An overview of the role of myth in western civilization

The Early Greek World, History and Prehistory [For a more detailed history and cultural overview of ancient Greece, see the Perseus web site click here. Geography and Greek Culture The geography of Greece is a primary factor, if not the pre-eminent feature of the culture and lives of the ancient populations who lived there. Inhabiting an area that is ninety percent mountains with little arable land forced the Greeks into ways of life which did not center strictly around farming and agriculture. They were, for the most part, driven to go to sea to make ends meet.

An overview of the role of myth in western civilization

Tylor never spoke of it. And indeed he had no reason to, since he was profoundly aware of the internal cultural diversity even of his own country. In he reported evidence of witchcraft in rural Somerset.

A blast of wind in a pub had blown some roasted onions stabbed with pins out of the chimney. When, around the time of the first world war, Oswald Spengler wrote the influential book translated as The Decline of the West — a book that introduced many readers to the concept — he scoffed at the notion that there were continuities between western culture and the classical world.

In the chill of battle, we forged a grand narrative about Athenian democracy, the Magna Carta, Copernican revolution, and so on.

You are here

Western culture was, at its core, individualistic and democratic and liberty-minded and tolerant and progressive and rational and scientific.

Never mind that pre-modern Europe was none of these things, and that until the past century democracy was the exception in Europe — something that few stalwarts of western thought had anything good to say about. Of course, once western culture could be a term of praise, it was bound to become a term of dispraise, too.

Critics of western culture, producing a photonegative emphasising slavery, subjugation, racism, militarism, and genocide, were committed to the very same essentialism, even if they see a nugget not of gold but of arsenic.

It places, at the heart of identity, all manner of exalted intellectual and artistic achievements — philosophy, literature, art, music; the things Arnold prized and humanists study.

An overview of the role of myth in western civilization

Today the classical heritage plays no greater role in the everyday lives of most Americans or Britons. Are these Arnoldian achievements that hold us together? Intellectuals like me have a tendency to suppose that the things we care about are the most important things.

But they matter less than the story of the golden nugget suggests. So how have we bridged the chasm here? Well, by fusing the Tylorian picture and the Arnoldian one, the realm of the everyday and the realm of the ideal.

Remember his famous definition: A vision of culture not as a loose assemblage of disparate fragments but as an organic unity, each component, like the organs in a body, carefully adapted to occupy a particular place, each part essential to the functioning of the whole.

The Eurovision song contest, the cutouts of Matisse, the dialogues of Plato are all parts of a larger whole. As such, each is a holding in your cultural library, so to speak, even if you have never personally checked it out. Organicism explained how our everyday selves could be dusted with gold.

It is, in the word Wagner invented, a Gesamtkunstwerka total work of art. You will find hip-hop in the streets of Tokyo. The same is true in cuisine: Once we abandon organicism, we can take up the more cosmopolitan picture in which every element of culture, from philosophy or cuisine to the style of bodily movement, is separable in principle from all the others — you really can walk and talk like an African-American and think with Matthew Arnold and Immanuel Kant, as well as with Martin Luther King and Miles Davis.

No Muslim essence stops the inhabitants of Dar al-Islam from taking up anything from western civilisation, including Christianity or democracy. No western essence is there to stop a New Yorker of any ancestry taking up Islam. The stories we tell that connect Plato or Aristotle or Cicero or Saint Augustine to contemporary culture in the north Atlantic world have some truth in them, of course.

We have self-conscious traditions of scholarship and argumentation. The delusion is to think that it suffices that we have access to these values, as if they are tracks on a Spotify playlist we have never quite listened to. If these thinkers are part of our Arnoldian culture, there is no guarantee that what is best in them will continue to mean something to the children of those who now look back to them, any more than the centrality of Aristotle to Muslim thought for hundreds of years guarantees him an important place in modern Muslim cultures.Sep 01,  · Watch video · After deposing the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, Odovacar’s troops proclaimed him king of Italy, bringing an ignoble end to the long, tumultuous history of ancient Rome.

Nations seem to require myth. Romania's governing history is filled with big men, autocrats and despots. But the European super-nation has long needed to believe itself above the world, above native America, above Asia, and particularly above Africa. Hence, in Western civilization the Greek ideas on the subject of myth do not merely represent a start but form the roots that nourished systems devised by later scholars.

In the first place, allegorical explanations served to extract the meaning of myths for many thinkers in classical civilization. The Role of Myth in Western Civilization Myth has played a very significant role in the development of western civilization.

Through the development of myths mankind has been able to pass down from generation to generation the history and beliefs of . Western people of all eras have been moved and baffled by the deceptive simplicity of Greek myths, and Greek mythology has had a profound effect on the development of Western civilization.

The earliest visual representations of mythological characters and motifs occur in late Mycenaean and sub-Mycenaean art. Though identification is controversial, Centaurs, a siren, and even Zeus’s lover .

An Overview of Western Civilization The Six Major Periods of Western Civilization (BCE = BC; CE = AD) 1. Mesopotamia, Egypt, & Hebrews ( BCE) 2. Ancient Greece ( BCE).

Myth: An Overview |