Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Rick  Riordan

Caroline  Connolly 

The Greek Godsí Influential Role in Everyday Ancient Greek Society

Heroism and the Search for an Identity in the Novels of Rick Riordan

In the young adult fantasy adventure series The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan relates the journey of Percy Jackson, a young, misunderstood boy who is struggling with his identity. Riordanís message is that one must first understand oneís relationships, beliefs, and purpose, in order to be comfortable with who one is as a person and gain the confidence that is necessary to find oneís place in the world. Riordanís novels take place in a version of the modern world in which Greek gods and mythological creatures also exist. As the son of the Greek god Poseidon, Percy struggles to live in both his modern world and the world of the gods. His identity is tested when he makes tough decisions like staying within the safe walls of his camp or choosing to accept quests from which he may not return safely. Over the course of the series, Percy becomes more comfortable with taking on new responsibilities, and the confidence he gains helps him to develop into the hero that he is destined to become.

Just as the Greek gods played a helpful role in Percyís life, they were also important to the ancient Greeks. In ancient Greek society people depended on their gods, who they believed influenced the way the Greeks lived. Greeks also came to understand the gods based on the myths they created. Through their myths, Greeks attempted to explain the origins of the world and detailed the lives and adventures of many gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and mythological creatures. They prayed to the gods and held festivals in their honor. They built special temples, like those at Delphi, for specific gods where one could go and worship, making offerings. There, a young woman identified as the Oracle gave predictions of the future. Greeks believed that the Oracle could communicate with the gods and give answers to questions. Greeks believed that the gods surrounded their everyday lives, and they included the gods in their daily lives, decision-making and rituals. The Greeks also used their belief in the gods to explain the world and its origins.

Major Works Consulted:

Buxton, Richard. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames and Hudson, 2004.
Riordan, Rick. The Lightening Thief. New York: Hyperion, 2005.
--. The Titanís Curse. New York: Hyperion, 2007.
Switzer, Ellen. Greek Myths: Gods, Heroes, and Monsters. New York: Atheneum, 1988.
Photo Credit: Rick Riordan. Digital image. Changing Hands Bookstore. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.