Homer and Hesiod are the two primary sources for Greek myths. They are thought to have been contemporaries, though it is not known exactly when they lived – or even if they lived. Homer covered the end of the Trojan War and Hesiod set down the stories of Olympian gods. The Homeric legacy is treated in Peloponnese: Mycenae / Troy.

Hollywood movies have done little to elaborate on the myths of Greece since their time in the sun over 2000 years ago. There is only one film treatment of the creation stories, see Immortals (2011), featuring the pre-Olympian gods in titanic battle. This movie revolves around the newly forged mortals, Phaedra and Theseus. Phaedra (say Fay-dra) was the daughter of King Minos of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Theseus was the hero of Athens who went to Crete to fight the Minotaur.

The best movie representation of the mythic world according to Hesiod can be found in Clash of the Titans (1981). The stop motion special effects by Ray Harryhausen seem quaint in retrospect, but they stand up well against the overblown remakes that appeared in 2010 and 2012. To appreciate the 1981 movie, it is necessary to think of early special effects as popular folk art. At the center of this story is the romance of Perseus and Andromeda. Perseus saves his beloved from the jaws of the terrible dragon, Kraken, setting the mold for at least four millennia of such rescues. The gods of Olympus are stepping back and leaving their mortal creations to their own devices.

Olympus under a shroud

Olympus under a shroud

From the Caravan Journals: April 1996. In north-central Greece, we stopped to take photos of the actual Olympus, trying hard to capture the mountain without the intervention of electrical wires. It was a misty day, which only added to the mystery. We were viewing the abode of the gods from afar. Nobody really believes in them anymore, but families in Greece still name their children after them.

Hollywood has done better with mortal and would-be immortal heroes than it has with the gods. There are two versions of Jason and the Argonauts, and there is the always popular Steve Reeves series of Hercules movies. Disney weighed in with a gloss on the Hercules stories that would have made the gods weep.

In the post-Olympian period, the Greeks built their theaters all around the Mediterranean. The story of the shift in responsibility for the welfare of the world from gods to mortals was told and retold. The playwrights led the way in their loss of interest in the gods. They concentrated more on human dramas and their comedies and tragedies became parables for a human community learning to come to terms with itself. See Greek Dramas on Film in Peloponnese.

Note: The top photo is of the full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee.

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