While the research of ancient myths has focused mainly on Greek and Roman sources, the research group STRATA broadens the material base regarding time, region, topics and genre by incorporating the earliest, Ancient Near Eastern as well as the later, Jewish-Christian ancient worlds.

Formally myths are encompassed as Erzählstoffe which concretise in different forms, available in larger compositions and in isolated mythic hylemes as in a Sumerian gods list, a Greek comedy or in a Christian sermon from late Antiquity. A differentiated, elaborated philological-historical method focusing on the analysis of Erzählstoffe as sequences of mythic hylemes and of isolated mythic hylemes provides the research group the innovative instruments to serve as a solid foundation for systematic, quantified comparative distinctions.

The research group also takes a completely new look at the dynamic potential of myths. Heterogeneous morphologies, incompatibilities and inconsistencies of mythic Erzählstoffe and texts are not regarded as mistakes or inaccuracies and as such are not smoothed or emended, but evaluated as indicators of a complex process of transmission, the analysis of which will help identify different, historically grown strata.

This innovative approach will be applied exemplarily to ancient myths about changing spheres, that is to myths about going to vertically remote spheres as heaven and netherworld or to horizontally distant peripherals like the “Fortunate Isles”. Preliminary studies have shown that such Erzählstoffe up to now remain incomprehensible in many respects. The desire for a new methodological approach is therefore justified.