Myths reflect the thoughts of the people in those times. Zeus punished Prometheus for giving the human race the gift of fire. The sky and thunder god also punished the human race by creating Pandora, the first woman. Why is giving the first woman to the human race a punishment? It is because Zeus had a hard time with his nagging wife Hera. At that time, men might have believed that women run away from men if men are poor, come back if men become rich, talk too much, and are not faithful. It was also a woman who opened the Pandora’s Box when gods told her never to open it. It was then when so many evils, such as jealousy, grudge, and vengeance as well as arthritis, gout, neuralgia, and tuberculosis were released into the world.
The myths related to the sun tell us about the level of scientific knowledge the people in those times had. Icarus was the first who flew. His father, Daedalus, was imprisoned in a labyrinth in Crete. The only way he could escape from there was by flying. Daedalus collected the feathers of birds and made wings by using candle wax and threat to hold the feathers in place. Daedalus glued the wings to his son’s arms. Icarus successfully flew up into the sky and escaped the labyrinth. But he flew too close to the sun, causing the wax in his wings to be melted. Icarus fell into the sea and died.
The temperature, however, gets colder as you go upward in the troposphere. Unlike the story in the myth, the wax in the wings should have hardened instead of being melted. People in those times thought the temperature would get higher as you get closer to the sun.
“Helios, the god of the sun, drives his golden chariot from east to west across the sky each day,” described the people in those times about the movement of the sun. Phaethon is Helios’ son, who was born from adultery. One day, Phaethon asked his father to allow him to drive the golden chariot and Helios let him. Phaethon was confident but was unable to control the horses. The chariot, as a result, came too near to the earth, causing rivers and the sea to dry due to the scorching heat. Zeus, who could not let him destroy the world, hurled a lightning bolt and killed Phaethon. People in those times thought the sun circled the earth. They thought the uncontrollable chariot burned the African continent, making the Ethiopians black-skinned and creating the Arabian Desert.
In fact, the amount of energy quadruples if the distance between the earth and the sun is halved. In that case, people would not just get darker skins; they would not be able to survive. Ancient people in ancient myths had a cute way of thinking.