Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Cataclysm in the Greek mythology and the truth that it conveys.

Most of the ancient nations and mainly those of the middle East  have incorporated in their mythologies an account about a  global cataclysm.From the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh to the Hindu puranic texts we see a common theme that suggests perhaps a historical reality of catastrophic regional floods which the people connected with divine rage or retribution.

The most famous of these stories is the Old testament story of Noah which i am sure most of the people know as all the three Abrahamic religions acknowledge it. In this post though, i am going to focus on the Greek myth about the cataclysm.

In all these cataclysmic stories there is a hero who is being favoured by the gods and survives in order to make a new start.The protagonists of the  Greek story are Deucalion and Pyrra who according to the myths later became the parents of Hellen(Greek). In some way we can say that Deucalion and Pyrra were cousins as their ancestors were the brothers Epimetheas and Prometheus with the latter being more known from the story where he stole the fire from the gods giving it to humanity and as a consequence he was punished to be bound eternally.
Deucalion and Pyrrha throwing stones behind them according to Zeus' orders.

In most of these stories the cataclysm is incited by the gods in order to punish humanity. In the Greek version Zeus the king of the gods was upset because during the time that Deucalion and Pyrra lived(according to those who tried to estimate the time it was near 1796 BC), everyone was disrespectful towards the gods.Thus one day it started raining unstoppably and the whole world was covered by water except some mountain peaks.

In the story of Noah we know that god ordered him to build an ark. In the Greek version we have Prometheus who was Titan consulting his son Deucalion to build an ark for him and his wife. Deucalion's ark wandered around the seas for only 9 days until he disembarked on the peak of mount Parnassus.While in Noah's story God doesn't interfere anymore after the beginning of the new life of Noah and his family in Deucalion's story Zeus send Hermes to ask whether Deucalion had any wish to make.Deucalion wanted more people cause he was feeling alone in the world.Then Zeus ordered Deucalion and Pyrra to start walking forward and throw stones behind them.The stones behind Pyrra became women and those behind Deucalion became men.

In the book "Noah's Cataclysm" the two geologists and authors of the book Walter Pitman and William Ryan supported a theory that the Cataclysm stories derive from a real massive flood in the Black sea.In 1999 Bob Ballard the person who discovered the wreck of Titanic explored the coastal areas of the Black sea and he ended up with the same conclusion that Pitman and Ryan made.
The Black sea was a lake before the alleged cataclysm.

According to the theory until before 7.500 years ago the Black sea was a lake. This is based on the discovery of shells that grew only in lakes and the geological analysis that showed an abrupt change in the geomorphology of the region that was caused by a huge event.According to Pitman and Ryan 12.000 years ago the ices started to melt and the sea levels started to become higher and higher ,this caused the sea of Marmara to put pressure and break the natural dam of Bosporus flooding the lake with sea water.

It was the Sumerians

Some theories suggest that the story of the flood of Noah is loaned from the Sumerian flood story. Therefore the Greek legend due to its similarity with the other stories was also taken from the East.Continuing with these theories it is suggested that the initial homelands of the Sumerians were around the pre cataclysmic Black sea. We don't know if the cataclysm was so abrupt and catastrophic as it is mentioned in most of the stories but it's sure that many people survived and went south towards Mesopotamia where they created the first urban civilization in history.

The Aegiis question

The Greek flood myth wasn't only one. There were two more floods that caused migrations of alledgedly pre-Greek populations. Plato states in Timaeus and Critias:
"Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking; and during all this time and through so many changes, there has never been any considerable accumulation of the soil coming down from the mountains, as in other places, but the earth has fallen away all round and sunk out of sight. The consequence is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, as in the case of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left."

As we see Plato mentions only islands remaining after a great flood that occured 9.000 years before his time.This may be another one of his "Atlantis" myths but it may also be based on historical reality.So here we come in a separate cataclysmic event from the Black sea. This flood occured somewhere between 12.000 and 11.500 BC a proximate date to the one that Plato suggests and was cause by the melting of the ice and the rise of the sea level.
the eastern mediterranean in 12.000 BCE. Notice the Aegean islands being connected in one and the Marmara and Black sea being lakes.

The flood of Dardanus

Dardanus was a mythical person who descended from the present day Arcadia in Greece. According to the myth he migrated with his family and settled in the north western Aegean. After a great flood only himself and his family survived by staying on a piece of land that would later be known as the island of Samothrace.
Samothrace on the top left was connected to the mainland according to the Dardanus myth.

My conclusion is that the theme of a universal flood exists only as an exaggeration by the storytellers. The historical evidence shows that indeed there were a series of regional floods in really distant times where writting was not still invented and all the populations were religiously biased.This resulted the creation of stories that included divine wrath and because they mentioned divine wrath it should be something big and intimidating in the fantasy of the listener. 

Paparigopoulos Istoria tou Ellinikou ethnous

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