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Did Greek mythology develop dynamically or statically? Let me explain a little more what I mean by "dynamic" and "static".

Static: Given the religious element of the stories, I could imagine that they were very "official", implying that they were created in a relatively short time and by a relatively small group off people. Without many extensions or modifications afterwards.

Dynamic: I could also imagine that the stories were more naturally developed, like an on-going ad hoc collection of stories. A scenario where anyone could just make up a myth/god and where the popular ones got picked up and written down?

(Is it be clear that the last two pieces of text are merely meaningful as an attempt to further clarify my answer, and are by no means attempts to provide actual answers to the question?)

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    I don't think what you describe as "static" makes sense. None of the major religions I'm familiar with evolved in such a way, all took hundreds of years to get the general shape we know today, and all are continuously evolving. Care to clarify, perhaps with a couple of examples? – yannis Jun 10 '15 at 12:04
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Definitely dynamic.

In Burkert's "Graechische Religion..." (Intro/2: sources), we can find the following reasons: - as there were no holy scriptures there was no "canon" whatsoever to tell apart "canonical" myths from "non-canonical" - myths were continuously being rewritten, as poets were composing new hymns to the gods for celebrations or contests.

In "Elliniki Mythologia" (edited by Ekdotiki Athinon) there is a description of the process of myth creation (pg.24-26) and, while to big to transcript here, its main points is that, at first, myths were created by the people from fairy-tale-like stories that they were telling the children and, then, it passed on to the poets.

Plus, it definitely says on pg.26:"so, greek myths were processed and reprocessed for approximately 1,500 years".

  • Love the sources. +1. Quick question: do Burkert and Athinon explicitly discuss greek mythology, or are they just talking about myths in general? – user62 Jun 11 '15 at 22:23
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    Burkert's volume is exclusively about Greek Religion. "Elliniki Mithologia" is also exclusively about Greek Mythology. And while both discuss all kinds of connections with other peoples' mythologies, these specific passages are exclusively about greek mythology. – theodojo Jun 15 '15 at 7:00
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Dynamic: I could also imagine that the stories were more naturally developed, like an on-going ad hoc collection of stories. A scenario where anyone could just make up a myth/god and where the popular ones got picked up and written down?

The time constants you are contemplating are way off, in my opinion. Long before written records gods and their histories were alive in the myths of the people. As comparative myths show, similar to common roots in Indo-European language, common roots can be seen in the religions of the Indo-European races. Changes and growth would be slow and not out of random creativity, but of religious needs as the environment changed.

Before the advent of Christianity in the region gods from other regions were not rejected, viz the altar in Athens to the "unknown god" which apostle Paul used to take off his proselytizing.

Even Christianity, a proselytizing religion, took a few centuries to become the main religion, and even then, a lot of the rites and god attributes were transferred to the new saints.

The religious stance of the hoi polloi started in the home and in childhood and was a continuous narrative which can be embellished and changed but much more slowly than you imagine.

A week ago I went to a memorial service in a village of about 2000 people in Greece. About two hundred people were following the liturgy, children and adults, to kiss the icons and genuflect, and communion was taken by some as young as 15 yrs old before the memorial part started. Religious feelings are strong and can be manipulated by apocalyptic religions, as the take of Christianity shows, but it is a time-consuming process.

Apocalyptic religions, like the laws of Moses, and Christianity, and the advent of Mohamed seem to be the province of the Semitic line of culture. They obviously address a part of the human psyche strongly, but there is no indication in the Greek mythological records that there was an apocalyptic act that generated the narrative of Olympus etc. (apocalyptic with the original meaning, sudden appearance).

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    May I encourage you to cite reputable sources (e.g. not wikipedia)? Specifically, I would like to see a source for Long before written records gods and their histories were alive in the myths of the people (that isn't wikipedia and specifically discusses the greek religion). Same for Changes and growth would be slow and not out of random creativity, but of religious needs as the environment changed – user62 Jun 9 '15 at 13:52
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    In addition, "Apocalyptic religions" are not exclusively semetic: off the top of my head, the aztec also had quasi end-of-the-world prophesies. Could you cite a source for this as well, or be more specific in your definition of Apocalyptic? – user62 Jun 9 '15 at 14:01
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    And while I'm at it, I'm not sure what your example of the Christian memorial service demonstrates: the fact that deeply held beliefs were changed slowly over time with christianity has does not prove that the greek religion also changed slowly over time. – user62 Jun 9 '15 at 14:07
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    @Christofian It is my opinion.You are free to give your answer with scholarly references, as this is not my field and I do not have access to libraries. Semetic because of the region, not many races on this part of the mediteranean. My opinion is that religion is a collective expression of an inherent human desire for the existence of a divine realm, and cultural traits change slowly even if a specific event of divine revelation happens in time , and changes are slowly assimilated by the many. Apocalyptic in the greek meaning of "revelation" with the english meaning "something revealed" – anna v Jun 9 '15 at 16:06
  • continued: not the later developed meaning of "end of the world" from the content of the biblical Revelations – anna v Jun 9 '15 at 16:09

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