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Kinship Myth in Ancient Greece

By Lee E. Patterson

Publication Year: 2010

In ancient Greece, interstate relations, such as in the formation of alliances, calls for assistance, exchanges of citizenship, and territorial conquest, were often grounded in mythical kinship. In these cases, the common ancestor was most often a legendary figure from whom both communities claimed descent. In this detailed study, Lee E. Patterson elevates the current state of research on kinship myth to a consideration of the role it plays in the construction of political and cultural identity. He draws examples both from the literary and epigraphical records and shows the fundamental difference between the two. He also expands his study into the question of Greek credulity—how much of these founding myths did they actually believe, and how much was just a useful fiction for diplomatic relations? Of central importance is the authority the Greeks gave to myth, whether to elaborate narratives or to a simple acknowledgment of an ancestor. Most Greeks could readily accept ties of interstate kinship even when local origin narratives could not be reconciled smoothly or when myths used to explain the link between communities were only “discovered” upon the actual occasion of diplomacy, because such claims had been given authority in the collective memory of the Greeks.

Published by: University of Texas Press

ABBREVIATIONS

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pp. ix-x

Note on Translations and Transliterations

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pp. xi-xii

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PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. XIII-XIV

This book is both a beginning and an end. While the end of a long labor, I also hope that it will be the beginning of a new stage in the dialogue on how societies often use myth to construct political, social, and cultural identity. Of interest here is how and why a pair of Greek states (or leagues or kings) would ...

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Chapter One. KINSHIP AND CONSTRUCTED IDENTITIES: KINSHIP MYTH AND CREDULITY

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pp. 1-21

In 221 BCE , the city of Magnesia on the river Maeander in Asia Minor made its first attempt to enhance the prestige of its festival for its archēgetis, a sort of patron goddess and founder, Artemis Leucophryene. Earlier the Magnesians had consulted the oracle at Delphi to inquire about the meaning of a manifestation ...

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Chapter Two. CREDULITY AND HISTORICAL CAUSATION: WHERE DOES HISTORY BEGIN?

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pp. 22-44

To restate a fundamentally important principle: the Greeks regarded stories about their heroes as tantamount to early history. This principle has found general acceptance in modern scholarship.1 But an important implication of this premise warrants further investigation in the context of this study: the use of “history.” Its manipulation is recognizable to us today; in every election ...

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Chapter Three. KINSHIP MYTH IN THE LITERARY SOURCES: Alliances and Assistance

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pp. 45-68

The dialogue between historians of the ancient world and authors in the ancient world has always been precious, more so than applies to those who study the recent past, where a cornucopia of evidence makes the goal of getting at real historical events and processes easier. Nevertheless, ancient historians, ...

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Chapter Four: KINSHIP MYTH IN THE LITERARY SOURCES: Conquests and Territorial Possession

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pp. 69-82

As with cases of alliance, considerable challenges confront the historian trying to establish and explain the historicity of events behind the justification of territorial conquest on the basis of sungeneia. Each of the examples in the previous chapter happened to involve foreigners, which potentially adds further ...

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Chapter Five. ALEXANDER THE GREAT: THE MYTHOPOEIC MIND OF ALEXANDER

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pp. 83-108

We have seen kinship myth used for the benefit of the state as well as for the glory of the individual. As king of Macedon (336–323 BCE ) Alexander the Great was the state, but his successes proclaimed his personal glory as well. Indeed, the glory that Alexander achieved burns so brightly that the real man is ...

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Chapter Six. EPIGRAPHICAL EVIDENCE OF KINSHIP DIPLOMACY: Paradigmatic Inscriptions

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pp. 109-123

Our consideration of inscriptions referring to kinship or other close relationships, often by the terms sungenēs/sungeneia or oikeios/oikeiotēs, brings us also to the hellenistic period that followed the death of Alexander in 323. The swell in epigraphical evidence at this time could be the result of the chance survival ...

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Chapter Seven. EPIGRAPHICAL EVIDENCE OF KINSHIP DIPLOMACY: Local Myths in Pausanias

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pp. 124-153

There are some hundred or so inscriptions catalogued by Elwyn, Curty, and others that use kinship terms, far more than can be accommodated in the remainder of this study. But the sample examined in this chapter, it is to be hoped, represents well the collective epigraphical evidence of kinship diplomacy. ...

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Chapter Eight. CONCLUSIONS

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pp. 154-164

One hopes that Musti’s claim of “artificiality” in late hellenistic kinship diplomacy is now disproved. In that claim, he asserted that Greeks before c. 240 somehow viewed political myth as usable only if it expressed a historical reality and that afterwards kinship myth consisted of fabrications employed for diplomatic ...

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Appendix One. THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF PLUTARCH, SOLON 8-10

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pp. 165-169

Part of the challenge of understanding the use of kinship myth by the Athenians in their contest with Megara for Salamis is unraveling the chaos left by our sources. Most of the evidence is centuries removed from the events of the sixth century BCE and greatly influenced by the legends of Solon that had gripped the Greeks’ memory, rendering a version not entirely ...

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Appendix Two. GREEK MYTH AND MACEDONIAN IDENTITY

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pp. 170-173

Scholars have long debated the historicity of the Argead claim of descent from the southern Greeks and of the ethnic relationship between Greeks and Macedonians.1 The issue itself is of less importance to us, but we might note the Greek and Macedonian perceptions of these matters because they come into play in Alexander’s use of kinship myth. First, we should ...

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Appendix Three.A TALE OF TWO PHOCI

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pp. 174-176

Discussion of the Phocians’ use of kinship myth requires engaging a sticky question arising from the homonymy of two heroes, both of whom serve as eponymous founders. Pausanias dispenses with the confusion in the following manner: “It is clear that the name of Phocis, at least the part around Tithorea and Delphi, was taken in antiquity from a man of Corinth, ...

Notes

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pp. 194-220

Chapter One.

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pp. 194-182

Chapter Two.

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pp. 182-188

Chapter Three.

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pp. 188-194

Chapter Four.

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pp. 194-198

Chapter Five.

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pp. 198-220

Chapter Six.

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pp. 204-208

Chapter Seven.

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pp. 208-214

Chapter Eight.

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p. 215-215

Appendix One.

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pp. 215-216

Appendix Two.

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pp. 216-218

Appendix Three.

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pp. 218-220

Bibliography

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pp. 221-234

Index Locorum

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pp. 235-246

General Index

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pp. 247-255


E-ISBN-13: 9780292784796
E-ISBN-10: 0292784791
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292722750
Print-ISBN-10: 0292722753

Page Count: 271
Illustrations: 3 maps, 20 figures and tables
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Kinship -- Greece -- History.
  • Mythology, Greek.
  • Civilization, Ancient.
  • Greece -- Civilization.
  • Greece -- Foreign relations.
  • Greece -- Politics and government.
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