anger provoked by mortals did not let the Greeks give up. Still, it inspired them to be better individuals and work diligently to please divinities. They believed that gods rule the world and know what is right and wrong, making ordinary people’s lives meaningful.

The Greeks were convinced that Hephaestus, who was among the most powerful Olympian gods, caused volcanic eruptions. He was the son of Zeus and Hera, and the gods made him leave mount Olympus. Hephaestus was well-known for his talent in metalworking and provided weapons for divinities and mortals. Besides, he represented fire and volcanoes; thus, people feared to annoy him. Hesiod (28) describe the god, “The huge earth burned far and wide with unbelievable heat, melting like iron, which is the strongest substance, when it is overpowered by burning fire in mountain glens, melts in the divine ground by Hephaestus’ craft.” The quote proves that he had considerable power and could severely punish the Greeks for their misdemeanors.

Hence, the Greeks were assured that they knew the reasons for volcanic eruptions. They were occurrences, which people could easily explain and prevent pleasing Hephaestus. These natural disasters symbolized the anger of the god, who belonged to those who created humanity. People believed that all the tragedies made sense and continued to live happily despite them. The Greeks did not experience much anxiety and depression, as they realized that the world is meaningful because of fictional residents of mount Olympus.

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Thunderstorms

People always observe thunderstorms, and the reasons why they happen were clearly clarified by scientists long ago. However, the ancient Greeks could not explain the complex natural phenomena occurring in the sky without employing myths. They determine the gods who caused them to avoid the feeling of powerlessness in front of natural forces impossible to comprehend back then. Tales were engaging and straightforward and strengthened the belief that everything in the world was meaningful.

People believed that Zeus generated thunderstorms and deeply feared to irritate him. He was the most influential and potent in the Greek pantheon. Zeus affected the lives of mortals, as well as influenced divinities’ existences. Gordon (2) emphasizes that he was a king who was completely different from others, as he became sovereign himself, containing all the merits of the world. Zeus had enormous power and shaped the world of mortals and gods as he wished. Everyone feared his anger and did their best to please the chief resident of mount Olympus.

The Greeks observed thunderstorms very often and believed them to be proof of Zeus’ presence. Apollodorus (24) describes, “Zeus struck him down with a thunderbolt, and destroyed the city that he had founded, with all its inhabitants.” The god punished one man who disobeyed him in such a cruel way. Therefore, the Greeks knew that their wrong thoughts, words, and actions revealing their disrespect of divinities could lead to severe consequences harming them, their close ones, and whole communities. Moreover, people feared those who publicly claimed that gods did not exist, and many different factors led to natural phenomena. The latter had a small number of proofs to defend their stories; thus, they suffered from convictions, even though they were right.

Floods

The stories describing gods experiencing discontent or fury and deserving to teach humans what is right and what is wrong by flooding lands are present in almost every mythology and religion. The ancient Greeks believed that the Olympian gods, who were angry because of people’s behavior and disrespect, caused floods, killed humans, and devastated large areas. It was the only possible way for the Greeks to explain the disastrous natural phenomena affecting many regions. They had little knowledge to determine natural factors producing floods and feared those who spread such ideas. The Greeks felt safer knowing that the catastrophes are caused by divinities aiming to keep law and order across the country. The opinion that some unknown and mysterious forces provoked the tragedies was unfavorable and too complicated and unrealistic compared with simple myths.

Natural phenomena made the ancient Greeks highly disturbed, as they could do nothing to prevent them. Moreover, it was extremely difficult to survive unforeseeable natural disasters. A multitude of individuals died, lost their close ones, or were deprived of all their possessions. Apollodorus (37) writes, “Zeus poured an abundance of rain from heaven to flood the greater part of Greece, causing all human beings to be destroyed, apart from those few who took refuge in the lofty mountains nearby.” According to Greek mythology, he decided to do it because the Greeks disrespected gods and lived a sinful life.

It is evident that the myths produced by the ancient Greeks reveal the strong connection between the world of divinities and one of the mortals. They played a crucial role in the way people perceived the world around them and assigned some meaning to numerous issues. The Greeks regarded the flood caused by Zeus as an essential event in their history. This myth taught them that they had to respect goods in order to live happy lives without facing severe challenges. They were convinced that the natural disaster was caused by divinity and convicted those who doubted this claim.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the ancient Greeks created numerous engaging stories to explain such natural phenomena as volcanic eruptions, floods, and thunderstorms. They possessed little scientific knowledge to determine the reasons for different disasters; thus, they found a creative way to make them meaningful. The idea that there was Mount Olympus where divinities lived, helping, and punishing humans, made the world full of sense. Gods had absolute power and gave many events meaning. Unless people have some stories to rely on, they are at the right risk to face anxiety, stress, and depression. Undoubtedly, the Greeks succeeded in solving this problem by producing vibrant mythology.

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Works Cited

Apollodorus. The Library of Greek Mythology. Translated by Robin Hard, Oxford University Press, 1997.

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical. Harvard University Press, 1987.

Gordon, Richard L., editor. Myth, Religion and Society. Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Hesiod. Theogony. Works and Days. Translated by and Martin L. West, Oxford University Press, 1988.

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