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Myth and History Herodotus and T


									    Myth and History
Herodotus and Thucydides
A simple and useful definition of myth is that it is the
   remote history of a people. We will look at 2 early
   Greek historians to illustrate this statement.
Biography of Herodotus
Prose before Herodotus
   Ionian Philosophers – interested in the origins and causes of things
   Historians, Geographers, Ethnographers – writing short works on cities, lands, and
   people, based on observations, temple and family records, and oral tradition

   Persian Wars 479 – 480 BC
   Born around 484 BC
         - at Halicarnassus, an Ionian city
   Spent time in Athens
         - gave readings of his work
   Dies around 430 BC

istoria = Greek for investigation -> History

“no-one bothered to write about him while everyone remembered him; after that it
   was too late”*

*from A.R. Burn’s introduction to Selincourt’s translation of Herodotus’ Histories.
Paragraph 1
  Herodotus is interested in causes, this is
     A – philosophical, a search into origins
     B – epic, “Who of the gods set them
           (Agamemnon and Achilles) together
           in quarrel to battle?”
Paragraph 2
  What is the usual story of Io?
     (Apollodorus II.1.3 [pg. 59])
[page numbers refer to Robin Hard’s text.]
Paragraph 3
  What is the usual story of Europa?
     (Apollodorus III.1.1 [page. 96])
  What is the usual story of Medea?
     (Apollodorus I.9.23 [page 53])
Paragraph 4
  What is the usual story for Helen?
     (Epitome 3.1-3 [page 146-7])
Paragraph 5
  What is his summation of the Persian account of the origin
      of the enmity between the Greeks and the Persians?
Paragraph 6
  What adjustment do the Phoenicians make to the story of

Summation Questions
  1) What does myth do for Herodotus?
  2) What elements are missing from Herodotus’ accounts of
      Io, Europa, Io, Medea, and Helen?
History before Thucydides
  He has the advantage of Herodotus’ work
  Born 460 BC
  431 BC Start of the Peloponnesian War
      He was an Athenian General and Politician
  424 BC Exiled from Athens for failing to save Amphipolis from
      the Spartans
  404 BC Athenians are defeated by the Spartans
  403 BC Returns to Athens intending to complete his
  Dies 395 BC
Paragraph 1
  Why does Thucydides choose to write about the
     Peloponnesian Wars?
  What is he going to do before starting his history of
     the wars proper?

He will maintain that a massive military undertaking
 could not be imaginable before Greeks acquired
 strength – especially over neighbors, sea-power,
 wealth, and lasting settlement and further that
 these were not consistent qualities in the past.
Paragraph 2
  Who is Deucalion?
      (Apollodorus 1.7.2-3 [page 37])

  Note:            Deucalion
             Doros, Xouthos, Aiolos
                Achaeos, Ion

Pre-Deucalion-> Gold, Silver, Bronze, Heroic, Iron/Present
Paragraph 3
  Is this a different use of myth than found at the
  beginning of Herodotus?

Paragraphs 4-5
  Who is Minos?
     (Apollodorus, III.1.3-4 [page 97-98])
Paragraph 6
  Explains how much power Agamemnon has
     and that, true to how Thucydides argues
     for manning any expedition, how he must
     have controlled the seas as well.
  What is the oath of Tyndareus?
     (Apollodorus, 3.11.7-9 [page 120-121])
Paragraphs 7 – 8.
  If the Trojan war was a massive expedition, with
       which Thucydides must compare his subject
       matter, how can he prove that his is more

