Monday, March 15, 2010

Clash of the Gods

Myths on the History Channel

By David Luhrssen
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The gods of ancient Greece haven’t been widely worshipped since the fourth century, but linger on as important archetypes in literature and human psychology. The History Channel series “Clash of the Gods” looks at prominent figures in the Greek pantheon, with excursions into Nordic mythology and the mythos of J.R.R. Tolkien. Season one will be out on DVD and Blu-ray, March 30.

The series suffers from a certain percentage of cheesy and repetitive computer-generated visuals, but includes interesting interviews with academic authorities and will serve as a good introduction to the subject for beginners. The ancient myths were a way for people to make sense of reality. As one speaker explained, mythology put faces on the forces shaping our world.

The Greek gods were more like the cast of X-Men than the transcendent deity of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition—squabbling, flawed but gifted with superhuman abilities. Zeus was the archetype of the male libido unbridled and yet was also a stern enforcer of justice. The Greek myth of a great flood closely parallels the biblical story of divine punishment and—as noted by one of the professors interviewed for the program—seems supported in part by geological evidence of a cataclysmic flood that swept across much of the Black Sea region 7,000 years ago.

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