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culture-bringers


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Mythical figures who are credited with the invention of important cultural achievements. Around the 6th cent. bc the Greeks started to ascribe a number of inventions to gods and heroes. So Athena Polias planted the first olive tree, and as Ergane she invented weaving (see textile production); Demeter taught sowing and grinding corn; Dionysus was connected with viticulture (see wine), and Apollo thought up the calendar. Of the heroes, Argive Phorōneus invented fire, and the Telchīnĕs of Rhodes metal‐working; panhellenic Heracles founded the Olympic Games. In Athens, Prometheus became important; to him it owed architecture, meteorology, astronomy, numbers, writing, domestication and harnessing of animals, sailing, medicine, divination, mining—in short all technai (practical skills; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 506).

The sophists became much interested in the origin of culture, witness Protagoras' lost On the Original State of Man. Prodicus considered Demeter and Dionysus to have been deified because of their inventions. His views were an instant success, and he was followed by Euhemerus, whose Zeus takes a great interest in ‘inventors who had discovered new things that promised to be useful for the lives of men’.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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