Greek Myths Live On
Ancient Greece started thousands of years ago. Being one of the first advanced civilizations, not only is its lore rich and diverse, but much of the modern-day also has roots in Greece or Greek traditions. One of these similarities is through the ever-growing media landscape. The influence of Greek mythology on contemporary media has been profound. There are many examples of media that are directly associated with Greek mythology or make reference to it. I am Greek- American and I grew up listening to old Greek folk tales and myths. It was very exciting for me as a child, as well as now, to see that Greek myths are greatly represented in media. You might wonder why they have stuck around so long. Well, the power they hold has meaning for many people. The values, ethics, and morals they pass down through storytelling are something many cultures have in common. Everyone loves a good story.
I love the original myths. Although back then they were not considered myths, but real warnings. There is a lot of media depicting the myths straightforwardly or sometimes with a more modern twist. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is a series that probably comes right to mind for many. This was all the rage when I was in middle school and is still highly popular today. As a side note, the author, Rick Riordan, has other series that focus on mythologies of other cultures. The movie 300, Hercules (Disney version), and Clash of the Titans are also very well known.
While these stories broadly and proudly use Greek mythology as the roots of their work, I also really enjoy media that makes more subtle references. This emphasizes that Greek myths truly are timeless, and their meanings can be translated into something meaningful in today’s society as well. Allusions to these myths are becoming more complex. As stated by Mark Twain, a revered storyteller, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
For example, Frankenstein, a literary classic, is based on the myth of the god Prometheus. Prometheus was the god of fire. He disobeyed Zeus and gave fire to humans who were freezing without the warmth of it. Outraged Zeus banished him to eternal punishment, to have an eagle eat his liver. Unfortunately, this was to happen every day due to his immortality. Frankenstein mirrors this by trying to give fire to the people in the book but ended up being punished. Furthermore, many superhero movies have ties to Greek mythology. The gods were thoroughly described for generations as the most powerful beings with the most amazing skills. It is not hard to understand why we would want superheroes to take after these positive aspects. Wonder Woman is a great example. Her real name, Diana, is the Roman version of the Greek goddess, Artemis. The Amazons that Diana leaves to save the world are the strong female hunters that served under Artemis. Ikaris in the Eternals is another example. His immortality alone points to the idea of Greek mythology. However, his referenced myth is to one of mortals and it happens to be my favorite. Icarus was the son of Daedalus, an inventor. They were both trapped in a tower on Crete by the evil king that ruled. To escape, Daedalus made them wings from wax and feathers of birds he collected. When the wings were finished, they fastened them on and jumped out of the tower. Previously, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun because the wax would melt or not too low because the sea water would ruin the wings. Unfortunately, Icarus flew too close to the sun and fell to his death in the ocean. This connection has Marvel fans at the edge of their seats if Ikaris’ fate is going to be a similarly tragic ending due to overconfidence. Last but not least, another favorite of mine is O Brother, Where Art Thou? The movie is a modern satire that, at first glance, you would not guess is based on The Odyssey. It is not 100% true to the epic poem, nonetheless, it is a great movie.
Storytelling used to be one of the main sources of entertainment for the ancient Greeks without the advances in technology. Additionally, they served a higher purpose. They helped explain things that were inexplicable at the time. They brought order to the chaos of their world. Today they do something similar. The influence of these myths on current-day storytelling: movies, TV shows, and books continue on. Not only were good lessons put forth from these myths of gods, goddesses, and monsters, but they were also good sources of entertainment. There is a specific kind of enjoyment that results from realizing how a piece of media has connections to the past.
Writer: Maria Assimakopoulos
Illustrator: Isabella Limbo