What is Classical Greek Myth?
Hundreds, if not thousands of books and articles have been devoted to pondering the status of Greek myth: Should it be classified under “tales and legends”, or filed under religion, or placed alongside literature and poetry, or perhaps on the same shelves as politics and sociology?
Greek myth is central to an entire civilization and polytheist religion, but is above all a philosophy in “story form”: a magnificent and concerted attempt to respond in secular form to the question of the good life by means of lessons in wisdom that breathe and live – are clothed in literature, in poetry and epic – rather than formulated in abstract argument. It is this essentially vernacular, poetic, and philosophical cast of Greek myth that accounts for its continuing vitality and involvement for us today – and what renders its singular and precious comparison with the legions of other myths, fairy tales, and legends that, from a strictly literary point of view, might seem to offer competition.
Source of Myths & When They Were Written
We need to remember that this or that “myth” is by no means the work of a single author. There is no original version, no canonical or sacred text comparable with the Bible or Koran, piously preserved through the ages, thereafter carrying authority. On the contrary, we are dealing with a plurality of stories and variants, written down by storytellers, philosophers, poets, and “mythographers” (those who assembled, collated, and edited the various compilations of myths from antiquity onward) over the course of twelve centuries or more: roughly from the seventh century BC to the fifth century AD – not to mention the various oral traditions, of which, by definition, we know comparatively little.
Background on Luc Ferry