HISTORY vs. LEGEND
In an interview after he directed “Apollo13”, Ron Howard was asked about an episode on board the space craft which didn’t happened but somehow got into the movie. His answer was “when it comes to legend or fact tell the legend”. This is true as most people would rather believe the “Legend” than believe the “Truth”. A great many people would rather romanticize History than face its’ stark reality. This is perhaps being Human we do not like to acknowledge our dark side and what atrocities we are capable of. We are, for better or worse a warring species and the truth is in order to have the light we must also have the darkness.
The Motion Picture Industry is perhaps the worst culprit in romanticizing and re-writing History. It seems they are not satisfied with the facts and use, as they put it, “Poetic License” to embellish the actuality of an historic event. Motion pictures aren’t the only culprit as Propagandists re-write history to suit the needs of the state and control the masses i.e. every democracy, fascist’s government, dictatorship, or communist state that has or does exist. Then too there are the so called Revisionist Historians who seem to just enjoy warping history to suit themselves or gain notoriety.
One of the definitions of Legend is an inauthentic story popularly regarded as true. Most legends have an historical background and are usually based on a person or event. A great many of these legends come down to us in the form of oral stories to be eventually written down.
Homer and his Iliad and Odyssey is perhaps the most known of these oral stories written down 700 years after the event occurred. For centuries the Trojan War was though pure myth but thanks to archaeology it is now known to have happened. As to the main characters in this brilliant story there is no definitive proof that they lived but someone like them must have to be so prominently depict in the telling of these tales. So from an actual historical fact we have this great legend passed down, albeit in fragments, from roughly 3200 years ago. The Epic of Gilgamesh, which sadly I must admit have never read, is even older dating back some 4500 years.
Legends are great stories meant to entertain, told by bards who made their living wandering the land telling their tales of heroes and monsters, Gods and demons, embellishing and fabricating as they went. No two telling the same story the same way each claiming their version to be the true one. Homer set the stories of the Trojan war to pen some 500 years after the event, during the early period of Greece’s’ recovery from a dark age much similar to what happened in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. All peoples and nations have their legends and heroes. Some even share the same story but with the main characters’ name changed. The Great Flood of the Christian Old Testament was shared by many peoples of the Mesopotamian (Middle East) region. The Romans borrowed some of their Heroes from the Greeks and the Greeks from the Cretans. Zeus the Father of the Greek Gods was said to have been born on the island of Crete. Many had the same Gods but with different names. The Egyptians had many different names for the same chief God, Amon, Ra, and Aton. The Greek God Zeus was the Roman Jupiter. The Germanic God Wotan was the Norse God Odin each the same God. In Homers’ Iliad both sides had the same Gods and Homer chose to use the Greek names for the Gods of the Trojans were more than likely the Hittite Gods but in his telling it was much simpler to use names every Greek knew. In all myths and Legends the hero is usually a decedent of a God. Achilles was said to be the son of Thetis a nymph and a human. Heracles (Hercules), Perseus, and Theseus were said to be sons of Zeus and Helen his Daughter. Even Alexander the Great was supposedly the son of Zeus, at least according to his mother Olympia who claimed Zeus was the father. All grist for the bards ‘mill as they wove their tales of lust, rape, seduction, and heroic deeds of war. Or in common parlance, Sex, Blood, and Guts.
Legends were meant to stir the imagination of the ancient peoples and they did the job most admirably but, to me here in this 21st century the reading of the actual history stirs my imagination far more than a fable ever could.