ANCIENT MYTHOLOGICAL LITERARY SOURCES

Street Musicians

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HOMER (c. 750 BCE; epic poet)

Iliad - Saga of Achilles' wrath and reconciliation during the Trojan War.

Odyssey - Saga of Odysseus' struggle to reach his home in Ithaca after the Trojan War.

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HESIOD (c. 700 BCE; didactic poet)

Theogony ("birth of the gods") - An account of the origins of the universe, the gods, and Man's moral and social order.

Works and Days - A short, moralizing poem in three parts:

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Theology and Ethics - Moral precepts described by means of myths, especially Pandora, Prometheus, and the Five Ages of Man.

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A treatise on agriculture.

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Descriptions of Greek calendar of rituals as well as Greek superstitions.

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HOMERIC HYMNS (c. 650 to 250 BCE)

Thirty-three Hymns (songs to the gods), varying from 5 to 585 lines, written by several poets.

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LYRIC POETS

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Stesichorus of Himera (c. 632-556 BCE) - "Geryoneis," "Thebaid," "Helen," "Palinode to Helen," "Sack of Troy," "Homecomings," "Oresteia."

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Simonides of Cos (c. 552-468 BCE) - "Perseus and Danae," "Europa;" Epigrams; Encomia ("On the Sea Battle of Salamis"); Epitaphs ("To the Dead at Thermopylae").

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Bacchylides of Cos (c. 518-450 BCE) - Dithyrambs ("The Coming of Theseus," "Theseus and the Ring"); Epinicians (victory odes). Nephew of Simonides and rival of Pindar.

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PINDAR (518-438 BCE)

Theban poet. He was known to have written several collections of Hymns, but most of these have been lost. His surviving works include: 4 books of Epinicians celebrating the victory of an athlete at one of the great Pan-Hellenic games (Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, Isthmian); fragments of Paeans (songs to Apollo); Dithyrambs (choral odes); Threnoi (lamentations).

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GREEK TRAGEDY (Classical Period, Athens, 5th century BCE)

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Aeschylus (525-456 BCE) -7 of 90 plays survive.

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Sophocles (496-406 BCE) -7 of 120+ plays survive.

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Euripides (485-406 BCE) -19 of 80+ plays survive.

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HELLENISTIC PERIOD (mainly Alexandria, Egypt, late 4th century to 1st century BCE)

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Callimachus of Cyrene (305-240 BCE) - Hymns; Aitia (aetiology of Greek history and customs).

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Apollonius Rhodius (300-240 BCE) - Argonautica (epic tale of Jason and the Argonauts).

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Theocritus of Syracuse (310-250 BCE) - Idylls (myths in a pastoral setting).

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Orphica (c. 6th century BCE-2nd century CE) - Mystic poetry based on Orpheus. Rhapsodic Theogony.

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ROMAN PERIOD (mainly 1st century BCE to 3rd century CE)

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Vergil (70 BCE-19 BCE, Roman) - Eclogues or Bucolics (pastoral poetry); Georgics (agricultural, didactic poetry); Aeneid (epic saga of Aeneas and his founding of the Roman people in Italy).

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Ovid (43 BCE-CE 18, Roman) - Metamorphoses; Heroides (mythological heroines).

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Seneca (5 BCE-CE 65, Roman) - Wrote violent imitations of Greek tragedies: Medea; Oedipus; Hercules Enraged; Hippolytus; Trojan Women. Influenced Shakespeare.

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Phaedrus (fl. early 1st century CE, Greek) - Fabulist; tutor in Augustus' household.

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Babrius (fl. late 1st century CE, Roman) - Fabulist; Latin adaptations of Aesop's fables.

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Pausanias (fl. c. CE 150, Greek) - Sightseer. His Description of Greece includes many myths and legends, as well as rare eyewitness accounts of the cities and shrines he visited.

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Apollodorus (fl. c. CE 220, Greek) - Bibliotheca (a collection of myths from various sources).

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THE STORY OF BELLEROPHON (ILIAD 6.152-202)

There is a city, Ephyre, in the corner of horse-pasturing Argos. There lived Sisyphus, that sharpest of all men, and he had a son named Glaukos, and Glaucus in turn sired Bellerophon the blameless. To Bellerophon the gods granted beauty and desirable manhood. But Proitos, in anger, devised evil things against him, and drove him out of his own domain, since he was far greater, drove him from the Argive country Zeus had broken to the sway of his scepter. Beautiful Anteia, the wife of Proitos, was stricken with passion to lie in love with him, and yet she could not beguile valiant Bellerophon, whose will was virtuous. So she went to Proitos and uttered her falsehood: "Would you be killed, Proitos? Then murder Bellerophon who tried to lie with me in love, though I was unwilling." So she spoke, and anger took hold of the king at her story. He shrank from killing him, since his heart was awed by such action, but sent him away to Lycia, and handed him murderous symbols, which he inscribed in a folding tablet, enough to destroy life, and told him to show it to his wife's father, that he might perish.

Bellerophon went to Lycia in the blameless convoy of the gods. When he came to Lycia, the king tendered him full-hearted honor. Nine days he entertained him, and on the tenth day he began to question him, and asked to be shown the symbols. After he had been given his son-in-law's wicked symbols, first he sent him away with orders to kill the Chimera, a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire. He killed the Chimera. Next he fought the Solymoi, and this he thought was the strongest battle with men that he entered. Third he slaughtered the Amazons, who fight men in battle. As he returned, the king spun another entangling treachery: for choosing the bravest men in Lycia he laid a trap, but these men never came home thereafter, since all of them were killed by Bellerophon. Then the king knew him for the powerful stock of the god. He detained him there and offered him the hand of his daughter and gave him half of the kingly privilege. His bride bore three children. Afterward Bellerophon was hated by all the immortals. He wandered alone about the plain of Aleios eating his heart out, skulking aside from the trodden track of humanity.

(Lattimore trans.)

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