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The Lion Gate at Mycenae; copyrighted photograph by John Bruno Hare (c) 2005, All Rights Reserved

The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology

by Martin P. Nilsson

[1932, Copyright not renewed]

This is a study of the origins of classical Greek mythology in the Mycenaean era, which preceded the era of Homer, Hesiod and the dramatists by several hundred years, separated by a dark age. In the 19th century, the 'Comparative' school explained Greek mythology in terms of parallels with other mythologies such as the Celtic, Germanic and Indian. This was counterpoised by a 'Euhemerist' school, which tried to find historical basis for all mythological incidents. Nilsson, who wrote in the mid-20th century, steered between these two schools, instead looking for historic and prehistoric evidence for the evolution of the Greek mythological cycles, particularly attempting to match up archaeological evidence of Mycenaean occupation with localized myths such as the Theseus, the Thebes myths, Heracles and Mount Olympus.

Title Page
Chapter I. How Old is Greek Mythology?

Chapter II. Mycenaean Centers and Mythological Centers

Chapter II: Introduction
1. Argolis
2. Laconia
3. The Dominion of Pylos
4. The Rest of the Peloponnese
5. The Ionian Islands
6. Southern Boeotia
7. Northern Boeotia and Thessaly
8. Attica
9. Conclusion


Chapter III. Heracles
Chapter IV. Olympus