Greeks compared to the Maya
Looking around too all the different ethnicities that can be found in this world, two of those most interesting cultures would have to be the Greeks and the Maya. The ancient Greek and Mayan civilizations have many similar characteristics but they also have many differences. The Mayan’s are an indigenous Mesoamerican culture found in present day South America. As where the Greeks are an ethnicity group native to Greece.
The history of the Greece can be traced back to the Stone Age. There were only a few historians in the time of Ancient Greece. Three major ancient historians were able to record their time of Ancient Greek history, which includes Herodotus, known as the “Father of History” who travelled to many ancient historic sites at the time, Thucydides and Xenophon. Other forms of History knowledge and accountability of the ancient Greeks were know is because of temples, sculpture, pottery, artifacts and other archaeological findings. The Neolithic Age in Greece lasted from 6800 to 3200 BC. The ancient Greeks believed that their gods directly affected every aspect of daily life. The Greeks worshipped the gods in temples and made offerings to them to seek good fortune. When good things happened, they attributed it to the gods. If they had good crops that year, it meant the gods were pleased with them. If they had bad crops or a flood, they attributed that to the gods being displeased with them. The Olympian gods are the great gods in Greek Mythology. Their name derived from mount Olympus, which is said to be a holy place where no man can walk. Mount Olympus is also said to be the residing place of Zeus. Zeus is the leader of the Olympian gods and has been since the overthrowing of Zeus’ father Cronus, the leader of the Titans who ruled before Zeus and the Olympians. Hera, the goddess of marriage and childbirth, is the wife of Zeus and Queen of the Gods, often portrayed as jealous and vengeful. She created the Medusa and was the reason Hercules had to perform the 12 labors. Hercules is a mythical hero. He is the son of Zeus, who survives 12 very hard tasks (labors) to redeem himself to the gods. Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. Her myth tells how she was born from the foam of the sea and floated to shore on a scallop shell. She was immensely beautiful and carried a golden girdle that made her irresistible to men. Athena is the goddess of wisdom and weaving. She carries a metal breastplate with the image of the gorgon Medusa upon it. She is the daughter of Zeus, and the myth states she burst from his head fully formed and clothed in armor. Eros is the god of love. In many of his stories, he was responsible for causing people to fall in love. Eros is known as Cupid today, but there are some differences between our version of Cupid and the ancient God. Both have wings and use arrows to pierce the hearts of lovers, but our modern Cupid is portrayed as an infant, while the Greek’s Eros was an attractive young man. Hades is the god of the underworld brother to Zeus. In his myth, he stole Persephone from her family and took her to the underworld. This myth was a way to explain the changing of the seasons. Poseidon is also a brother to Zeus, and in mythology the three brothers divided creation, each taking control of a piece of it. Zeus ruled the land and the air, Hades ruled the underworld and Poseidon ruled all water, including rivers and ponds, though he is frequently portrayed simply as the god of the sea.
The Maya on the other hand, are probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica. Mayan history starts in the Yucatan around 2600 B.C., Mayan history rose to prominence around A.D. 250 in present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, El Salvador, and northern Belize. The myth that Mayans believed that started life as they know it was a story about two brothers, Vucahunahpu and Hunhunapu who were playing ball outside and the gods of night didn’t like the noise that the two boys made. So they sent a messenger to get the boys, they traveled to the underworld and the gods challenged them to a ball game, the gods won. They brothers were then sacrificed and the skull of Hunhunapu was hung on a tree. The daughter of the blood gatherer looked at the skull and it spit in her hand, thus making her pregnant. She went to live on earth and gave birth to Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The twins wanted to get revenge. They challenged the gods to a game and won. The brothers sacrificed themselves and the gods were amazed. The gods were defeated making one brother the sun and making one brother the moon, starting the beginning of time.
The Maya were noted as well for elaborate and highly decorated architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories, all built without metal tools. Mayan history shows that they were also skilled farmers, clearing large sections of tropical rain forest and, where groundwater was scarce, building sizeable underground reservoirs for the storage of rainwater. The Maya were equally skilled as weavers and potters, and cleared routes through jungles and swamps to foster extensive trade networks with distant peoples.
Unlike Greek this is not as well know as the other. You rarely hear about the Mayans. “Mayan religion was characterized by the worship of nature gods (especially the gods of sun, rain and corn), a priestly class, the importance of astronomy and astrology, rituals of human sacrifice, and the building of elaborate pyramidical temples.” (Anonymous) Some aspects of Mayan religion survive today among the Mayan Indians of Mexico and Central America, who practice a combination of traditional religion and Roman Catholicism.
Both of these had strong beliefs about their own gods, they also had many of the same style of beliefs. Mayan was more on the earth and how it could be used, whereas Greek was more about the people and what they could do. While the Greeks believed in the underworld the Mayans believed in Xibalba which is the name for the Maya’s underworld which was ruled by Maya death gods. The Greeks and the Maya had different placed of worship. While the Greeks worshiped to the god not only by monumental statues but in temples dedicated to a god, Mayans had and worshiped in caves. Mayans had hieroglyphics and portraits of great gods but believed and still do believe that caves were the entrances and exits to the underworld, it’s where people began.
The Greeks and Mayans are known around the world, one more than the other. But the two civilizations and mythology’s have their share of stories about how there world has come about and their share of mystery. There’s so many things undiscovered and still unknown about both mythology’s and both cultures. It’s such an interesting subject to cover.
Meek, Miki, prod. Descending into the Maya Underworld. Melia Design, Film. . Anonymous. “Christian Holidays.” ReligionFacts.1 August 2010. Accessed 27
February 2012 Sharer, Robert, and Loa Traxler. The Ancient Mayan. 5th. Standford: Standford University Press, 1994. 1-2. Print.