By Martin Persson Nilsson
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Extra info for A History of Greek Religion
Aetiological tales are found in all ages and at all stages of culture and have been known from of old. Callimachus wrote a whole work with the title A itia. In the study of religion they take an important place. Here I shall only point out that the aetiological tale has a far wider range than is generally admitted. We shall return to it towards the end of the present chapter. The other main group is composed of folk-tale motifs in the proper sense of the term, I have called them' invented', not, of course, in the sense that these tales are a free creation of the imagination independently of any pre~existing basis.
A temple has taken the place of the royal palace. This is the later conception. Herodotus tells how the • houseprotecting snake' (ol/(ovpo~ depts) which lived in Athena's temple left the Acropolis at the approach of the Persians. Under the shield of Phidias' statue of Athena a great snake wreathed itself, It can be understood why Athena is associated with the guardian snake of the home if she Mi1wan-MYCe1taean Religi01t 27 originated in Mycenaean times. The goddess worshipped in the Minoan domestic shrInes was a snake-goddess.
This is a wide-spread folk-talC', which in Greece is told about Alkathoos and Pele\ls. The flight amid dangers is often combined with speciaL difficulties. The hero, like Theseus in the Labyrinth, cannot find the way. Then the beloved prince'i:; is at hand with her Ariadne thread. This occurs in modern folk-tales also, but more D2 GREEK RELIGION commonly a line of pebbles is laid on the way in, or else grains of corn or crumbs of bread are thrown down which the birds come and devour, whereby the difficulties are increased.