Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology
February 14, 2008 11:33 PM   Subscribe

Theoi Greek Mythology is an internet encyclopedia with over 1500 pages on various characters from classical myth, covering everything from famous gods and goddesses to obscure nymphs, titans and monsters. If the confusing familial relations of the Greek gods vex you, there are 10 different family trees to help you make sense of it all. There's also an extensive library of ancient works concerning classical mythology and a bibliography should you long for more to read. Last but not least, Theoi has a gallery of over 1200 artworks from antiquity, which I have been happily browsing for a good while.
posted by Kattullus (21 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
αυτό είναι καλό.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 PM on February 14, 2008

Thanks, AV. Though this does bring up the one thing that annoys me about Theoi, which is that they don't use the Greek alphabet for characters' "greek name," which is fairly inexplicable.
posted by Kattullus at 11:56 PM on February 14, 2008

This is a great resource, thanks!
posted by amyms at 12:09 AM on February 15, 2008

I've been visiting theoi.com for a few years now. It really is a great example of the best of the web.
posted by LeeJay at 2:32 AM on February 15, 2008

I was googling for information about Boreas when I came across this site. I was somewhat taken aback that I'd never come across it before. Theoi is a great, great site.
posted by Kattullus at 2:38 AM on February 15, 2008

This is great, really great. Thanks.
posted by nicolin at 2:51 AM on February 15, 2008

Forgive my 21st century ignorance.. but how did they keep track of all those characters themselves? To my uneducated eyes, it looks just a bit like today's fictional scifi/fantasy worlds and their fans... is there anything to that or is that just silly.
posted by Harry at 4:30 AM on February 15, 2008

Awesome. I could spend hours on that site.
posted by amro at 6:14 AM on February 15, 2008

My seven year old self would have jumped up and down for joy over this.

(Yes, that's me. Yes, I was Athena for Halloween. And yes, I watched Clash of the Titans one too many times, but that + D'Aulaires Greek Myths set me on the road to loving mythology my entire life, so there you go).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:55 AM on February 15, 2008

Clicking the "seven year old self" link, bitter-girl.com, returns a 403 and a 404 error:

You don't have permission to access /images/athena-oval.jpg on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

posted by Kattullus at 7:05 AM on February 15, 2008

Ah, bugger. I forgot I locked down my images (because swapping them out for goatses to irritate the MySpacers stealing them was getting dull).

It's me, dressed as Athena, with a terribly pouty face (I expect I was trying to appear goddess-like, which never works when you're seven), wearing a paper mache helmet my mom made me for Halloween, complete with staff and Greek-goddessy-dress.

Alas, no Harry Hamlin... ;)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:11 AM on February 15, 2008

how did they keep track of all those characters themselves?

There wasn't a single set of characters with a single story—every locality had its favorite gods and heroes and its favorite stories about them, and presumably every person did as well. You might be up on Athena and know all the details of her various stories but be a little vague about Hermes, and I might be the reverse. Of course, the ones who really knew all the details were the cult leaders (priests and priestesses); we tend to forget how basic religion was to Greek life, and how many people were intimately involved in it. From Peter Green's NYRB review of Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece, by Joan Breton Connelly:
Modern religious assumptions, as Connelly knows well, are not only irrelevant to ancient Greek cult practices but can actively distort our understanding of them. We tend to assume a central core of defining belief, both doctrinal and prescriptive, expounded in sacred scriptures, and maintained by priestly theologians. Greek cults had none of these things. Priests and priestesses were there to carry out ritual, mostly to do with sacrifice of animals. Just what happened at the rituals—the words used and the actions taken—remains little known. The nearest thing to a sacred text was Homer. The gods were immortal and all-powerful, but wholly indifferent to human notions of virtue: Homer's deities, indeed, were castigated by philosophers for immorality. If properly placated in rituals in the temples dedicated to them, gods might help mortals; if not, their random (and often spiteful) acts of vengeance made good drama. The relationship between mortals and divinities was pragmatic, and based on the power of the gods and the possibility of petitioning them: it had no moral element whatsoever. Build a god a great shrine, sacrifice to him or her lavishly, and your prayers might be answered. Otherwise, watch out...

The mediation between mortals and gods was not, for Greeks, a monopoly of the priesthood: in addition to the usual prayers, thanks, and gifts, any private person could offer sacrifice without a priest's participation. There were also large numbers of religious officials other than priests in a cult hierarchy: acolytes, treasurers, scribes, musicians, temple guardians, and—dating back as far as the Minoan Linear B tablets—a wide range of domestic workers duplicated from the oikos: grain-grinders, bakers, weavers, sweepers, cooks, washers, decorators. The day-to-day function could be brought into the religious domain simply by the addition of the prefix hiero- (sacred) or the suffix -phoros (carrier), often reflecting the ritual action performed: hieronomos, a temple manager; kanephoros, a basket-bearer.

Such titles proliferated with ease, and testify to the multiplicity of local cults. In Attica alone the number approached two thousand, while Athens itself had no less than 170 feast days in its sacred calendar, a figure rather higher than the number of days a year on which the Assembly met in formal session. In this or any Greek polis, religion—a fact not always borne in mind today—was not only inextricably interwoven with politics and public affairs, but taken at least as seriously. We are confronted here with "a system in which myth, cult, ritual, and visual images were utterly interdependent and mutually supportive." The ritual requirements of archaic myth could be horrific—who can forget Agamemnon sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia at Aulis to placate Artemis and get a favorable wind for Troy?—but the fact remains that in traditional belief he did sacrifice her, even if later ages, finding the act hard to stomach, put it about that a deer had been miraculously substituted on the altar.
Epic poets like Homer tossed in whichever strands of the infinitely elaborate complex of god-stories suited the tale they were telling; tragedians used particular variants that made the dramatic point they wanted, sometimes inventing their own versions, which then became part of the stew. It's a mistake to retrospectively try to pin down a single "Greek mythology" and decide which variants are "authentic" or "original"; that's not at all how it worked.

Oh, and great post!
posted by languagehat at 7:25 AM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

I love sites like this. It gives me something to do when I'm not at work
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:35 AM on February 15, 2008

[this is good]
posted by Busithoth at 7:54 AM on February 15, 2008

I love sites like this. It gives me something to do when I'm not at work

FTFY. ;)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2008

bitter-girl -- I was Athena last year. It was kind of depressing how few people got it even *after* I told them who I was.

Also, this is good. I wish I had a gallery when I was putting together my costume...
posted by natabat at 8:30 AM on February 15, 2008

Awesome, natabat! We, should, like, form a club or something! ;)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:21 AM on February 15, 2008

Awww, Greg Nog! Now I know what to do for Maker Faire!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2008

(If you copy-and-paste bitter-girl's .jpg URL in your browser and hit Enter, you can see her in all her terrible glory. Ha!)
posted by steef at 12:27 PM on February 15, 2008

I begin to sing of Pallas Athene,
the glorious goddess, bright-eyed,
inventive, unbending of heart,
pure virgin, saviour of cities,
courageous, Tritogeneia!

From his awful head wise Zeus himself
bare her arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold,
and awe seized all the gods as they gazed.
posted by Iridic at 10:04 PM on February 15, 2008

posted by Pallas Athena at 4:25 PM on February 16, 2008

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