Definitions and Origins


Are the myth-makers known? Who were they?

Generally, myths grow anonymously and gradually from cultures, but sometimes an actual or legendary name is associated with particular myths. We do not know for sure, for instance, where the myth of the Greek hero Odysseus originated, but we attribute the great epic about him—the Odyssey—to a traditionally blind poet, Homer, who may or may not have existed. And much of what we know of Greek mythology can be attributed to another eighth-century B.C.E. poet named Hesiod, who told the Greek creation myth, for instance, in his collection of ancient tales known as Theogony. A much older epic is the story of the Sumero-Babylonian hero Gilgamesh, and we speak of the Gilgamesh poet as if he or she were a particular person when it is more likely that the story in question is a combination of various narrative strands that gradually emerged from many ancient Mesopotamian settlements.


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