Paragraph 9.
  How convinced is Thucydides about the general
     veracity of Homer?
  Why talk about the length and poverty of the attack
     on Troy?
Paragraph 10
  What does Thucydides think happened after
     the fall of Troy in Greece?
Herodotus sees myth as providing a core for the details of the most
  distant past that he can access in his search for causes, and, not
  coincidently in his accounts, foreigners are locked into the narrative
  skeleton of familiar myths. Further, in his introduction, the more
  miraculous the details of the story, the more likely they are to be
  stripped away, what is mundane is more believable.
Thucydides also looks at myth for insight into the past but is more
  interested in details. He will treat myth, more particularly Homer, as
  a document from which he can argue about the facts of prehistory.
Both raise the value of their histories through myth: Herodotus by giving
  a deep mythic past to the massive culminating point of the invasion
  of Greece by Persia; Thucydides in declaring the mythic past to be
  inferior to the struggle between Athens and Sparta.
                  Next Class
… an optional lecture on the Victory of the
  Olympians – that will take 30 minutes. I will
  give the class a 5 minute break at that time.
… a look at how the scale of the story, especially
  as it involves Typhoeus, becomes bigger
  through time.
… read the selections in the course-kit under
  ‘Diffusion of Myth’
… the material is from Hesiod’s Theogony and
  this appears in full in the ‘Bookshelf’
Myth and Religion
        Rural and Domestic Religion
       The Ancient Greeks were for the most part a rural
people. There were several sizeable cities (Athens,
Thebes, Argos, etc.,) but these are exceptions and most of
the Greek countryside would have been filled with
villages from which farmers left each day to tend their
fields. That being said, even in the largest communities of
the Greeks would have had a closer relationship to the
earth and their rural roots than what is seen today. Greek
worship and festivals illustrate these connections. To
start we will look at the general religious tone in the
countryside and in the Greek house, then move on to the
religious calendar of the Attic Greek.
                  In the Countryside
The Countryside was Alive with Divinities
A) It was common for farmers and travelers to heap stones
   into a pile and to top it with a large one that represented a
   god and a to place offerings of food before it. These holy
   sites would be useful markers for farmers and welcome
   sites for travelers
B) If pressed for what was the ‘god’ of the place an ancient
   Greek could say ‘Hermes’ or a local legend might attach a
   hero to the cairn which was felt to mark his grave
C) What we consider ghost-stories existed amongst the
   Greeks but these were likely to be attached to heroes who
   were felt to be close to the surface of the earth and could
   walk it at night
       Ex. a ghost of Orestes wandered Attica at night, beat
              people up and took their cloaks
       Ex. A ghost had to be offered a virgin maiden every year
              but at last was driven away
             In the Countryside
D) Every grove and spring
was inhabited:
- by Satyrs, half-men
  half-beast creatures,
  often associated with
  Dionysus and likely
  generally considered
  fertility spirits.
- the half-goat half-god
  Pan is sometimes their
                      In the Countryside
Centaurs – (half-bull/half-men)   Nymphs – minor goddesses inhabiting
perhaps originally                springs, pools, forests, caves, and the sea
spirits of rivers                 -sometimes blamed for madness
           In the Countryside
E) The ancient Greeks threshed their grain on
circular threshing floors which would be
common throughout the country side. These
might have a permanent altar to Demeter or
Dionysus, or have a pole set up representing
them during festivals. For Dionysus this could
be an image of the god himself or a ‘phallic’
pole. The threshing floor was useful for the
dances that accompanied worship.
In the Countryside
                     In the Countryside
Hesiod, in his Works and Days, gives us a sense of folk-religiosity:

Never cross the sweet-flowing water of ever-rolling rivers afoot until
you have prayed, gazing into the soft flood, and washed your hands
in the clear, lovely water. Whoever crosses a river with hands
unwashed of wickedness, the gods are angry with him and bring
trouble upon him afterwards.

That borders on legalism:

On the great twentieth, in full day, a wise man should be born. Such a
one is very sound-witted. The tenth is favourable for a male to be
born; but, for a girl, the fourth day of the mid-month. On that day
tame sheep and shambling, horned oxen, and the sharp-fanged dog
and hardy mules to the touch of the hand. But take care to avoid
troubles which eat out the heart on the fourth of the beginning and
ending of the month; it is a day very fraught with fate.
                   At the House
The house had several religiously charged spots.
A) A fixed hearth would have been sacred as Hestia
      and a libation or bit of food offered to her every
      time the hearth was used. One could take
      sanctuary at the hearth and either the person
      was thought to be under the protection of the
      goddess or, by contact, sacred like the hearth
      itself. Hestia looked after the prosperity and
      good fortune of the house and cities could
      worship at a communal hearth that guaranteed
      the same things for the whole city.
At the House
    Houses typically had a walled
    off courtyard and an outdoor
    altar to Zeus. ‘Zeus of the
    Enclosure’ protected the
    house and offerings would be
    made to him there. Meat was
    normally eaten only in
    conjunction with a sacrifice
    and would have made up only
    a small part of the diet of the
    ancient Greeks.
                  At the House
Snakes could be thought of
as a protecting spirit,
perhaps an ancestor in
disguise, or a manifestation
of Zeus and/or his children.
Zeus was worshipped as a
snake and his children the
‘Dios Kouroi’ (lads of Zeus)
At the House
At the House
      The gardens would
      also have their
      guardians. The
      Greeks set up Priapus
      statues to ward off
      evil and encourage
                  At the House
Above the door of an
Athenian house an
inscription might be give
a bold declaration to
scare off evil influences
“I am the home of the
Unconquered son of
Zeus, Herakles.” Instead
the owner might have
Herakles’ statue or a
stone representing
Apollo as a protector of
                 At the House
During the
Hellenistic period it
became common to
set up a statue of
Hecate, goddess of
magic, in front of the
house as well. She
would ward off the
spells cast against
the household.
At the House
      Finally, from at least the
      Classical Period on,
      houses in Athens would
      have by the street a
      ‘Herme’ (Hermai, in the
      plural). A god of luck,
      travel, magic, and later
      commercial success.
                  Next Class
… an optional lecture on the Victory of the
  Olympians – that will take 30 minutes. I will
  give the class a 5 minute break then.
… a look at how the scale of the story, especially
  as it involves Typhoeus, becomes bigger
  through time.
… read the selections in the course-kit under
  ‘Diffusion of Myth’
…the material is from Hesiod’s Theogony and
  this appears in full in the ‘Bookshelf’

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