Get to Know the Oral Tradition of Greek Mythology

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The stories of the Greek Myths and legends have been told for thousands of years, and they are still being told today. Sure, there are works of literature that have come out of Ancient Greece, such as Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey, but the stories had already been around before they were written down by these poets. In other words, there is a strong oral tradition attached to these stories, and it helps to understand what this means while learning about the stories. Here’s more information:

Definition of Oral Tradition

When something is described as having an oral tradition, it typically means that the stories were passed along through verbal storytelling methods. The stories could either be sung or accompanied with instruments or vocalized in a storytelling format. This method for passing along knowledge has been in existence since the beginning, and it was especially useful for cultures that didn’t have a strong tradition of writing.

In fact, like many other cultures of the world, Greece didn’t always have a strong tradition of writing. This evolved as the language and forms of writing changed and become more accessible. Typically, oral traditions became a crucial part of society and served not only to educate, but also to entertain.

It is also interesting to note that many of the written tales are in poetic formats, which also could speak to an oral tradition. Tales were often sung by a bard while they accompanies themselves on an instrument, such as a lyre.

Greek Myths in Mycenaean Greece

Many scholars believe that the traditions around the Greek Myths and legends originated in Mycenaean Greece, a Bronze Age civilization in Ancient Greece. This time period is often referred to as the Age of heroes and many of the stories spoke of virtues and heroics that were important to the Greeks of the time. During this time period, many of the most beloved stories, such as the tales around Jason and the Argonauts, Hercules, and other heroes were believed to have originated. After the Mycenaeans fell and Ancient Greece slipped into its Dark Ages, it is thought that the stories were preserved through oral traditions.

Possible Archaeological Evidence

As mentioned above, there are certainly some written works about the myths and legends that have survived in the ages. Another way these stories have survived, however, is that they were uncovered in archaeological sites located throughout Greece. Mycenae was one of these places, but evidence of some of the stories was also found in Tiryns, Thebes, Pylos, Crete, Athens, Delphi, and more. Most of the time, the stories are depicted in artwork, and many historians and archaeologists theorize that this speaks to an oral tradition.

Many of the Greek Myths and legends have survived the ages thanks to a strong oral tradition. If you think about it, the tradition still exists to an extent because people tell each other stories of the ancient kings, gods and goddesses, and heroes to this day!


Wikipedia – Oral Tradition

Wikipedia – Greek Mythology

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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