Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Greek Myths

Just lately I've been reading the Greek myths again. What a catalogue of sexual misdemeanour they represent! Women - usually referred to as 'nymphs' - raped by gods in disguise. Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection. Psyche seduced into becoming Cupid's lover even though she is forbidden to see his face and fears he is a monster. Pygmalion fashioning his own perfect woman then bringing her to life. Apollo mourning his beautiful young lover, Hyacinthus . . .

Because they tell us so much about human nature, particularly human sexuality, these myths are not dead tales of long ago but still inspire us today. Ever since the Renaissance artists have portrayed these stories in their paintings, often in unusual ways.

Take the them of Echo and Narcissus. This theme inspired - to name but a few - An anonymous Fresco artist in Pompeii; Caravaggio in the C16th; Poussin in the C17th; Many minor artists of the C18th; Benjamin West in the C19th; Waterhouse in the C20th, and the amazing contemporary street artist Kurt Wenner:

But that's not all. So vivid are the names of these Greek Gods, Heroes, Nymphs and Mortals that they are in constant use today. Here are some of the endless examples you can find on the web:
Apollo cinemas
Persephone Books
Hermes Webmail
Jupiter fund management
Juno Records
Argus and Echo newspapers
Bacchus String Quartet
Orpheus Choir
Baucis and Philemon Boutique
Zephyrus pullover
Daedalus and Icarus film production companies
Psyche Clothing store
Pygmalion Florist
Arachne Press
Minerva Crafts

For anyone wishing to understand Western culture, knowledge of these two seminal bodies of literature is essential: the Classical Myths and Legends, and the Bible. The fact that we are still using these as reference today, and finding them relevant to our modern lives, testifies to their profound revelation of eternal truths about ourselves.

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