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Star Wars has roots in ancient mythology

16/05/2007. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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The Star Wars films, especially the original trilogy, clearly reflect many of the deathless themes of ancient Greek and Roman mythology, says Carl Rubino, a Hamilton College classics professor. May 25th 2007 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars.

Rubino explains, "Heroes with doubtful parentage and no place to settle down, tutors with mysterious powers, immense journeys that represent whole lifetimes, the endless struggle against disorder and violence - all these are familiar to readers of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid."

The concept of destiny also plays a key role in the films, according to Rubino. "At the climactic moment of Return of the Jedi, the emperor utters some telling words to Luke Skywalker. 'It is your destiny,' he says, by which he means that the young man is fated to serve the Empire. Others in the film - - Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his tutor Yoda -- also speak of Luke's destiny, in various and sometimes opposing ways. Luke Skywalker, like the Roman hero Aeneas, is clearly someone who is haunted by destiny. But unlike Aeneas, Luke, who remains an American hero, seems to have the power to chose his destiny," Rubino says.

"'It is your destiny.' Young men and boys of the Roman ruling class heard much the same words from their fathers, grandfathers, teachers, and, perhaps especially, from their mothers. The notion of destiny played an essential role in their lives and the lives of their families. Their destiny, like that of their ancestors before them, was to serve and advance the fortunes of Rome," according to Rubino.

Carl Rubino is Edward North Professor of Classics at Hamilton College. Rubino was interviewed for a Lucas film documentary, Star Wars: Legacy, which will premiere on the History Channel in 2007. He will discuss Star Wars' roots in mythology.

He has published and lectured on ancient Greek and Roman literature, comparative literature, philosophy, and literary theory. A long-time collaborator of the late physicist Ilya Prigogine, he has also written on the links between science and the humanities, where his work has focused on complexity theory, the problem of time, and the impact of the theory of evolution upon ethics.

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