Mythos 68 – Greek Flood Myths

 

Ancient Greek society reached its zenith in the historic era, leaving humanity a wealth of philosophical and early scientific works. The Greeks also had a rich mythos complete with a creation epic, a war in heaven, and long lost civilizations. The Greek mythos included multiple layers that appear to be abstracted from earlier civilizations in the Balkans, Aegean, and North Africa. In Greek mytho-history some of the Greek tribes were decedents of the indigenous peoples of the region, and other tribes were colonists from Egypt, Lebanon, or Anatolia. The Hellens, Graikos, Magnes, and Macedonians were believed to be descendants of the indigenous peoples of the region that had survived a great flood that had destroyed an older civilization in the region.(1)Hesiod (circa 700 BC) Catalogue of Women, Fragments

Prometheus Chained to Mount Khvamli

Prometheus Chained to Mount Khvamli

In the Greek mythos life had arrived on the Earth when Uranus’ testicles had fallen into the Sea. Uranus was the Greek embodiment of the sky, and therefore this could be interpreted as an early precursor to the Panspermia hypothesis later developed by Anaxagoras during the Historic era.(2)Margaret O’Leary (2008) Anaxagoras and the Origin of Panspermia Theory The Greek creation myth is similar to the Hurrian creation myth, in which their sky god Anu’s sperm fell to the ground creating Tigris and Tašmišu, two freshwater deities which were the source of life for the Hurrians. In the Greek myth when Uranus’ testicles impacted the sea, they created Aphrodite the Greek fertility goddess. The similarities between these myths has been documented since shortly after the Hurrian texts were first translated,(3)G. S. Kirk (1970) Myth: Its Meaning and Function in Ancient and Other Cultures, Pages 214-220 however the Hurrians were not an Indo-European people, and therefore the story is unlikely to come from a common source. The Hurrians, whose language could be related to the modern Caucasian language group,(4)Igor M. Diakonoff and Sergei A. Starostin (1988) “Hurro-Urartian and East Caucasian Languages,” Ancient Oriental Ethnocultural Relations, Pages 164-207 built a civilization in the northern area of modern Iraq around 5,000 year ago.

Caucasia was always important to the Greeks and was the setting for many of their myths, including the site of Prometheus’ imprisonment. In Greek legend Prometheus was chained to Mount Khvamli or Mount Kazbek for teaching humanity to create fire. In the local Georgian (Caucasian) version of the story Prometheus was called Amirani (ამირანი), and he was imprisoned under Mount Khvamli in a cavern for teaching humanity metallurgy. In Greek mytho-history humans were created by the Titan Prometheus,(5)Ovid (8 AD) Metamorphoses, Section 2, Pages 78ff as the gods themselves were also made by other Titans, making the gods our cousins. Prometheus was often described as helping humans and protecting us from the gods. In the Greek legend Zeus had become angry with the Pelasgians and attempted to destroy them by causing a flood. The Pelasgians (Πελασγοί) were the aboriginal peoples of Greece,(6)Apollonios Rhodios and Peter Green (2007) The Argonautika, commentary on I.987 whose name is believed to derive from the Proto-Greek words for “flatland-inhabitants.”(7)Julius Pokorny (1969) Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, Pages 831-832 It is not clear who the Pelasgians were, however several theories have been proposed, including that the Pelasgians were related to the Caucasians,(8)Rismag Gordeziani (1985) Pre-Grecian and Georgian Thracians,(9)Vladimir Ivanov Georgiev (1961) La toponymie ancienne de la péninsule balkanique et la thèse mediterannée or an unknown Indo-European language between Albanian and Armenian.(10)Vladimir Ivanov Georgiev (1941) Vorgriechische Sprachwissenshaft

