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Allusive Idioms From Greek Myths And English Learning

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Introduction

In my opinion, it is no exaggeration to say that Greek myths have exerted no small influence upon western culture. Especially those whose mother tongue is English familiar with the contents and stories of Greek mythology have been imperceptibly influenced by what they constantly read, see and hear about since they are very young. Hence allusive idioms from Greek myths have exerted great impact on the English language and literature. It is fairly important to make a full understanding of Greek myths for a foreign student in order to learn the language of English well. To prove this, I may as well, first of all, introduce some information about Greek myths in the next part.

2. Clearing the ground

2. 1 Defination of the term ÐŽomythÐŽ±

First of all, IЎЇd like to define the meaning of the word ÐŽomythÐŽ±. The word itself comes from the Greek myths which originally meant speech or discourse but which later came to mean fable or legend. In this article the word ÐŽomythÐŽ± will be defined as a story of forgotten or vague origin, basically religious or supernatural in nature, which seeks to explain or rationalize one or more aspects of the world or a society. Furthermore, all myths are, at some stage, actually believed to be true by the peoples of the societies that used or originated the myth.

2. 2 Origin of Greek myths

Greek myths can be dated back to BC times. They originated in Europe near or around the Mediterranean Sea. They were especially concentrated in Greece and Italy. Myths are simply stories that are made up to explain something. A long time ago in Athens, Greece, people made up stories to explain the tribulations of life. These stories consisted of gods, heroes, and warriors. Years later the Greeks were conquered by the Romans. The new rulers were pleased with these stories so the Romans adopted them. They took the myths back to Italy, where the myths were well liked, except for one thing. The names were all Greek sounding. The Romans changed all the names in the myth to better fit there lifestyle. Nowadays people often use the term Greek and Roman myths to relate these stories which are the same in nature. For convenience, Greek myths are only mentioned in this article.

From ancient times on, numerous writers and artists began to be interested in quoting Greek myths to their works. A great many literary works entailed allusions of Greek myths and not a few of them are centered on the stories of Greek myths. In the Renaissance period, British writers highed on learning classical Greek and Roman works, especially the myths. Later by later, many Greek words, idioms and even proverbs, which were mostly loaned from these Greek myths, appeared in the language of English and at last they became an inseparable part of the language of English. In order to learn English well, it is necessary to acquaint ourselves with the allusions of Greek myths, a few of which will be presented in the next part.

3. Allusions of Greek myths

As we know, there is a mysterious and fantastic story in each Greek myth. Here, I just list a few allusions of Greek myths to show how important and interesting to know something about them.

AchillesЎЇ heel : it means a point of weakness in a seemingly invulnerable person, position, argument, or organization. Based on post Homeric legends about Achilles, it is told that his mother Thetis submerged him as a baby in the magical waters of the River Styx to make him invulnerable. But as a result of holding him by his heel, she inadvertently left that part of his body suspceptible to wounds. Later on, the legend continues, Paris, the Trojan who took Helen from King Agamemnon and thereby triggered a great war between Greece and Troy, killed Achilles in battle by shooting him in the heel with a poisoned arrow.

PandoraЎЇs box : it means source of unanticipated evils, or unleashing the dire consequences of a seemingly good action. (On her wedding day, Pandora opened the box containing her dowry from the god Zeus. She was unaware that she would unleash upon the Earth all manner of woes that Zeus had stashed within. Fortunately, she was able to retain the single blessing she found there, hope, which one of the gods had mercifully offered to keep the human race from utter despair in the face of the misery inflicted by the war, pestilence, discord, and pain of ZeusЎЇ cursed contents)(Bell; Hesiod, Works and Days)

Riddle of the sphinx : it means a mysterious or inscrutable person mysterious. After the Sphinx, a Greek mythological monster with the head of a woman, body of a lion, and wings of a bird that had been educated by the Muses, which was notorious for killing hordes of travelers who could not answer its riddle: ÐŽowhat is it that has a single voice, and has four feet, and then two feet, and then three feet?ÐŽ±

Oedipus complex : it tells that in Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the alleged unconscious tendency boys have to become sexually attracted to their nothers and jealous of their fathers; the male counterpart to the Electra complex. In Greek legend, son of Laius, king of Thebes, and his wife, Jocasta. Laius had been warned by an oracle that he was fated to be killed by his own son; he therefore abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside. The baby was rescued, however, by a shepherd and brought to the king of Corinth, who adopted him. When Oedipus was grown, he learned from the Delphic oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother. He fled Corinth to escape this fate, believing his foster parents to be his real parents. At a crossroad he encountered Laius, quarreled with him, and killed him. He continued on to Thebes, where the sphinx was killing all who could not solve her riddle. Oedipus answered it correctly and so won the widowed queenЎЇs hand. The prophecy was thus fulfilled. Two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene, were born to the unwittingly incestuous pair. When a plague descended on Thebes, an oracle declared that the only way to rid the land of its pollution was to expel the murderer of Laius. Through a series of painful revelations, brilliantly dramatized by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex, the king learned the truth and in an agony of horror blinded himself. According to Homer, Oedipus continued to reign over Thebes until he was killed in battle; but the more common version is that he was exiled by Creon, JocastaЎЇs brother, and his sons battled for the throne (see Seven against Thebes). In SophoclesЎЇ Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus is guided in his later wanderings by his faithful daughter, Antigone.

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