Mythin Culture and the Arts
Oneof the most studied Greek mythologies is the Amazon myth. It refersto a women warriors’ society in the Greek myths. Nonetheless, mythsof a race of dominant women have been a recurrent tale in manycultures around the world. As a result, where the existence ofAmazons race was a myth or realty is a contested issue. According toGreek mythology the Amazon race is believed to have lived in Pontusin the modern day Turkey, especially in the region along the southernshores of the Black Sea. The female race lived independently and wasgoverned by a queen known as Hippolyta. It is believed that theAmazons has highly developed social structures and founded severaltowns and settlements, some of which exists in the modern times(Hanley, 2014). The myth also states that no men were allowed in theAmazon society while sexual encounters were only allowed once peryear to ensure that the race did not disappear. They visited aneighboring tribe known as Gargarean for sexual encounters with men.Male children were either killed or sent back to the male society,while girls were brought up and trained by their mothers on variousaspects of the matriarchal society including the art of war. In someversions of the Amazon myth, when the woman race was involved in awar with male society, they took some men as slaves whom they usedfor procreation on specific periods in the year. Other versions ofthe myth have also argued that intermarriages between the Amazonsociety and men from other civilization led to the establishment ofnew settlements and groups of people (Hanley, 2014).
Thebattles between Amazons and the Ancient Greek are mentioned severallyin the Greek mythology. As a result, there are several ancient artsthat depict combat women fighting the Greeks. Majority of theversions of the myth have highlighted the battles between the Amazonsand Theseus. The myth is also associated with various goddesses inthe ancient Greek culture such as Dionysus goddess, Athena goddessand Artemis goddess. Nonetheless, Amazons myths have inspired some ofthe works of art in the modern society (Hanley, 2014).
Since1940s, superhero characters in art have been an importantcharacteristic of the 20thcentury art. The Wonder Woman has been one of the most importantfemale icons in modern art. Wonder Woman has represented femininestrength, empowerment and determination, fighting intense battlestogether with male superheroes such Batman and Superman. Wonder Womanis the main character and superhero in one of the most popularAmerican comic books. The story was created by William Marston,psychologist who was inspired by the Greek mythology of warrior womenof the Amazons. The character a Wonder Woman was first published inthe “All Star Comics” which was released in 1941. Since the early1940s, numerous stories of the Wonder Woman have been published by DCComics (Hanley, 2014). The main characteristics of a Wonder Woman inthe story are a heroine who fights for gender equality, love, andjustice. As a result, Wonder Woman is considered one of the mostimportant female icon and feminist character in modern art. In the1940s, the main theme in arts was the war. Therefore, the WonderWoman in the 1940s was a colorful supervillain who fought in the axisforces in the Second World War. However, the storyline retained thewoman warrior character in the Amazon myth. For example, thesuperwoman had cast enemies derived from the Amazon myth such ascheetah,gigantaand ares.In the recent past, Wonder Woman has had enemies like thefirst born (Hanley,2014).
TheWonder Woman character has appeared in other works of art, other thancomic books. The superwoman character has appeared in films such asWonderWoman Series whichwere produced between 1975 and 1979. Additionally, there are animatedseries such as the JusticeLeagueand SuperFriends whosemain characters have been the Wonder Woman. Additionally, there arenumerous toys and merchandises that have represented the Wonder Womancharacter. In the recent past, there have been several attempts byfilm producers to reintroduce the Wonder Woman character in themodern TV screens. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the WonderWoman is a work of art that links the modern society with ancientmyths. There were no deliberate attempts by the creators to link itthe storyline to the Greek traditions. Despite this, the inspirationand influence of the existence of the Amazons and a matriarchalcivilization cannot be ignored. Additionally, whether the existenceof the Amazons was a reality or a myth has been a contentious issue.Many scholars agree with the preposition that human societies andhumanity started under women rule but switched to male domination atthe sunup of civilization (Hanley, 2014).
