The Enduring Mythology of Ancient Greece: Myth and History Intertwined

Greek Mythology’s Continued Influence in the Archaic and Classical Eras

Ancient Greece is renowned for its rich mythology, filled with gods, heroes, and fantastical creatures. While many believe that Greek mythology ended with the Mycenaean Era, recent research reveals that mythological elements persisted well into the Archaic and even Classical periods. This article explores several examples, shedding light on the interplay between myth and history in ancient Greece.

The Mythological Founding of Taras, Italy:

One striking instance of mythology’s presence in the Archaic Era is the mythological founding of Taranto, a Greek city in southern Italy. According to the legend, Taras, the city’s founder, was the son of the god Poseidon and a local nymph. Shipwrecked and saved by a dolphin, Taras established the city in the late eighth century BCE. This mythological account challenges the assumption that Greek mythology ended with the Mycenaean Era.

The Mythological Founding of Byzantium:

Another compelling example is the mythological founding of Byzantium, the renowned ancient Greek city that later became Constantinople. Byzas, the city’s alleged founder, is depicted in various mythological terms, including being the son of Zeus and Io or a nymph named Semystra. Byzas supposedly founded Byzantium in 658 BCE, well within the Archaic Era. This mythological narrative further blurs the line between myth and history.

The Mythology Behind Arion of Greek History:

Arion, a contemporary of the late-seventh and early-sixth century BCE tyrant Periander, exemplifies the continuation of Greek mythology. Arion, the son of Poseidon and nymph Oncaea, was attacked by pirates at sea. Playing his kithara, he called upon Apollo, who sent dolphins to rescue him. This mythological tale, firmly rooted in Greek mythology, challenges the notion that myths were confined to earlier periods.

The Homeric Myth of Etruscan Pirates:

Even later in history, Greek mythology persisted. The Homeric Hymn recounts the tale of Etruscan pirates who encountered Dionysus disguised as a boy. As punishment for their actions, Dionysus transformed all but one of the pirates into dolphins. This mythological account, likely written in response to contemporary Etruscan piracy, demonstrates that Greek mythology transcended the era of historical figures such as Pythagoras and Solon.

Greek Mythology in the History of Alexander the Great:

Surprisingly, Greek mythology remained influential during the time of Alexander the Great. During his siege of Tyre in 332 BCE, Greek soldiers witnessed portents sent by the gods. Diodorus Siculus, a first-century BCE historian, described an enormous sea monster that emerged from the sea and landed on the causeway. While this event may have had a natural explanation, Diodorus presented it in a mythological context.


The notion that Greek mythology ended with the Mycenaean Era is a misconception. The examples explored in this article demonstrate that mythological elements persisted well into the Archaic and even Classical periods. Greek mythology continued to shape the cultural and historical landscape of ancient Greece, blurring the line between myth and history. By understanding the enduring influence of mythology, we gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities of ancient Greek civilization.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *