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From the Cambridge Dictionary

myth: an ancient story or set of stories, especially explaining the early history of a group of people or about natural events and facts

With the definition, a myth doesn't have to involve a god like Thor, Prometheus or Athena.

So, is the story about Archimedes of Syracuse a myth? If not. Is there a noun to refer to this kind of story which is about someone who lived long time ago?

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2 Answers 2

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Myth has a strong implication of not being true. It can refer to commonly held incorrect beliefs about modern things or to the kind of stories your definition is referencing--large scope stories that purport to explain the origin of the world/humanity/why animals have particular features, etc.

There may well be stories about Archimedes that aren't true--though since we know he was a real person we'd probably call them apocryphal, rather than "myths." Without knowing what story you're referring to, it's difficult to say whether a particular story about him is true or false.

A true story about Archimedes could be called a biography or history or account.

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A quick explanation:

A myth concerns fictional beings, such as gods.

A legend is a story which, while itself may not be completely factual, concerns people who actually existed.

So stories of Archimedes would not be myths, but may well be legends.

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  • A myth is not just about fictional beings, as is evidenced from the definition given in the question. Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 15:35
  • Okay, perhaps, but the point is that myths are not about verifiably once-existing known-by-name people either. Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 16:35
  • @PrimeMover They very much are, I believe. I just put asquith story is a myth into a search engine and found telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11193714/… which mentions several 'myths' about Margot Asquith, who certainly existed. The Telegraph is still known as a quality newspaper (at least in its level of writing). Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 18:12
  • Myths can be about real people. Choose any relatively famous person (say Paul McCartney) and Google "the myth that Paul McCartney"). You'll probably get dozens or hundreds of hits. Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 18:13
  • People use words all the time inappropriately. Just because you've googled some old rubbish about some dopey old has-been doesn't mean the words are being used correctly therein. Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 18:23

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