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The Storytellers of Ancient Greece

Storytelling began in cavemen days, where drawings on cave walls depicted the day to day lives of the people who lived such a basic life. And ever since it has grown with the ages, in form and context. Perhaps the first major civilization to put their stamp on storytelling were the Ancient Greeks.

During this period storytellers could earn a living from going around communities by telling stories and relating news about what was happening elsewhere. So, these early storytellers went from town to town relaying fables, myths, and legends.

Fables, Myths, and Legends

A fable is quite a short story that usually relays one main moral theme. A myth is a fantastic tale of gods and all manner of mythical creatures and monsters. Finally, a legend is a story about a real-life event that happened in the past, that cannot be proved to be true or false.

Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece at the time was a peninsula that was inhabited by many different tribes and communities. There were no common languages between them, so to be understood by everybody the storytellers spoke in Greek which was the common language of the larger towns.

During these formative years of storytelling it was common that a storyteller would be interrupted by a citizen and corrected. Another storyteller had relayed the tale before and they believed the first edition. However, it was common that the townsfolk wanted to hear a popular story time and again. But they knew the story, identified with the hero and wanted the same ending.

The Evolution of Tales

The storytellers soon cottoned on to this and learned the popular stories exactly the same with no deviations. The better storytellers made up new tales and stories that were original and so could not be challenged over authenticity.  Others added a different twist, not to radically change the tale but to add a new dimension to keep the stories fresh and interesting. But the main characters would remain the same perhaps with one new quality to enhance them. The townsfolk would not allow any further embellishments as they really believed that the tales were true. They honestly believed that the gods, and monsters were all real, the adventures were real, and especially that the heroes were real.

The Effects of Storytelling

Storytelling was not merely an entertainment; they taught a whole set of common morals through the fables. History was relayed via legends, and religions were born through myths. Perhaps the greatest gift of these early storytellers was to spread a common language which of course was Greek.

The Ancient Greeks never tired of their fables, myths, and legends and long after the Dark Ages these tales were still being told in temples and people’s homes, and almost anywhere that the Greeks traveled to. The tales began to be re-told in other lands by non-Greeks, and the stories finally started to be written down. Today, modern storytellers are still writing new fables and new myths just as they were thousands of years ago. And as they augment and add to favorite old legends, they remain true to the old characters and themes of the past.

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