Welcome to the birthplace of the most famous mythology in the world! Mythology was at the heart of everyday life in Ancient Greece. Greeks regarded mythology as a part of their history. They used myth to explain natural phenomena, cultural variations, traditional enmities and friendships. It was a source of pride to be able to trace the descent of one’s leaders from a mythological hero or a god. Few ever doubted that there was truth behind the account of the Trojan War in the Iliad and Odyssey.
Most ancient cultures saw pictures in the stars of the night sky. The earliest known efforts to catalogue the stars date to cuneiform texts and artifacts dating back roughly 6000 years. These remnants, found in the valley of the Euphrates River, suggest that the ancients observing the heavens saw the lion, the bull, and the scorpion in the stars. The constellations as we know them today are undoubtedly very different from those first few–our night sky is a compendium of images from a number of different societies, both ancient and modern. By far, though, we owe the greatest debt to the mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Mythology, of course, influenced the naming of many objects in the night sky, not just the constellations. The planets all bear names from Roman mythology which reflect their characteristics: Mercury, named for the speedy messenger god, revolves fastest around the sun; Venus, named for the goddess of love and beauty, shines most brightly; Mars, named for the god of war, appears blood-red; Jupiter, named for the single most important god, is the largest planet in our solar system. Even the names of the Galilean moons of Jupiter (the four largest, which may be seen with even a small telescope) are drawn from mythology. Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto were all desired–and taken by force–by Jupiter. It is ironic that the mythological characters mythological women the king of the gods so ardently pursued now revolve around him.
Planetarium of Crete can now give you the opportunity to experience in person how ancient Greeks were feeling under the night sky and the awe that faith in myths and gods created.