When I was a kid, I asked my mother why it rained. My mother told me it was because God was sad that I was not being a good girl and the raindrops were his tears. I have never questioned if the source of this explanation was true (until I learnt about the water cycle in primary school), and for the longest period of time, I would look up to the sky and apologise to God for making him sad whenever it rained.
To a certain extent, my mother's story is like Greek myths to the Greeks. Greek Mythology is basically a collection of stories to explain the existence of natural (or sometimes supernatural) phenomenons, to entertain people, or to even present warnings. Nobody knows if the stories really happened, but they are significant because they ultimately shaped the culture and lives of Greeks in the past.
Since Greek Mythology is often laced with religion elements, it influenced some of the religious practices that the Greeks had. One such practice is the sacrifice of animals to the Gods. This is believed to stem from the story of Prometheus where he stole fire from the Gods to give to the people and angered the Gods in the process. Therefore, the Greeks adopted the practice of animal sacrifice so as to appease the Gods.
Greek Mythology also shaped how the society viewed genders. Women in ancient Greece were regarded by men as inferior and the root of evil. This prejudice may be due to the myth of Pandora. In this myth, a woman named Pandora was said to be given a box by Zeus and ordered not to open it under any circumstances. However, her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box, releasing all kinds of evil into the world. This myth is used to explain the existence of suffering in the world, and it can be said to indirectly lead the Greeks to think that women are the reason why humans have to suffer.
One of the more significant impacts that I think Greek Mythology had was how it guided the way Greeks were expected to live. Many of the stories entailed different consequences following certain actions, and they are passed down to many generations. This may cause the Greeks to follow the actions which resulted in good consequences and avoid those that resulted in bad consequences.
For example, in the story of Minotaur, King Minos promised Zeus that he would sacrifice a magnificent bull, but ended up keeping the bull and disobeying Zeus. Zeus got angry and punished King Minos by letting his wife fall in love with the bull and conceive the Minotaur (half-human and half-cow). This myth is told to teach the young not to go back on their promises if not they will suffer dire consequences. As such, it may have cultivated a culture where most Greeks always keep their word.
However, we should take note that we do not know for sure if the chicken or the egg came first; we cannot be absolutely sure if the myths actually influenced the way ancient Greeks lived their lives, or if the myths were made up to explain why the Greeks have such a culture or practice a certain ritual in the first place. For example, the story of the Pandora could have been created by men to pin the blame of suffering on women (since they were already looked down upon).
Before I end my post, one thought that I want to leave you guys with (which some of you may already have conceived) is the possibility that myths were created to maintain social order in a society.
Perhaps the rulers of ancient Greece wanted to cultivate a certain culture, and so they attributed different phenomenons to the gods and use stories to encourage Greeks to live their lives in a particular way. Or maybe some of the stories may have been created by the older generations to warn the young ones not to tread on dangerous paths, just like how the father in the movie "Croods" told stories of how people who left the cave died in order to convince his daughter not to leave the cave and risk her life outside.
At the end of the day, we will never truly know how Greek Mythology came about and how true the stories are, but it is significant because through it, we can have a more informed view of the culture and lifestyles of the people then.
So... now that you have learnt the power of myths, time for us to start creating myths for our next generations and dominate the world!