TheGreek myths and stories were important tools for social bookkeeping.The myths and stories in the Greek society played an important rolein promoting specific social and cultural values. As a result,majority of myths and stories from the ancient societies were aboutheroes and gods. They helped the society remember and uphold some ofthe moral values and lessons and recognize the power of superhumanbeings or the gods. Arguably, the greatest mythical figure in theancient world is Hercules. Hercules was a legendary figure who wasadmired by the Greek society for his skills, courage and strength. Hewas honored by the society for his ability to fight and conquer evil(Storrie et al, 2007). However, like anybody else in the society,Hercules was not perfect. When he was a youth, he committed an evilthat could not be imagined in the Greek society. He murdered his ownfamily while they were sleeping. The myth states that Hercules wasinfluenced by goddess Hera resulting into violence and madness thatled to him slaughtering his wife and children. There are severallessons and social values that the Greek society learnt from theHercules myth. The most important social lessons, in the ancientsociety and the modern society, from the myth are the notion ofmadness and violence and its consequences (Hamilton & Savage,2010).
Madnessand violence are associated with destructible anger. Through themyth, the Greeks were able to instill the value of selfresponsibility in the society. It is clear that Hercules violence andmadness was as a result of influence by a demon or a goddess. He wasa victim of supernatural powers which was beyond his controlresulting into him killing his family. The wicked spell diminishedhis human abilities resulting into temporary insanity or madness. Anindividual listening to the myth would always wonder whether Herculeswas personally responsible for the evils. It is important to notethat in the Greek society, violence especially against one’s ownfamily was unacceptable. Despite this, such incidences were notunfamiliar. This is also true in the modern society, where senselessviolence acts have become very common. The main question has alwaysbeen why individual become violent and harm other people. Thepersonal responsibility of violent individuals who exhibits madnessand mental disorder has been an important subject of debate. Thishypothesis has been derived from the Hercules myth and the influenceof the goddess (Hamilton & Savage, 2010).
Despitethe fact that violent individuals may be influenced by superhumanpowers or demons, the myth emphasizes on the importance of personalresponsibility for violent deeds. This is one of the social valuesderived from Hercules myth. Although it is clear that Hercules wasinfluenced madness and violence was influenced by goddess Hera, hetook personal responsibility for his actions. He was condemned by thespirits and the society and forced to do penance for his violentdeeds. Personal responsibility is an important social value thatancient societies and modern societies can derive from Hercules myth.After regaining his senses, Hercules took responsibility of hisactions and was subjected to hard labor and twelve years penance. Theimpossible tasks and hard labor that characterized Hercules penanceand punishment is what is referred to as Twelve Labors of Hercules inGreek mythology (Hamilton & Savage, 2010).
Anotherimportant social value taught using the Hercules myth is how to dealwith superhuman influences and challenges. Initially, Hercules wasunable to deal with daemons influence and redirect the madness andanger rather than resulting into evil. For a starter, one may not beable to perfectly redirect the anger and madness as a result of anevil spell. However, as one gains expertise, it is possible tocounter the evil spell with good deeds. The myth also differentiatesbetween punishment and penance. In the modern societies, violent andevil deeds are punished through imprisonment and social isolation.The effectiveness of these punishments in transforming a violentoffender and enabling him gain the strength and ability to redirectmadness and anger has been put into question. On the other hand,Hercules underwent a period of penance which enabled him reflect onhis evil acts and develop strategies that could enable him cope withmadness resulting from evil spells. This means that in Hercules life,the penance had a personal meaning and he was actively involved asopposed to punishment which is more about the authority of thesociety over defiant individuals. This is a lesson to both thesociety and individuals on the role of penance in rehabilitation ofviolent offenders (Storrie et al, 2007).
Intwo of the twelve labors of Hercules which acted as punishment andpenance, he was expected to fight was has can be interpreted asdemonic instincts and influences that result into evil deeds. Forexample, he was required to fight the Nemean Lion, a fierce andstrong creature whose skin could not be pierced by Hercules arrows.Thus, he was forced to use his courage and strength to battle thecreature using bare hands. Rather than directing his strength andanger towards evil, he redirected it towards confronting evil in thesociety (Storrie et al, 2007). After killing the creature, he usedsome of its body parts to protect himself in future encounters. Thesocial value derived from this punishment is the fact thatconfronting and overcoming social challenges in the society gives theindividual the courage and confidence to face the future and become abetter person. Secondly, Hercules was required to fight a nine headedsnake like creature called Hydra. The regenerating heads of theserpentine and the immortal central head is a lesson that evil cannotbe completely eliminated in the society. This means that individualsshould always try to control and kept in check evils in the societybecause it is impossible to eliminate (Storrie et al, 2007).
