Greek Mythology - Bible vs. Biblos

Homer was the most important writer for the ancient Greeks

Rembrandt's Aristotle With the Bust of Homer
Rembrandt's Aristotle With the Bust of Homer.

The Bible is sometimes called the Good Book, which is fitting since the word Bible comes from the Greek word for book, biblos. For the Greeks, the bible was Homer, particularly, The Iliad, and Hesiod. The "Father of History", the Greek Classical period traveler Herodotus (c. 484-425 B.C.) writes:

Whence the gods severally sprang, whether or no they had all existed from eternity, what forms they bore - these are questions of which the Greeks knew nothing until the other day, so to speak. For Homer and Hesiod were the first to compose Theogonies, and give the gods their epithets, to allot them their several offices and occupations, and describe their forms; and they lived but four hundred years before my time, as I believe.
~ Herodotus Book II

You can find a religious world view, morals, customs, genealogy, and more in Homer and Hesiod. However, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Theogony were not sacred texts. (Depending on your definition, the Greeks had other sacred texts, like hymns and responses of the oracles.)

The Opening of The Iliad

The Iliad begins, not with the creation of the world in 6 days, but with an invocation of the goddess or muse:
Sing, O goddess,
followed by the story of the wrath of the great Greek hero of the Trojan War, Achilles:
the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another....
and his anger at the expedition's leader, Agamemnon, who has strained relations with his best man by stealing his beloved concubine and committed sacrilege:
And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Jove and Leto [Apollo]; for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest.
(Samuel Butler translation)

The Place of Gods in Man's Life

Gods in Homer's ancient heroic age walked among men, but they were much more powerful than humans and could be prevailed upon by prayer and sacrifice to help human beings. We see this in the opening of The Iliad where the rhapsode (the composer/singer of the story) Homer seeks divine inspiration to create a great epic, and where an old man seeks the return of his abducted daughter.

There is nothing in this Greek great book (The Iliad) about taking clay and forming it in a certain likeness or taking a rib from said animated clay, although the latter, the story of the creation of woman (Pandora) by a craftsman, does appear differently elsewhere in the canon of Greek mythology.

Next Page: Creation Stories

Introduction to Greek Mythology

Myth in Daily Life | What Is Myth? | Myths vs. Legends | Gods in the Heroic Age - Bible vs. Biblos | Creation Stories | Uranos' Revenge | Titanomachy | Olympian Gods and Goddesses | Five Ages of Man | Philemon and Baucis | Prometheus | Trojan War | Bulfinch Mythology | Myths and Legends | Kingsley Tales from Mythology | Golden Fleece and the Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Confusing Creation Stories
There are Greek creation stories -- about the creation of the first supernatural (non-)entities like Chaos or Eros, the later creation of the gods, the development of agriculture, a flood story, and much more.There is even a creation of man story, written by Hesiod. Hesiod was an epic poet whose reputation was second only to Homer in ancient Greece.
Hesiod's creation of man story shares an unfortunate similarity with the Biblical version of the creation of mankind, where Eve was created at the same time as Adam in the first version:
Version 1: Genesis 1.27 King James
27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
and in the second version, from the rib and later:
Version 2: Genesis 2.21-23
21: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22: And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23: And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man....
Like the contradictory stories of Genesis, the Hesiodic story of the creation of man, the story of the 5 Ages, leaves the reader/listener wondering what happened.

Also see Jewish Legends - Creation

Genealogy Shows Man's Relationship to God(s)

Genealogy is central to the ancient Greek mythology handbooks -- as it is to the Bible. All the major Greek heroes can trace their ancestry to at least one god (usually Zeus). City-states (poleis - singular: polis) had their own patron god or goddess. We have several stories explaining the relationships of the patron gods and heroes to their citizens, and of how the inhabitants are descendants of the patron or another god. Whether or not the Greeks actually believed their myths, they wrote in terms that show pride in this divine association.

The stories one polis told about its divine connection might or might not contradict the stories of another polis about its connection with the same god. Sometimes what looks like an effort to smooth out one set of inconsistencies seems to have created others. It might serve those of us coming to the Greek stories from a Judaeo-Christian tradition to remember that there are plenty of apparent inconsistencies in the Bible, too.

Reference: [url formerly] Interesting Quotations from the Iliad

Introduction to Greek Mythology

  1. Myth in Daily Life
  2. What Is Myth?
  3. Myths vs. Legends
  4. Gods in the Heroic Age - Bible vs. Biblos
  5. Trojan War
  6. Bulfinch Mythology
  7. Myths and Legends
  8. Golden Fleece and the Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne