The World Of Myth Leeming Pdf 22

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Published: November 23, 2022 (1 week ago)
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The World Of Myth Leeming Pdf 22

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The World Of Myth Leeming Pdf 22

why should we care about myth or literary fictions? first, the explanations of how the world of the past (hence also of today) is linked to our own world, and why this linkage is of interest to us, lie at the heart of the humanities. second, the interplay between the present and the past through literary fictions is a major interest of the humanities, the arts and the world of literature in general. third, the ancient world offers a powerful source of information on different aspects of our own world. fourth, our own world still offers many questions, unresolved challenges and open questions, which can be addressed in the context of our past lives, as well as in those of our contemporaries. fifth, it is our own past that allows us to imagine the future, to look forward to or backward into the past, and, most importantly, to look forward to or backward into our own time. sixth, mythical constructions of the past provide an understanding of the world of our contemporaries in the light of its distant past. these six reasons are compelling in their own right, but they are not as compelling as the seventh reason: although such literature is inevitably the product of individual human beings, all such literature, including literature of the past, is the product of and dependent on the creative powers of the human imagination. the seven reasons are strong enough to justify the time and effort that we invest in the humanities. i now turn to the humanities and the humanities in our own time in more detail.

the two earliest names that have been given to a mythical past are egypt and sumer. these names are no more than myths about people and places, although there is little doubt that the people and places did exist. egypt consists of the nile valley and its surrounding areas, a geographical area and culture which began to develop around the early third millennium bce. sumer is the name of the fertile region in the south of mesopotamia, now identified with northern iraq. these two regions lay at the heart of the development of human civilization and culture. more than a few civilizations developed in these regions in the first millennium bce, and eventually a number of their cultural practices merged in the region of mesopotamia. this merged culture, which i shall call middle babylonian in the following, was particularly well suited to the development of writing, since it used sumerian and babylonian as two of its official languages, as well as the sumerian script for writing and a system of counting, the cuneiform script, which was adapted from the sumerian script.

this way of reconstructing the past is common in greek history, as shown by a comparison between thucydides (424-400 bc) and herodotus (484-420 bc), both of whom wrote about the peloponnesian war. thucydides was critical of the peloponnesian war and of the whole idea of waging a war to gain more land, whilst herodotus, who had been a soldier himself and knew the mechanics of war, made detailed reports about the contemporary events of the war [ 133 ]. there is also the historia euhemeria of philostratus, written in the 2nd century ad [ 134 ], in which the historian seeks to reconcile the mythological past with the fact of human civilization. euhemerus (apparently a greek philosopher of the time of the roman empire) believed that historical events could be mythologized, and he refutes the old gods by reconstructing the history of human civilization (the so-called theogony) to show that the gods of the ancients were the products of human imagination. this mythical past was once present and still exists in the popular imagination of the present day, just as the ancients did in their own time. as philostratus writes, “people still talk of gods as if they were really there; it is just that the people of today no longer have the memory of former times” [ 135 ]. according to philostratus, the gods of mythology were replaced by the gods of today: just like the present, the past is part of the present. but unlike today, the ancients did not distinguish between the past and present, between the mythological and non-mythological. the ancients saw themselves as a part of the present, of the present in the past. the past was a part of the present, and the present was part of the future, a future that the ancients believed was still possible. this is what philostratus calls the mythological present. it is the point of departure of palaephatus, who insists on what happened in the past. he wishes to preserve the past, so that the mythological present is still a part of the present, and in doing so he avoids the idea of a discontinuous past [ 136 ]. he is seeking to maintain the mythological present, which constitutes the original present. the only way to do so, as he writes in the chironomia, is to reconstruct the past as a continuous whole, as part of the present. the past is not dissociated from the present as it happens in a historical discontinuity; here, the past is already a part of the present.
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