TheImpact of Myth
Oneof the most important challenges facing the modern society is theemergence of jihadist terrorists and suicide bombers who have accessto modern military technology. This problem is linked to one of themost resilient Islam mythology, the myth of twelve virgins. Suicideattacks by Islamic insurgencies and extreme groups have increased atan alarming rate in the recent past. The most published suicideattack was the September 11 attack on the United States, whichsignificantly changed how the United States and its global alliesapproach the issue of Islamic insurgency and global terrorism.Suicide attack refers to any violent attack where the attackerdestroys property and life and expects to die in the process.Although the issue has become a bigger and greater global concern inthe post September 11 attack, they have occurred throughout history.Additionally, suicide attacks are not restricted to Islamicinsurgencies. For example, in the Second World War, there werewidespread incidences of suicide attacks especially by Japanesepilots (Dzikansky et al, 2014).
Inthe second half of the 20thcentury, there were limited cases of suicide attacks in the world.However, the rise of Islamic insurgence motivated by extremereligions ideas in the late 20thcentury has resulted into unprecedented increase in the number ofsuicide attackers. In the 1990s, incidences of suicide terrorists’attacks averaged at one case per month. Between 2001 and 2003,incidence of suicide attacks by terrorists increased significantly toup to an average of one incidence every week (Dzikansky et al, 2014).As the challenge of international terrorism becomes more real in themodern society, incidence of terrorist attacks is reported almostevery day. There are several factors that make suicide attacks morefavorable for terrorist groups. Due to increased security threat,advanced security systems that detect weapons of mass destructionhave been developed. This makes it very difficult for terrorists toplant weapons and leave. Additionally, suicide attacks are moredeadly and have more destructive abilities compared other attacks.The suicide attacker can conceal parts of the weapon and assemble andmake the necessary adjustment a few minutes before the attack. Thiseliminates the likelihood of action by rescue team due to detonationdelays (Dzikansky et al, 2014).
Theuse of suicide bombing by terrorist groups and extremists Islamicinsurgencies is closely associated with the myth of twelve virgins inparadise. Islamic extremist groups’ leaders use this myth tomotivate young people to engage in suicide bombing and commit crimesin the name of Allah. The 72 virgin and paradise myths are one ofIslamic mythology contained in the Quran (Dzikansky, 2011). Theconcept of 72 virgins (houri) and paradise (Jannah) are grounded inthe teachings of Quran which describes paradise as a place where menand women will be rewarded for obeying Allah commands. Women will beprovided with a man who will be able to “satisfy her” and menwill be provided with 72 virgins with “pears shaped breasts”.However, it is important to note that the Quran does not mention thefigure of 72 virgins.Despite this, Muslim especially liberalMuslims from more diverse societies such as the western culture havetermed the myth as a joke or ridicule to the Muslim religion. Muslimscholars have also expressed reservations about the common perceptionabout the 72 virgins (Dzikansky, 2011).
SomeMuslims have also blamed the Jews for propagating the 72 virgins’myth in an attempt to discredit and paint a bad image of Muslims withextremist ideas. Nonetheless, the myth has its origin in the holybook, Quran. According to the Quran, all individual who are killedfighting for Allah will be given a big reward. In the Islamic heavenor paradise, all men will be awarded with virgins or women. The Qurangoes ahead to describe the physical attributes of women who will beawarded to men. These women are referred to as houri in the Quran.Due to the physical attributes and emphasis of their body structureand virginity, there are many Islamic writings and literatures thathave centered on the 72 virgins myth. As a result, it has been arguedthat the myth is used to motivate Muslims youths to engage interrorism activities. Due to the publication of the myth in thewestern media, which has been used as an anti extremist Islampropaganda, some people believe that it is true. This is becauseextremist Muslims consider suicide bombers as martyrs who will berewarded in heaven (Dzikansky, 2011).
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Dzikansky,M et al (2011). TerroristSuicideBombings: Attack Interdiction, Mitigation, and Response,CRC Press, ISBN 1439871310.
Hamilton,E. & Savage, S. (2011). Mythology,Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.New York, New American Library.
Hanley,T. (2014). WonderWoman Unbound: the Curious History of the World`s Most FamousHeroine,Chicago: Chicago Review Press.
Storrie,P. et al (2007). Hercules:the twelve labors.Minneapolis: Graphic Universe.