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Canonical and alternative creation myths

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents a brief analysis of what author calls the canonical versions of the creation, since they occur in Homer and Hesiod, the traditional teachers of ancient Greek religion. It then discusses two accounts influenced by Orphism, a somewhat later, alternative current within Greek culture. The chapter concludes with three observations: first, whereas the great Mesopotamian poems Atrahasis, Enuma elish, Erra and Gilgamesh tend to view the universe as created, except for the gods, Greek tradition looks at the universe as the fruit of a family tree. Secondly, the purpose of the creation narrative differs from culture to culture. In Enuma elish the poem's aim is to celebrate Marduk, whereas in Genesis the narrative hastily relates the creation in order to continue with the history of man. Thirdly, the cosmogonic accounts in Genesis and Hesiod are already much more rationalized than the Near Eastern ones.

Keywords: canonical versions; creation narrative; Enuma elish; Genesis; Greek culture; Greek religion; Homer and Hesiod; Mesopotamian poems; Orphism



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