Impact of Greek Mythology on Western Culture

Greek mythology has left a significant impact on modern western culture in today’s world. We can understand the effect it has on Western culture because even if a person who hasn’t studied Greek mythology knows about Hercules and how he was the strongest man and that Aphrodite was the goddess of love. 

If we go through Western history, we can prove that Greek and Hebrew cultures have always acted like the breasts that fed Western civilization throughout decades. Therefore, both cultures greatly influenced Western culture, but Greek mythology’s impact has always been more profound and clear, especially on Western art and literature. 

The Greek Mythology

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Greek mythology is a subject that has complete and concentrated content throughout history and is also considered one of the most complete mythologies in the world. The mythology has such deep roots that philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates couldn’t help but quote from Greek mythology. Other than philosophers, historians such as Herodotus and artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Rubens are also found guilty of creating masterpieces after being influenced by Greek mythological figures and plots. 

The ancient Greek culture was colorful and splendid, due to which the heritage it left behind was also full of interesting factors that attracted the west towards it, especially the Greek mythology. Greek mythology was something that came into being as a result of the spiritual behavior and culture of the primitive clan society. It is a complete collection created by the ancient Greeks, also the first-ever form of literature in the western world. 

Greek mythology is not something that can be understood in one sitting; it is a wide network of interconnected branches and hundreds of stories that are also not so consistent. Basically, Greek mythology can be divided into two main categories: legends of the heroes and the stories of deities. Even in this complex mythology, one can conclude that there is a crystal clear familial context in it, and the stories and myths are all based on blood ties and basic veins. 

The stories of deities represent the visualization of ancient Greek people that they used to feel and understand the powerful phenomenon of nature. However, the legends of heroes were a way for them to worship and idealize the legendary figures and the events they went through. 

Greek Mythology and the Western Art, Literature, and Culture 

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The Greek myths have a significant part in the source of imagination and ideas that the Western world of arts and literature has been using for centuries. From painters to poets, everyone was and still is inspired by Greek mythology, and a large number of their ideas have a basis in Greek myths. The fact that the major themes of the stories and legends from Greek mythology are relatable even for the modern people made the connection between western culture and Greek mythology clearer and more obvious. 

In the modern western world, several writers and artists borrowed ideas from Greek mythology and told new stories with the borrowed themes and ideas to the modern people. Its significant influence on western literature and art was why it became a profound part of the Western civilization’s development.

It wasn’t just the stories, plays, and poems that were affected by Greek mythology, but the visual arts too. Most Roman mythologies were based upon the Greek mythological figures and ideas; however, the names Romans gave to their gods differed from their Greek twins. Roman and Greek mythology had so much in common that they were named “Classical mythology.” Even Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” had a major influence on poets, artists, and writers after him. 

In modern western society, Greek mythology’s impact was intense, especially in arts and literature. During the 1980s, The Bangle, an all-female rock band, hit the top ten after releasing their single song “Venus,” inspired by the Roman version of Greek Goddess Aphrodite. Different TV shows and movies like Hercules and Hades, the underworld lord, were inspired by Greek Mythology. 

Most constellations are named after Greek characters or monsters, such as Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Gemini, and Hercules. Most planets are also named after Greek Gods or their Roman versions, such as Venus, and our own Earth was named after a Greek myth. 

Renaissance and the Rediscovery of Classical Literature and Arts 

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It wasn’t until the Renaissance era that the Europeans started rediscovering classical literature and arts. Most Renaissance paintings were based upon Greek mythology, such as Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting “Birth of Venus.” It was based on the Roman version of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and Raphael’s “The Triumph of Galatea,” which was based on a Greek sea nymph. 

Though the literature was in the Latin language at that time, Greek mythology had a great influence on Renaissance poetry; for example, in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Petrarch, and Dante, there is clear evidence of ideas based upon Greek mythology. 

Even after the Renaissance, major dramatists such as T.S Eliot, Eugene O’Neill, and Jean Giraudoux got the inspiration for most of their works from Greek mythology. 

Greek mythology largely inspired musicians and composers, such as Richard Strauss, Jacques Offenbach, Igor Stravinsky, and Christoph Gluck, to use different Greek mythological themes. 

Impact of Greek Mythology on Western Language 

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Language is a major part of any culture, and Greek mythology is something that shaped and formed the English language and many other western languages on a significant level. There are several examples in the English language that show the impact of Greek Mythology on this language. For example, a Herculean task (a task that requires bravery and effort), the drug name Morphine comes from “Morpheus” (God of sleep), and the name “venereal disease” comes from “Venus.” 

Even today, the word “harpy” (a winged monster with a bird’s claws and a female’s torso) is used for an unpleasant woman. On the other hand, a good-looking man is called “Adonis” (a man who was so beautiful that Aphrodite fell in love with him). Today, we even use Greek mythological words, such as “Trojans,” to represent computer viruses. Some other examples are as follows: 

  • To lie in the arms of Morpheus – to sleep
  • Achilles heel – a fatal vulnerability
  • Open Pandora’s Box – setting the world of troubles free 
  • To have the Midas touch – turning everything to gold 
  • Rich like Croesus – Croesus was famous for his extreme wealth 

There are many more words that find their base in the Greek mythological figures and their stories. 

Conclusion 

Greek mythology has deep roots in western culture. From the language to arts and literature, we can always find references to Greek mythological figures and legends in everything. Even in the modern western world, Greek mythology has a significant impact, and most people don’t even realize that the words and references they have used their whole lives are actually from Greek mythology. 

We can say that Greek mythology worked as the soil and base for the western culture in which it bloomed and developed. If you look around, you will find several things that have some kind of connection with Greek mythology.