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"Mythos" redirects here. For other uses, see Myth (disambiguation) and Mythos (disambiguation).
The ancient Roman poet Ovid, in his "The Metamorphoses," told the story of the nymph Io who was seduced by Jupiter, the king of the gods. When his wife Juno became jealous, Jupiter transformed Io into a heifer to protect her. This panel relates the second half of the story. In the upper left, Jupiter emerges from clouds to order Mercury to rescue Io. In the lower left, Mercury guides his herd to the spot where Io is guarded by the hundred-eyed Argus. In the upper center, Mercury, disguised as a shepherd, lulls Argus to sleep and beheads him. Juno then takes Argus's eyes to ornament the tail feathers of her peacock and sends the Furies to pursue Io, who flees to the Nile River. At last, Jupiter prevails on his wife to cease tormenting the nymph, who, upon resuming her natural form, escapes to the forest and ultimately becomes the Egyptian goddess Isis
This panel by Bartolomeo di Giovanni relates the second half of the Metamorphoses. In the upper left, Jupiter emerges from clouds to order Mercury to rescue Io[1][2]

A myth is a traditional or legendary story, collection, or study. It is derived from the Greek word mythos (μύθος), which simply means "story". Mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths.[3]

Academic usage[edit]

Generally associated with the academic fields of mythology, mythography[4] or folkloristics, a myth can be a story involving symbols that are capable of multiple meanings. The body of a myth in any given culture usually includes a cosmogonical or creation myth, concerning the origins of the world, or how the world and its creatures came into existence. The active beings in myths are generally gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines or animals and plants. Most myths are set in a timeless past before recorded and critical history begins.

A myth is a sacred narrative in the sense that it holds religious or spiritual significance for those who tell it. Myths also contribute to and express systems of thoughts and values. Use of the term by scholars implies neither the truth nor the falseness of the narrative. To the source culture, however, a myth by definition is "true", in that it embodies beliefs, concepts and ways of questioning to make sense of the world.

Popular usage[edit]

In popular use, a myth can also be a collectively held belief that has no basis in fact. This usage, which is often pejorative,[5] arose from labeling the religious myths and beliefs of other cultures as being incorrect, but it has spread to cover non-religious beliefs as well.[6] Because of this popular and subjective word usage, many people take offense when the narratives they believe to be true are called myths. This usage is frequently associated with legend, fiction, fairy tale, folklore, fable, confusing data, personal desire and urban legend, each of which has a distinct meaning in academia. A myth can also be told as a fairy tale, told around campfires while camping.


  1. ^ "The Myth of Io". The Walters Art Museum. 
  2. ^ For more information on this panel, please see Zeri catalogue number 64, pp. 100-101
  3. ^ Kirk, p. 8; "myth", Encyclopedia Britannica
  4. ^ Retrieved 19 January 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Howells, Richard (1999). The Myth of the Titanic. Macmillan. 
  6. ^ Eliade, Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, 1967, pp. 23, 162.