Introduction to The Parthenon Code

Where Does Greek Myth Come From?

My neighbor and friend, Mike Thompson, and I recently attended a lecture about the Parthenon at a museum in Baltimore. Although the speaker had received many prestigious awards for her work, her theme did not resonate with us. The ancient Greeks created the living basis of our culture, and yet from her obscure interpretations of certain sculptural depictions, you would have thought that the Greeks’ most glorious monument had been created by architects and artists from a different planet. During the question period, I tried to think of something to ask that would respect the lecturer’s extensive erudition, and yet shed some light on the true meaning of the Parthenon sculptures and their relevance to our lives today. As I searched my brain for the question that wasn’t there, a middle-school girl, sitting with members of her class, stood up behind us and asked, “Where does Greek myth come from?”

The lecturer stood stymied. After one of those knowing academic chuckles and a short silence, she explained that Greek myth is “dynamic” and “ever-changing,” and that there was “much metaphor involved.” She dodged the question because she didn’t know the answer to it. I doubt that she had ever been asked that question before.

Education is not necessarily enlightenment. Education, in fact, sometimes casts a dark pall over the truth. We can be thankful that Greek art was not meant for some super-educated class: it was meant for all thinking Greeks. And that, in turn, means that we can understand it as well.

Greek myth and Greek art are inseparable. Greek art depicts the myth: Greek myth explains the art. And Greek myth, it turns out, is the story of mankind told from the Greeks’ religious perspective. It follows logically that within surviving Greek art, Greek myth’s visual counterpart, we have in our possession today a pictorial record of the history of the human race. And even more exciting, we have the keys to decoding the ancient sculpted and painted images. With these things in mind, let’s set about answering that young student’s very perceptive and very basic question: Where does Greek myth come from?

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