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Many of us have read Percy Jackson in our teen years and developed a fascination for mythologies and folktales. Similarities between mythologies of different civilizations haven’t escaped us in the stories neatly written by Rick Riordan. Let us explore more deeply into these similarities and likenesses!
Myths are stories about gods and goddesses, heroes and supernatural events told in all cultures of the world. Often, one myth has different versions due to its oral roots and there is not a single “correct” version of it. Often, the names of the gods are changed, the stories get twisted when retold and various other changes take place. Myths deal with crucial issues like the creation of the universe and the human race, natural phenomena, and what happens after death.
Nearly every mythology starts with the question of how the universe was created. There are several creation myths like; God created the world out of nothing, creation out of Chaos, the cosmic egg, dismemberment of the body of a primeval being, and in some mythologies the world is the offspring of a male and a female creator.
Most cultures have a large number of gods and goddesses and spirits. The sun, the sky, the sea, the mountains and rivers, the rain, and other natural phenomena are worshipped as deities in different cultures. Many myths also involve mortals with superhuman powers.
It is noticeable that many myths of different cultures and civilizations have uncanny similarities. These similarities can be seen in the creation myths, the creation of humans from clay, the flood myth, older gods being defeated by younger gods, the dying god, the theft of fire, the existence of heaven and hell, and the existence of mythical creatures like giants, dragons, serpents, etc.
The Romans adopted many of the Etruscan gods and adapted them to their ideas and beliefs. These deities were combined with aspects of gods from lands conquered by Romans, especially Greece. Many Roman deities are similar to those of the ancient Greeks, but they usually have different names, different myths, and sometimes, different roles. Like Zeus, Jupiter was the all-powerful sky god; Juno, identified with the Greek goddess Hera, was the goddess of women, marriage, and childbirth. Diana is equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, Bacchus is the counterpart of the Greek god Dionysus, Venus is equated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, Mars is identified with Greek God Ares, Vulcan is a version of the Greek god Hephaestus, Mercury took many traits of the Greek god Hermes, Ceres is the counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter, Neptune is linked to the Greek God Poseidon and Pluto is the counterpart of the Greek god Hades. Minerva shared many attributes with the Greek goddess Athena but she was more distant from the Romans. The Romans didn’t have an early equivalent to Apollo and lifted the god straight from the Greek pantheon.
Mars, the Roman god of war
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But apart from the similarities found in the Greco-Roman pantheon and mythologies, some similarities with the deities of other cultures can also be found. The Dagda has been likened to the Germanic god Odin, the Gaulish god Sucellos, and the Roman god Dīs Pater. The mythology and powers of Indra, an ancient Vedic deity, are similar to those of other Indo-European deities such as Jupiter, Perun, Perkūnas, Zalmoxis, Taranis, Zeus, and Thor. Similar attributes can be found between Saraswati and Athena; Kamadeva and Cupid, Eros, etc. The Egyptian goddess Isis was identified by the Greeks with Demeter, Hera, Selene, and even with Aphrodite because of a late confusion between Isis and Hathor. Horus was identified with Apollo. Anubis was identified with Hermes, Conductor of Souls. Osiris was identified by the Greeks with several of their own gods, but particularly with Dionysus and Hades. Parallels can be drawn between some other gods and goddesses as well.
Anubis, the Egyptian god of mummification and the afterlife
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The comparison of myths from different cultures in an attempt to identify shared themes and characteristics is called comparative mythology and it helps to trace the development of religions and cultures, to propose common origins for myths from different cultures, and to support various psychological theories. Robert Graves, in the introduction of the New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, states, “Myth, then, is a dramatic shorthand record of such matters as invasions, migrations, dynastic changes, admission of foreign cults, and social reforms.”