Aegean Sea Depth

Aegean Sea Depth

At the peak of the last ice age around 20,000 years ago, the sea level in the Aegean Sea was around 125 meters (410 feet) lower than it currently is. In the northern Aegean a large fertile plain is believed to have existed, connecting many of the present-day islands to the mainland. Most of the region flooded by 9,000 years ago, however flooding did continue until around 5,000 years ago.(11)Tjeerd H. van Andel and Judith C. Shackleton (1982) “Late Paleolithic and Mesolithic Coastlines of Greece and the Aegean,” Journal of Field Archaeology, Pages 445–454 This means that the Pelasgian civilization was experiencing ongoing flooding when the proto-Greeks migrated into the region around 6,000 years ago.(12)Russel D. Gray and Quentin D. Atkinson (2003) “Language-tree Divergence Times Support the Anatolian Theory of Indo-European Origin,” Nature, Volume 426, Number 6965, Pages 435–439 In the myth, Deucalion was the king of Phthia, a region in southern Greece, who was advised by the Titan Prometheus that Zeus was planning to create a flood. Deucalion built a huge chest, and survived Zeus’ flood with his wife Pyrrha.(13)J. David Pleins (2010) When the great abyss opened: classic and contemporary readings of Noah’s flood, Page 110 While Deucalion and Pyrrha were often reported to be the only survivors, some tribes claimed that their progenitors also survived Deucalion’s flood, such as the Megarians who claimed their ancestor Megarus, escaped Deucalion’s flood by swimming to the top of Mount Gerania.(14)Pausanias (circa 170 AD) Description of Greece, Book 1, 40.1

The Greek myth of Zeus trying to exterminate the Pelasgians could be a cultural memory of the flooding of the north Aegean Plain, the ancestral homeland of the “flatland-inhabitants.” The Greeks had many flood myths, however the first major flood of Greek mythology was the flood in the age of Ogyges, a mythical king of Attica. In his book Laws, Plato argued that this flood had occurred ten thousand years before his time,(15)Plato (circa 375 BC) Laws, Book III, 677a circa 12,500 years ago. This time period is consistent with the flooding of large regions of the continental shelf, throughout the world. As the name “Ogyges” was synonymous in ancient Greek with “primeval” or “primal” this flood could simply be a reference to a flood in an Archaic era. In many traditions the Ogygian flood was so devastating that Attica remained without kings until the reign of Cecrops.(16)Theodor H. Gaster (1969) Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament

References   [ + ]

1. Hesiod (circa 700 BC) Catalogue of Women, Fragments
2. Margaret O’Leary (2008) Anaxagoras and the Origin of Panspermia Theory
3. G. S. Kirk (1970) Myth: Its Meaning and Function in Ancient and Other Cultures, Pages 214-220
4. Igor M. Diakonoff and Sergei A. Starostin (1988) “Hurro-Urartian and East Caucasian Languages,” Ancient Oriental Ethnocultural Relations, Pages 164-207
5. Ovid (8 AD) Metamorphoses, Section 2, Pages 78ff
6. Apollonios Rhodios and Peter Green (2007) The Argonautika, commentary on I.987
7. Julius Pokorny (1969) Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, Pages 831-832
8. Rismag Gordeziani (1985) Pre-Grecian and Georgian
9. Vladimir Ivanov Georgiev (1961) La toponymie ancienne de la péninsule balkanique et la thèse mediterannée
10. Vladimir Ivanov Georgiev (1941) Vorgriechische Sprachwissenshaft
11. Tjeerd H. van Andel and Judith C. Shackleton (1982) “Late Paleolithic and Mesolithic Coastlines of Greece and the Aegean,” Journal of Field Archaeology, Pages 445–454
12. Russel D. Gray and Quentin D. Atkinson (2003) “Language-tree Divergence Times Support the Anatolian Theory of Indo-European Origin,” Nature, Volume 426, Number 6965, Pages 435–439
13. J. David Pleins (2010) When the great abyss opened: classic and contemporary readings of Noah’s flood, Page 110
14. Pausanias (circa 170 AD) Description of Greece, Book 1, 40.1
15. Plato (circa 375 BC) Laws, Book III, 677a
16. Theodor H. Gaster (1969) Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament