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Luc Brisson

In the modern use, “bisexuality” refers to sexual object choice, whereas “androgyny” refers to sexual identity. In ancient Greece and Rome, however, these terms sometimes refer to human beings born with characteristics of both sexes, and more frequently to an adult male who plays the role of a woman, or to a woman who has the appearance of a man, both physically and morally. In mythology, having both sexes simultaneously or successively characterises, on the one hand, the first human beings, animals, or even plants from which arose male and female, and on the other, mediators between human beings and gods, the living and the dead, men and women, past and future, and human generations. Thus androgyny and bisexuality were used as a tools to cope with one’s biological, social, and even fictitious environment.The term “androgyne” comes from the Greek andrógunos,1 a compound formed from the terms an.



Adrienne Mayor

In Greek myth, Amazons were fierce female warriors, arch-enemies of the Greeks, dwelling around and beyond the Black Sea. Depicted in ancient literature and art as the “equals of men,” Amazons were as brave and skilled in combat as male warriors. Glorying in riding horses, hunting, warfare, and sexual independence, Amazons were deemed formidable adversaries of the greatest Greek heroes of myth. Bellerophon battled Amazons, and Heracles, Theseus, and Achilles each proved their valour by defeating powerful Amazon queens—Hippolyte, Antiope, and Penthesilea. Amazons and Amazonomachies (battle scenes) were extremely popular in Greek art, in public spaces and on privately owned pottery. In the myths and artistic representations, Amazons were consistently portrayed as courageous, athletic, attractive, and heroic, running towards danger, and fighting and dying valiantly in battle. Amazons were first described in Homer’s Iliad as antianeirai, which can be translated as “men’s equals.” Many classical scholars consider Amazons to be purely fictional figures with no basis in reality, invented by Greek men to serve as “anti-women” and/or to symbolize Persians. Notably, ancient authors such as Herodotus (4.110–117), Plato (Laws 7.


This entry concerns mythological narratives that developed in ancient times in lands extending from the eastern Mediterranean seaboard as far as Central Asia. Whereas the term Near Eastern applies to a range of different cultures—including Mesopotamian, Elamite, Hittite, Canaanite, Hebrew, Urartian, Phoenician, and Egyptian—the expression Old Iranian is used only of ancient Iranian culture as evidenced primarily in the texts of the Avesta, and in certain Old Persian inscriptions and iconography. From the early 1st millennium onwards, as ancient Iranians moved across the plateau into Mesopotamia and beyond, so Iranian culture, including its mythology, interacted with that of the Near East. The ensuing worldviews continue to impact the religions that evolved within the region, specifically, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.Mesopotamian myths comprise the earliest literature committed to writing. Alongside the discovery of archaeological sites in which some of the myths are set and of material objects relating to those myths, these texts provide insight into the general ethos, ritual activity, and social structure of the pertinent cultures of Mesopotamia—notably, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian. The contemporary ancient Egyptians present a similar richness of material and literary culture. In contrast, the Old Iranian myths of the Avesta endured within an oral context until about the 6th century ce, with only cursory allusion to a cosmogony in Old Persian inscriptions, Achaemenid reliefs, and stamp seals.


Sarah Iles Johnston

Myths were told in a broad variety of contexts by a broad variety of people in ancient Greece. Unlike fairy tales and fables, Greek myths focus on specifically named individuals, such as Heracles and Athena, who interact with other such individuals across a span of different stories, creating a network of stories and characters. Although Greek myths explore many of the same plots and themes as other traditional tales, they were particularly interested in tales of heroes, metamorphosis, and love affairs between gods and human women. Ancient intellectuals interpreted myths as allegories or as distorted versions of real history. Modern scholars have used a variety of approaches to interpret Greek myths, most of which have been anchored in act of comparing them to the myths of other cultures: the ritualist approach, the structuralist approach, the psychoanalytical approach and narratological approaches. In the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in mythography and in the reception of Greek myths.



Matteo D'Acunto

Cumae was an early Greek colony that was established by the Euboeans (c. 750 bce), conquered by the Campanians (421 bce), and subjected to the rule of Rome (from 338 bce), benefitting from an enduring prosperity throughout the Imperial period. An important city of ancient Italy, Cumae’s economy was based mainly on agriculture and commerce. During the Campanian and Roman periods, it preserved Greek-rooted cults and traditions even as it adopted first Oscan and then Latin languages and customs.Cumae (Greek Kymē; Latin Cumae; modern Cuma), Euboean colony, founded c. 750bce, 16 km (10 mi.) northwest of Naples (Neapolis). It was an important city of ancient Italy during the Greek, Campanian (Samnite), and Roman periods; in the Medieval period it became a castrum (military fortification).The ancient settlement lies on the coast north of Cape Misenum in the region called the Phlegraean (“Fiery”) Fields due to its volcanic activity. The acropolis of Cumae is a rocky spur and in antiquity was a headland protruding into the sea. A north–south ridge, known as Monte Grillo, lies .



Sharon James

Only the rape of citizens was taken seriously by law. Sexual assaults on non-citizens were lesser matters. Rape of enslaved persons, a daily reality, was a crime only if committed by someone other than their owner. Rape of citizen males damaged their reputations; rape of citizen females could render them ineligible for marriage. Ancient myth features almost countless stories of rape, usually of human females by divine males. These tales were common subjects in ancient art and literature. Overwhelmingly, the victims are unmarried girls, who may suffer brutal treatment afterward and frequently bear miraculous offspring, some of whom establish cities (e.g., Romulus and Remus). Rape by human men is rarer in myth; rape of a wife causes massive militarized response (e.g., Helen of Troy, Lucretia). War-rape and post-war rape were standard practice around the Mediterranean.

Rape in antiquity was a matter of social and civic class. As a crime, it was understood as happening only to citizens: sexual assault of non-citizens was not a concern of law. The law took rape of citizens very seriously. Rape of citizen girls and women was a violation against the men who were responsible for them—father, husband, brother, guardian—but female victims would have experienced it as a personal violation first, rather than damage to their guardian’s ownership of their sexuality.


William Hansen

Folktales are traditional fictional stories. Unlike works of original literary fiction, they are normally anonymous narratives that have been transmitted from one teller to another over an uncertain period of time, and have been shaped by multiple narrators into the form and style that are characteristic of oral narratives. The transmission of traditional tales is predominantly oral, but in literate societies such as Greece and Rome, transmission also takes place via written works.

“Folktale” is an umbrella term for a number of subgenres: the wonder tale (commonly known as the fairytale), the religious tale, the novella, the humorous tale (with its subforms the joke and the tall tale), the animal tale, and the fable. Since there was no ancient notion of folktales as such, no compilation of folktales exists from antiquity—only compilations of particular genres of folktales such as the fable and the joke.

Unlike myths and legends, folktales are narrative fictions, make no serious claim to historicity, and are not ordinarily accorded credence. They differ from myths and especially from legends in their handling of the supernatural.


Carolina López-Ruiz

Early Greek cosmogonies and theogonies are mainly preserved in the form of hexametric poetry, rarely in systematic accounts, such as Hesiod’s, but more often within texts of broader mythical scope, as in Homer’s Iliad and the Homeric Hymns. The differing assumptions about the origins of and relations among the gods in these poems demonstrate the wide variety of cosmogonic traditions available in the Greek world and the poetic freedom to express or emphasize aspects of them. This is also evident in other sources for Greek theogony/cosmogony, such as the longer of the Homeric Hymns, which focus on specific gods, sometimes including their birth stories and framing their familial relations with other gods and with humans. The strand known as “Orphic” cosmogony or theogony runs parallel to the mainstream epic tradition (not without intersections), and underscores the connection between cosmogonic ideas and spiritual and philosophical movements. These alternative cosmogonies also served as a narrative and theological framework for mystery cults, which revolved around the figures of Demeter, Persephone, and Dionysus (e.



Michael Ewans

Opera is one of the most important sites for the reception of Greek and Roman literature, history, and myth. Significant operas have been based on classical topics from the invention of the medium (Peri’s Eurydice, 1600) through to the present day. Important composers of classically based operas include Monteverdi, Handel, Gluck, Cherubini, Berlioz, Richard Strauss, Tippett, Henze and Turnage.The Florentine Camerata—a group of humanists, musicians and intellectuals—invented opera, at the end of the 16th centuryce. Its members believed that Greek tragedy was sung throughout, and sought to devise a new medium that would equal its perceived excellence. They had a preference for happy endings; the lyric poet Battista Guarini argued that, rather than purging pity and fear, as in Aristotle’s famous definition of tragedy, modern texts should aim to purge melancholy from the soul. The first operas (e.g., Peri's Eurydice, 1600) largely consisted of declamation, and it was only with Monteverdi's Venetian operas—.



Jenny Strauss Clay

Hesiod, epic poet from Ascra in Boeotia, usually considered later than Homer, is author of the Theogony and the Works and Days (Erga); other works attributed to him in antiquity include the Catalogue of Women and the Shield of Heracles (Aspis). The Theogony recounts the origins of the cosmos and the genealogy of the gods from the beginning to the establishment of the Olympian order; it is prefaced by a lengthy proem that recounts Hesiod’s meeting with the Muses and a hymn to the goddesses. The genealogical catalogues are interrupted by narratives of the Succession Myth, with antecedents from the Near East. The Works and Days, which also has Near Eastern parallels, is addressed to Hesiod’s brother Perses and advises him how to live in the world Zeus has established for human beings by pursuing justice and practicing agriculture; it also includes advice on sailing, social behavior, and lucky and unlucky days. Famous and influential passages include Hesiod’s encounter with the Muses, the Prometheus-Pandora story, and the Myth of the Five Races.