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Greek Myth and Weather


Submitted By kylebutcher13
Words 1232
Pages 5
Professor Daily
28 October 2012
Position Essay: The Necessity for the Explanations of Weather in Ancient Greece The complex, but plausible circumstances surrounding the explanations for different forms of weather in ancient Greece were necessary due to the lack of technological and intellectual advancements it took to really explain the origins of wind, thunderstorms, and rain. “The economy of the ancient Mediterranean world was agriculturally-based. Given the importance of weather to agriculture, it should not be surprising that there was a good deal of interest in the explanation and prediction of weather in the ancient world” (Taub). The mortals of ancient Greece were “normal” people. They worked for a living, served the gods and feared Zeus’ wrath. More revolutionary explanations for the weather in their world would not come around for hundreds of years, leaving a haze of uncertainty and a flurry of stories. The ancient Greeks had many explanations for and references to natural occurrences such as rain, wind, and thunderstorms. The thoughtful myths and the reasoning behind them made these curious occurrences suddenly logical and rational. It was through the descriptions of these events that the mortals of Greece realized that the actions of the gods were out of their control. Taking into account the simplistic lifestyle that Greek mortals led in a society sustained by growing crops year-round, they needed to know-or think they knew why their crops would die, and how and why the weather caused surpluses and droughts. First, the good: rain. A common occurrence in the Mediterranean region, the rain alone was seen as hope, a sign of good things to come. The Greek poet Hesiod described the origin of rain as Gaia, mother earth, gave birth to Uranus, father sky. As he wrote, “rain fell from the sky onto Earth, making plants grow; animals appeared from the rivers and ocean.” After Gaia and Uranus introduced rain, Zeus presided over rain, making it rain whenever he chose. The more intimate explanation for rain concerns the Hyades, a sisterhood of Nymphs that bring rain. Greek for “to rain,” the daughters of Atlas, and the sisters of Hyas, the fifteen Hyades are said to weep over the death of Hyas, resulting in rain. Hyas was killed in a hunting accident, and the Hyades were changed into stars, residing in the head of Taurus, appearing mostly during spring and autumn showers. Following rain showers, Greek myths describe Iris, the rainbow-goddess, whose purpose was mostly as a messenger to the gods. Iris created rainbows stretching from the seas to clouds in order to replenish the clouds with water following storms. It is through the messages Iris relayed between the gods that resulted in her rarely discussed role of actually preventing further storms, or worse. It is the clever and in this case gentle explanations that made the complexities of the world suddenly simple and rational to the Greeks (“Hyades”). The lighter side of Greek life is evident in the explanation for rain because it seems as though Zeus’ constant presence over all mortals instilled a sense of fear in all of them. This particular explanation for rain is necessary because of both the ambiguity of cloud formation followed by rains falling from “the heavens,” and the presentation of positivity to the Greeks. By making the explanation for rain an easily graspable concept, the people of ancient Greece were able to work and live more efficiently and carefree in a place where violence and consequence is more prevalent in myths than optimism. Additionally, the Greeks sought reasons for rainy and windy seasons. They had to look to mythology and its gods in order to justify droughts, abundance, and the seasons. As myth describes, the wind gods were the children of Astraeus, god of the night sky and father of the stars, and Eos, the goddess of morning. According to the author Homer, King Aeolus ruled over the wind gods, keeping them under lock and key, until he wanted to use them at his discretion. The predominant gods of wind in Greek mythology were Boreas, god of the north wind; Eurus, god of the east wind; Notus, god of the south wind; and Zephyrus, god of the west wind. The harshest of the wind gods is Boreas, depicted as a very strong, rough-looking, hothead, who is most often associated with bringing winter to Greece. Eurus represented the east wind that only swept through Greece once in a while. His wind did bring warm weather and rain to Greece, most easily characterized as an unlucky summertime storm. Notus was feared by the Greeks because the south wind brought crop-killing weather. Zephyrus was the only “good wind,” because his wind meant the beginning of spring. The author Hesiod only described three of the four major wind gods (Boreas, Zephyrus, and Eurus), although Notus was equally worshipped (“Anemoi”). The winds are by far the most difficult weather to explain and simplify. The unpredictability of the winds adds to the necessity for their explanation. By associating certain winds with specific characteristics, the Greeks could personally determine the outcome before, during, and after each wind presented itself. The next prevalent occurrence in ancient Greece were the thunderstorms created by Zeus. Zeus and the thunderstorms he created were the most prevalently discussed of the natural occurrences in Greek mythology. Since Zeus was the most powerful god of all, the fear of his wrath was just as widespread as his—and his thunderbolt’s presence in mythology. He controlled every aspect of rain, when accompanied by thunder and lightning. Zeus created storms, particularly by throwing thunderbolts at gods or mortals who defied him, or deserved to be punished (Leadbetter). As the Greeks can understand, with his role as judge, jury, and executioner, Zeus was able to do what he wanted, when he wanted. Whenever a storm came to ancient Greece, it was seen as Zeus unleashing his short temper and wrath on another god, or even more frightening—a mortal. Though the Greeks lived in a simple, agriculture-based society, they still needed to be kept in check. The explanation for thunderstorms was necessary because life is imperfect. Crops cannot always grow, everyone will not always do the right thing, and Zeus’ power cannot be undermined. Though it can be argued that natural occurrences like rain, wind, and thunderstorms were only figuratively explained because of the lack of intelligence and understanding of the world the ancient Greeks lived in, I argue that the explanations had to cater to the agriculture-based lifestyle that most Greek mortals lived. These explanations would be somewhat irrelevant if Greece was totally urbanized, without rural areas. The Greek mortals sought explanations as to why their livelihoods were being wiped out, slowed, or prosperous, creating the complex, but comprehendible descriptions of natural occurrences which were necessary in order to create an optimistic atmosphere in lives lived in fear of the wrath of Zeus.

Works Cited
“Anemoi.” n.p. n.d. Web. 1 October 2012.
Hamilton, Edith. “Mythology.” Little, Brown and Company, 1942. Print.
“Hyades (Mythology).” n.p. n.d. Web. 1 October 2012.
Leadbetter, Ron. “Zeus.” Encyclopedia Mythica. 30 March 1997. n.p. Web. 1 October 2012.
Taub, Liba. "Ancient Weather Calendars." Weather Prediction. University of Cambridge, n.d. Web. 28 Oct 2012. <>.

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