By Martin Persson Nilsson
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Additional resources for A History of Greek Religion
They have become gallant young men, but they also appear under the similitude of children. A host of Minoan traditions remain attached to them. Zeus begot them in the guise of a bird; their sister Helena is a Mycenaean tree-goddess. Their cult is a domestic cult. The snake is their sacred animal and representative; theIr symbol on Spartan monuments-two upright beams united by a cross-bearn-is nothing but an abbreviated representation of the half-timber work of a house. They are the domestic and tutelary deities of the Spartan kings, whom Lhey accompany even to the battle-field.
The conte'lt motif became a usual device, as when the suitors of Penelope or P~llene or the Danaides have to run races. Similarly, the sons of Endymion decide at Olympia who shall have the kingdom. It is less common for the maiden herself to impose the contest upon her lovers, but a famous instance IS that of Atalanta, who nms a race with her suitors and kills those whom she defeats, until at last ~he is overcome by :~manion through the familiar ruse of the apple which hE,> throws down upon the course.
Thus the religious was allowed to become absorbed in, the mythological, and this of necessity led to error. The great advance of the study of religion depends upon the fundamental conception of the religious and sacral as such, and the adopting of this conception as the basis of investigation. These principles are now recognized and applied even to the study of antique religion, but the purely mythical-that part of mythology which is not connected with the religions and the sacral-and above all the heroic myth, has had to Origins of Greek Mythology 47 take a subordinate place or has been dealt with along special lmes as was mentioned above, without much connexion with the study of religion.