Archive for the ‘Hercules’ Tag

Ancient Greek Olympics   24 comments

The mythological origins of the Olympics

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The Olympic Games, originally a religious event, was the most important national festival of the ancient Greeks originally created to honour Zeus, king of the Greek gods. It is also said that Zeus founded the Olympic Games to commemorate his victory over his father Kronos whom it is claimed he wrestled with at Olympia.

 

 

profimedia-0086671418Apollo competed in a footrace with Hermes and also defeated Ares, the god of war, in a boxing match. And the heroic Hercules, descendant of the Idaean Herakles who guarded Zeus after he was born along with 1758162-herc02_mediumfour other Daktyloi was also was said to have taken part in the Games. 

 

Records of the Olympics date back to 776 BC when the official "First Olympiad" was held. The games were held every four years (time periods which the Greeks called Olympiads.) Discontinued by Emperor Theodosius I of Rome in the 4th century AD, they were not reinstated in Athens till 1896.

 

 

                                    The Olympics – sacred festival

HalicarnassusTheaterThe Olympic stadium was built southwest of Athens in Olympia close by Zeus’s temple. The 42 foot high gold and ivory statue of Zeus residing within the temple’s walls was sculpted by Pheidias, and was viewed as one of seven wonders of the ancient world.

Zeus’s alter was said to have been erected on the site struck by a thunderbolt, the god had hurled from his throne aloft Mount Olympus, the assembly point of the gods. To honour this legend Elis’s coins were engraved on their reverse side with the design of a mighty thunderbolt.

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Individual competitors trained rigorously. Winning an Olympic contest was a glory held in higher regard than winning a battle but was also intended through displays of great strength and personal agility to be pleasing and impressive to the gods, to whom athletes often prayed to for victory and made gifts of animals, produce, or small cakes, in thanks giving offerings for their victories. They were presented with garlands of laurel, a tree that was sacred to Apollo following the transfiguration of his cherished Daphne into a laurel tree. They were then given a crown of olive wreaths, and gained the privilege of being viewed as national heroes.

Women and the Olympic Flame

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 2426272Male competitors were proud individuals, usually competing nude, in order to strut and display the strength and prowess of their perfectly worked out bodies.

Consequently women, foreigners, slaves, and the unfortunates who had been dishonoured were prohibited from competing; Married women, were barred altogether from even watching any Olympic events, with dire consequences if they disobeyed, the only exception being the chariot races where the olympic-torch-9men were fully clothed.

They did however have their own Games in honour of the beautiful Hera – the Heraia, at Argos, held for women every four years until the time of the Roman rule. This was a sprinting competition in which sixteen women took part in three races, divided by age.

olympictorch-postprocessed-byrjt2004image007And it should not be forgotten that one of the most enduring images of the Greek Olympic Games are the those of the priestesses endowed with beautiful costumes igniting the Olympic flame with a colossal solar reflector.

The Olympic Torch or Flame a symbol of the Olympic Games originated in Ancient Greece and symbolizes fire, which was Olympic_Torch-2stolen from Greek god Zeus by Prometheus. The sacred flame burned by way of celebration throughout the ancient Olympic Games in Olympia inside of the temple of Hera, carefully guarded by her priestess and it said to have never gone out since its first lighting.

Today eleven women, representing the “Vestal Virgins”, stage a ceremony in which the Olympic torch is set ablaze by the light of the Sun. The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games.

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The Isthmian Games 

olympic_coinThe Olympic Games were just one of Greece’s four major national festivals – others known as the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian Games. The Isthmian Games were of a lighter hearted nature than the others and as such were especially well received.

Olive leaf prize

The Olympic Games were held to honour Zeus, whereas the Isthmian Games were a festival of athletic and musical competitions which honoured the sea god Poseidon whose legendary sanctuary was on the Isthmus of Corinth. Poseidon also presided over earthquakes and horses, and in the early Olympic Games, chariot racing with horses was a very important component of the Games.

The Isthmian Games were held in spring every second and fourth years of the Olympic Games. They competed for a prize consisting of a wreath of celery and later, for one of pine leaves and sometimes a statue or an ode.

 

21st Century Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony

 

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Giants and Nymphs in Mythology   42 comments

 

Mythological Giants and Nymphs

 

Giants

Giant1Giants can represent powerful natural forces that frighten and threaten humans. In the mythology of the Native AmericanAni_Giant Lakota people, Waziya is a northern giant who blows the winter wind. In some traditions, a giant appears as a symbol of chaos, threatening to disrupt the orderly natural world or social community. 

The word giant comes from the Greek Gigantes (meaning earthborn), a race of huge creatures who were the offspring of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the heavens. These giants were half man, half monster, with serpents’ tails instead of legs. Also related were three Cyclopes each with one eye in the middle of the forehead. The three Hundred-Armed giants each had 50 heads and 100 arms and were the jailors of Tartarus, the underworld’s place of punishment.

Giants hurled huge rocks and mountaintops and brandished burning oak trees, in a great battle between themselves and the mighty Hercules, son of Zeus, who won the battle by picking off the giants one by one with his arrows.giant2

Norse mythology says originally there was a chasm, bound on either side by fire and ice. When fire and ice met, they combined to form a giant, named Ymir. Odin  killed Ymir whose blood killed all the frost giants he had created. From his body, Odin created the world and Ygdrasil the World Tree grew.

In native American mythology giants start fights among humans so that in the confusion they can steal the men’s wives. Others steal children, sometimes to eat them.  Tall Man, a giant of the Seminole people, smells bad, while giants in Lakota stories look like oxen.

 Giants Under the Earth

As the giant Enceladus ran from the battlefield, during a struggle with the Greek gods, the goddess Athena smashed him with the island of Sicily. Thereafter, he lay imprisoned under the island, breathing his fiery breath out through the volcano called Etna.

Nymphs

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Nymphs are mythological nature spirits that appear as beautiful young women. The word nymph is related to the Greek word for bride. Nymphs are often shown as lovers of gods and heroes or as their mothers. Dionysos had his wild-eyed Mainades and Bakkhai, Artemis was accompanied by a band of huntress nymphs, Poseidon’s court was attended by sea nymphs, and the Olympian court by nymph handmaidens.

Nymphs were female spirits of the natural world, minor goddesses of the forests, rivers, springs, meadows, mountains and seas. They were responsible for designing  the wild beauty of nature, from arranginNymphs_3g and overseeing tFlowerNymphsTreeNymphshe growth of plants, flowers and trees, and the nurturing of wild birds and animals, to the formation of rocky caverns, springs, wetlands and brooks,with which Water nymphs were associated.

                                                                                                                                      Forest nymphs were connected with woods and forests and in particular Oak trees. Another kind lived inside trees and shared in the trees suffering including death when the tree died. Mountain and meadow nymphs were also common.

In Swedish mythology sea nymphs like mermaids were powerful, dangerous beings. Sailors for example were warned to be very careful to avoid them. Nymphs can cause metamorphoses and women can also be changed into nymphs 

                                                    SeaNymph  WaterNymphs

Mythological nymphs are depicted as females who mate with men or women at their own volition and are completely outside male control, the term is often used for women who are perceived as behaving similarly…How Naughty!!! Smile