Tuesday, 24 June 2008

something for the kids

Cretan snake goddess...pretty scary lady

'...maybe I'll be lucky today...'

lighting candles to the christian god in a church in Paros

We were woken up at night in Corfu by the most tremedous storm....thunder claps so loud that we were shaking in our beds. In Sami, Kefallonia we felt the earth moving under us. Luckily for us it was just a small earthquake, but 50 years ago a quake shook Sami town to pieces. In Santorini we saw how a whole island had been blown apart by a volcano, and in Sicily we saw red smokey lava still trickling down a big volcanic mountain. All of these things can be frightening, but imagine how much more frightening they were three thousand years ago, when people had no idea why or when the earth would suddenly change.

The ancient Greeks believed that there were lots of gods, and if you didn't give them proper respect, then they would call up all sorts of disasters, like storms and earthquakes. Zeus was the big daddy of the gods. He spent most of his time on Mount Olympus and usually had the final say,but the gods were an unruly lot, and were always coming down to earth to meddle in people's affairs. Zeus' brother Poseidon was the god of the sea. He didn't like Odysseus at all, because he had blinded his Cyclops son Polyphemus. Odysseus was very unlucky on his journey home; his boats were always getting caught in storms, and when Odysseus was all alone on his home-made raft, he very nearly got drowned in a storm. Who was to blame? You guessed it, Poseidon.

Athena on the other hand was very fond of Odysseus and often gave him help. She was the beautiful daughter of Zeus, tall and with grey eyes. She could change herself into any body. She came to the young princess Nausicaa in a dream, disguised as the girl's best friend. She pursuaded Nausicaa that she should go down to the river the next morning to wash her clothes, which were lying about her bedroom dirty and crumpled. And there, as the story goes, Nausicaa found the ship-wrecked Odysseus, and gave him olive oil to wash with, and clothes to put on.

There were lots of gods and godesses and whenever Odysseus and his men had a piece of really good, or really bad, luck, then the gods were usually held responsible. The ancient Greeks also had a strong belief in fortune-telling and in omens. (ask mum or dad what an omen is) Fortune-tellers who made the right predictions, or who interpreted the omens correctly, were often given a big reward. Penelope waited twenty years for Odysseus to come home. When an old man from abroad told her that he would be home soon, she said she would shower him with gifts if he was proved right. He was right; luckily for him!

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