This past Sunday, my wife, son and I went to the Burpee Museum in Rockford, Illinois. It's a natural history museum, containing numerous fossils and dinosaur remains and casts. I wanted to go particularly because I am fascinated by dinosaurs and I love natural science and the prehistoric eras. It was amazing to see and learn about things that are millions of years old, to be able to look upon a skeleton and think, "If I were to reach out and touch this, I'd be touching something millions of years old, something that lived before humans and saw things we could not even begin to comprehend. It's really stunning that I could reach out across time." There was even a triceratops exhibit called, "Homer's Odyssey." Being a lover of Greek stories, one can imagine how captivated I was by that. My toddler son also very much enjoyed the exhibits, and humorously tried to open some of the cases to get a better look. Fortunately, however, they were firmly sealed.
To accompany me on my trip, I had a new book concerning Greek mythology, and I was reading up on some of the most popular stories in Greek religion and myth. I have, for a long time, understood that the Hellenes knew a lot about the formation and existence of the Universe. They knew it came from chaos (perhaps their explanation for the Big Bang). They knew the Earth was round while many in later history would continue to believe it was flat. And one Greek human origins story I once read even talked about man coming into existence through different ages (perhaps an allegory for an evolution). The old Greeks were very advanced and have earned a place as one of the most advanced and brilliant civilizations in the history of mankind. So could they have ever possibly known anything about dinosaurs?
I knew there was no, as far as I had read, explicit description of the beasts as we would know them today. However, I got to thinking about it and my reading of the Greek creation stories before the arrival of the Olympians. It was said that Gaia (Mother Earth), had monsters, and sometimes even after the new Gods came to power. Now, the descriptions of the monsters I have read do not fit those of dinosaurs, However, the concept, the idea of vicious monsters themselves, things that were giant and that were early inhabitants of the Earth, are most certainly mentioned in detail in the old Greek stories. I concluded that I could look at it as metaphors or symbols of prehistoric beasts. The idea of monsters that once roamed the earth was not foreign to the Hellenes who lived before us and built our world. It's fascinating to ponder, certainly.
What do you think?
In the Goodness of the Gods,
Courage and Honor,