Culture, can be defined as the social behaviour and norms found within human societies, including the arts and manifestations of human intellect achievement regarded collectively.
Ancient Greece was a society that was founded on strong traditions, rituals, arts and beliefs. These foundations came from their absolute belief their religion. These strong beliefs saw their culture revolve around their religion and cause to affect a number of different aspects of Greek culture. Some of the most significant aspects it has affected include teaching and history, eschatology and entertainment. Together these factors saw Greek mythology at the forefront of Ancient Greek society and culture.
Mythology fulfilled a variety of different roles in Greek society, some serving many where others served just one function or no meaning to them. Mythology in this period of ancient Greek society was used to relate events that were occurring at the time and compare them to they believed had already occurred from a “time beyond memory.” However these myths should not be the sole source of information in regards to specific events as they are often infused with fictional elements to create a more enriching and flamboyant story. This is clearly evident in the Iliad and the battle of Troy.
The Iliad narrates the story of a war between Mycenae Greece and the city of Troy. Homers story is one full of fantasy with the gods emerging onto the battlefield and fighting with the soldiers. However unlikely this story may actually be, it provided a fantastic story which was one the Greeks cherished for centuries and worshipped the heroic role the mythological figures such as Achilles played in the war. This shows that these myths allowed the Greeks to develop a love of their history and predecessors. In turn, this saw them develop a culture which had religious rituals and ceremony imbedded into its core.
However, the mythological elements of Troy sparked Heinrich Schliemann a passion for the Iliad and in turn gave him a reason to pursue this archaeological phenomenon which he fantasised about from a young age. Not only did it impact ancient society, but the Iliad played a significant role in the discovery of Troy, a previously unknown Bronze age civilisation. Furthermore, mythology taught the youth of Greek society the social norms, expectations and consequences of certain actions. A clear example of this is the bull of Minos. Minos was the king of Crete who claimed the gods would answer any prayer he sent them. In order to prove this, he asked Poseidon to send a bull which he was to sacrifice, however the bull held so much beauty that the king kept it for himself out of greed and sacrificed another to Poseidon instead.
Poseidon decided to punish Minos and caused his wife to fall in love with the bull and give birth to the minotaur, a monster who from the head down was human but had the head of a bull. The lesson being taught here is that you must keep your word in all aspects of life, particularly with the gods because the consequences of going back on your word are often extreme. Stories like these within Ancient Greek mythology were imperative in shaping ancient Greek culture as they developed social values, provided an avenue for learning and allowed Greek traditions to easily transfer from generation to generation. Clearly highlighting just how influential these ancient beliefs were in shaping Ancient Greek culture.
What happens when we die? This is a question the Ancient Greeks found themselves commonly asking, when nobody could provide answers they turned to mythology. It was believed that after death the deceased would descend to the underworld. However to properly get to the underworld they were required to pay Charon to take them across the river Styx. However those who were not able to pray were to remain at the bank of the river and would never enter the underworld. Greeks were to go to one of either three places when they crossed to the other side of the river which included places like Asphodel Meadows, Tartarus and Elysium. All Greeks wanted to go to Elysium after death because it was considered the place where the honourable were to go after death and to spend the rest of eternity.
Therefore many felt that it was imperative to carry out daily rituals and customs on a daily basis in order to be taken to Elysium upon death. This can be seen through the vast number of temples and alters in Greece. At these alters at temples there were often sacrifices, food and drink left at the alter and there were often libations of wine and other liquids as a sign of respect to the gods. This strong religious connection established a culture among Greece which was based on the honour and respect for the gods in order to ensure the future success of the state of Greece and to ensure that the individual was to be taken to Elysium after death. Another example of the just how devote the Greeks were to their gods and how it further shaped their culture was the Olympic games. Greek Sports and Olympics was a symbol of Ancient Greek society and a representation of just how devote the Greeks were too their religion.
Without religion, the Olympic games were to never for the establishment of the Olympic games which would revolutionise Greek culture and sport for centuries. The establishment of the Olympic games would give birth to the greatest sporting competition history has ever seen. This was all done in the name of Zeus and in order to please him and ensure the continued prosperity of their nation. In addition to this he was so significant due to the fact that during the time Zues was not only considered to be the king of the gods, he was the God of fertility, meteorological change and the protector of all families who lived near him. This saw the Greeks see their prayers and sacrifices towards Zeus to be of upmost importance as it was believed that he was the key to success and prosperity for all of Greece.