Both primitive and classical mythology feature traditional stories which have been handed down from generations to generations. These stories have been greatly influenced by the folk imagination and evidenced the zeitgeist of the peoples’ respective cultures. The narratives, which are proofs of strong oral traditions, revolve around gods, demi-gods, heroes, noble men, and their moral codes. They are essential in the continuity of a culture, giving meaning to existence, explaining phenomena, and portraying role models. Specifically, primitive mythology usually portrays dark and ghastly storylines while classical mythology, which came later, centers more on pleasant and cultivated themes. The following discussions further delve into these distinctions.
What is Primitive Mythology?
Primitive mythology, as its name suggests, leans towards more barbaric and dark themes. It often features the fright, monstrousness, and less cultured practices of those times. This batch of narratives can be primitive science or religion, primitive history, or primitive fiction. Primitive science or religion mythology pertains to natural phenomena in the cosmos, the origin of creatures, and how humans should treat gods. Primitive history or legend mythology portray legends, sagas, or historical facts. Lastly, primitive fiction delves into folk-tales or fairy-tales which are meant for pleasure and entertainment.
What is Classical Mythology?
Classical mythology was from a more civilized era. It is a form of creative expression of the generally pleasant elements of reality enmeshed with fantasy. As stories associated with more cultivated culture, this kind of mythology is rich with literary art, drama, painting, sculpture, and other creative outlets. This is closely associated with Greek and Roman culture as popularized by Homer’s epic poems. The characters in classical mythology are also often alluded in scientific terminologies in various fields such as astronomy, biology, and psychology.
Difference between Primitive Mythology and Classical Mythology
Primitive mythology, as its name suggests, preceded the rise of classical mythology. Hence, primitive myths center more on the explanation of various phenomena such as calamities, seasons, and vegetation.
Primitive mythology was primarily characterized by dark, disturbing, and morbid themes such as destruction, monsters, and death. For instance, an Aztec myth features the story of “Coatlicue” who gave birth to “Huitzilopochtli”, a strong character who, in defense of his mother, killed his half-brothers as a newborn. The brothers eventually became stars and Huitzilopochtli also eventually killed his half-sister by tearing her heart out using a blue snake. On the other hand, classical mythology revolved around more pleasant and sentimental elements such as gentle nymphs, valiant warriors, kind gods, and peaceful goddesses.
Though both kinds of myth may aim to entertain, classical mythology leans more towards pleasure-oriented ends as evidenced by stories which portray comedy.
Primitive mythology is more solely associated with religious content as it has more narratives on creation and moral codes. Also, most primitive myths originated from spiritual leaders such as shamans or priests. As for classical mythology, it is also associated with religious beliefs but its influence is more diverse as it is linked with literature, cosmology, entertainment, and the like. Also, its authors were not necessarily spiritual or religious leaders.
Personification of gods
As compared to primitive mythology, classical mythology views gods as more human-like who also feel certain kinds of emotions and engage in intimate relationships.
Classical mythology is generally more relatable due to its more pleasant and cultivated nature as compared to primitive mythology.
Greek and Roman Culture
As compared to primitive mythology, classical mythology is more closely linked with Greek and Roman culture as these civilizations feature human-like deities and more cultivated ways of behaving.
As compared to primitive mythology, classical mythology characters are associated with concepts in psychology such as Sigmund Freud’s Oedipal Complex, Carl Jung’s Electra Complex, and personality disorders like Narcissism.
As compared to primitive mythology, classical mythology characters are more associated with constellations’ names such as Andromeda, Caelum, Hydra, Pegasus, and Volans.
Primitive mythology was more difficult to preserve as it was mainly transferred by word of mouth. On the contrary, classical mythology was easier to preserve as many of them were written and portrayed in various art works such as sculpture, paintings on vases and tombs, and other forms.
Primitive Mythology vs Classical Mythology