June 21, 2013
CLA204 Week 17
Theories of Myth
Janus-related literature Livy’s “History of Rome” symbolic way of showing when at
war door open not at war closed at war. Augustus was first in many generations to
Represent some kind of historical reality.
Physical Allegory – Theagenes, Empedocles
Earth, fire, air, water. Both natural philosophers based on rational explanations.
Theagenes though abt cosmos as series of oppositions. It was more in terms of
natural elements world was made of wet and dry etc. When he reads Iliad’s conflict
btw Apollo god of Sun and water Poseidon god of sea. Extend ideas and project them
to gods. Empedocles-lives generations afterwards. Gods were just allegories for
physical aspects of the world. Zeus as fire Hera air Hades Earth, Nestes water each
four elements represented by gods. Building blocks of the world.
Empedocles believes gods also stand for personality character traits, on one hand
harmony joy union categorized as Aphrodite and strife and violence under strife.
For ex Judgment of Paris togetherness union cooperation and violence and
struggle. Athena embodies wisdom. Hermes adaptability. Ares anger etc.
Morally correct. Morally bad behaviours banishments vs. good and rewards. Apollo
and Daphne, Apollo falls in love with Daphne who escapes by turning into a laurel
tree, moral allegory, Daphne illustrated chastity quality, that other women should
behave. Allegorical symbolic of way world works reaction woman should have to
stranger. Hera’s offer to make him king of Europe and Asia, Athena wisdom and skill
in war and Aphrodite love. Pick pleasure and not successful bad result, moral,
represent way Greeks aught to behave.
Xenophanes Fragments 21
Human desires=gods. Humans want to project themselves as gods. Load of garbage
represents how we want world to be not way it is, gods are so much more then
quarrels that populate myths.
Plato on Myth
Republic dialogue-create set of instructions how to built perfect utopian city. Should
be just, talks abt how to educate rulers of city to make city as strong as possible.
Children destined to be rulers should be educated and know myths. Myths are way
of moulding young impressionable lives. Myth of Er who gets to come back and how
you get to take up a new personality when re born. Plato thinks of children as blank
slates personality moulded after born, though if children heard frightening stories
they would be wimps and vice versa. Ex. Tantalus myth would make someone a bad
ruler. But to tell myths where you decide which person you would be to encourage June 21, 2013
them to make clear minded decisions that would help children make similar
decisions in future.
Stories of gods succession should be told to kids (he doesn’t believe these myths are
true) Stories where gods get away with bad things will make kids think they can to.
Moral behaviour, if you can make them believe quarrels are sins like Hera being
bound by son story of Hephaestus being thrown by father Zeus for standing up to
him and trying to protect his mother shouldn’t be told.
Dumezils Trifunctional Hypothesis Flamen-Brahman (1929)
Dived into 3 functions can take any society pick any person and would be able to
assign category, Sovereignty, Warfare or Production.
King, priest, magician, lawgiver
Sovereignty has authority and knowledge other don’t, can give good advice.
Warfare, ppl who have physical strength and participate in battle get what they
want by physical means.
Production of food/wealth
Beauty, sex, sexual reproduction
Everybody else! (farmers, craftsmen, traders, women)
Production, productions of food, material goods etc. lower classes. Reflecting bias of
his own world. Flamen =priest.
Functions reflected in Devine society as well.
1 function Zeus/Jupiter,
2 function Athena/Minerva/ and Ares/Mars,
3 function Dioscuri/Quirinus. Quirinus related to 1 2 functions so strange.
War of the Functions
All myth stories can be explained by conflict btw functions, 1 and 2 function get
together and are in conflict with 3 function. Ex. Trojan War; war was started with
Judgment of Paris god chosen most beautiful (Aphrodite) represents 3 function
over 1 (Hera) or 2 function (Athena). Pattern throughout rest of war they have an
overabundance of 3 functions Helen, Aphrodite, earned grudge of… Trojans are at
home they have wives, kids, and farm fields all productive stuff there, vs. Greeks
who don’t and are only worried on Agamemnon’s authority and battling. Outcome of
Trojan War only outcome there could be cuz 3 function cant defeat 1 and 2 . st nd
Greeks have in balance missing 3 element, need all 3 for society to be successful
and functional. Greeks don’t do as well cuz they are missing 3 element don’t have
wives with them only has other slave women causes conflict btw Agamemnon and
Achilles. Way Iliad ends shows stability balanced by all 3, reconcile, Achilles finally June 21, 2013
eats after many days, embraces 3 function, really well as authoritative and fighting
then eats, drinks, has sex with Bresais thus finds balance. Resolution to most myths
is cuz functions are all re-established.
Dumezil and the Rape of the Sabine Women
Rome when Romulus first founds it brings criminals and bandits into Rome if
analyze using hypothesis problem is that they are missing the women. Romulus
sovereigns everyone else to fight but no families and children. Romans and Sabine’s
go to war cuz want to marry daughters but are refused permission conflict is
resolved cuz women agree to stay and be roman wives.
Myth as History – Euhemerus
Earliest proponent of idea is from Euhemerus who’s basic idea was humans and
gods historical figures used to be normal ppl who did good things, good things get
blown out of proportion as time goes on. Become gods cuz ppl remember what they
did when they were kings and exaggerate stories. Heracles cleaning stables
diverting river theory that Heracles was normal guy who cleverly came up with
idea, other details get added over time. Fundamentally real person who did real
Herodotus and Historia >(inquiry)
Helen in Egypt
Herodotus was going around seeing things for himself talking to ppl who witnessed
events sees documents then used all that to construct historical merit. Herodotus