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The Exploration of Ancient Historical Rites, The Control of Nature, and Killing of Divine Kings

featued in Park Cities News, February 14th, 2013

The ancient Greeks created the most influential mythology of Western Civilization, which stands out above all others, as written in a rich, yet disciplined imagination and stressed a humane quality, which rarely emphasized the cruel or frightening portions of life. Throughout Greek history, it was a fertile source of ideas for dramatists, artists, and philosophers. Sometimes Greek myths’ major roots were its aesthetic nature, its entertainment value, and, for serious efforts, exerted by artists and thinkers to impart religious views.

Throughout Greek mythology, Homer’s tales were dominated largely by rationalization and a consistent view of gods, immortal, but ruled by distinctly moral heroes on earth. However, the Athenian people looked out on the surrounding world with much curiosity but without superstitious fear.

Sometimes Greek writers, of mythology borrowed some Near Eastern tales or Asian stories because Homer’s ancestry may have included dislocations, as did his forebears of Asia Minor may have done. That is, most historians have not pinpointed where or when Homer was born, nor did we know his ethnicity, except that he was an Asiatic Greek. Nonetheless, Homer’s birth date has been recorded as circa 850 B.C. (or at least 3000 years ago). Without much clarity, Homer’s “people” appeared to be among his ancestors, but Asian migrants might have been driven away. Yet his own ancestors were written down as his own, though Homer never mentioned who, for as reciter and singer, he gave them the correct spelling, including lengthy names.

The same view point that created Greek mythology also was present in the Greek epic poetry, but epic poetry clearly was developed even further to become one of the world’s greatest literary achievements. The topics of the great epics were primarily wars, adventuring, and adventurous heroes during and just after the Trojan War. Leader of the Greeks was Agamemnon, the widely known king of Mycenae (whose mountain I personally climbed to find out if I could survive the immensely mountainous steps up to the ruler’s castle) and his brother, Menelaus, whose wife Helen (a real beauty) was stolen from her brother-in-law. Thus, Agamemnon and Menelaus fought as allies a galaxy of Greek heroes like the sharp-witted Odysseus and the greatest warrior, Achilles. The captor of Helen, her seducer, Paris, whose brother Hector was crown prince of Troy, attempted to destroy the Greeks. However, the gods rule the world and men (and the whole world) must die. Were famed tenets of Homer and his fellow men, (since females were second and third-class citizens like the men’s horses and dogs).

Nonetheless, humanity’s view of human beings, which Homer expressed and portrayed in his epics is a landmark in the progress of civilization. Although the heroes of the Iliad and of Homer’s second epic, the Odyssey, must not remain as mortals, instead, the finest individuals were not the ones filled with self-pride.

Thirty five hundred years ago, Homer fashioned a dream vision about emancipated heroes who sought cooperation of the group and attempted to find the development and understanding of their own nature. From Homer and his characters in the Iliad, came a picture of human beings’ greatest qualities, which had to lead to death, but yet the ancient Greeks felt death must be the stage of human glory.

The author of the Iliad over three thousand years was well aware that Achilles, the greatest warrior and hero, came to know deeply and accept as the ultimate reason the end of life: ”Angry though I am…[I freely know] that what the gods command you do, then…then the gods will listen to you.”

Ultimately, the bravest Greek warrior became the ultimate peacemaker despite his passion for battle. Achilles took to his tent, sang about his soldiers exploits, never his own!

In fact, when he accompanied himself on his lyre, he created hexameters (poetic meters), a “saga” and verse. He came to love his greatest enemy Hector and gave up what a warrior would never do: return the desecrated corpse of Hector’s elderly father and prayed with King Priam.

Homer never would save Achilles who is eternally doomed, though for about four years Achilles remained a brilliant Greek character – whereas the devout and patriotic Homer would never have created the gallant soldier/leader.

ELISSA SOMMERFIELD is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with an MA in English from SMU. She taught English at SMU and in the Dallas County Community College District. For under 30 years, she has conducted classes in SAT and ACT preparation as well as in graduate school exam instruction and study skills. Additionally, she has tutored extensively in most academic areas, the ISEE, the composition of school entrance essays, and editing books. She has served as an SAT and educational consultant for 29 Texas school districts and has authored four books on SATs plus, with Frances Bailey Wood, co-authored and revised one on how to study efficiently. An educational consultant, as well as graduate school, college, and boarding school counselor, she is a member of Independent Educational Consultants Association and Texas Association for College Admissions Counselors. Sommerfield actively maintains her Certified Educational Planner designation and at UT was a Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year.

this information is used with the expressed permission of Park Cities News