Kinship Myth in Ancient Greece

Kinship Myth in Ancient Greece

LEE E. PATTERSON
Copyright Date: 2010
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/722750
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    Kinship Myth in Ancient Greece
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-78479-6
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. NOTE ON TRANSLATIONS AND TRANSLITERATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. ONE KINSHIP AND CONSTRUCTED IDENTITIES
    (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 itsarchēgetis, 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 of Artemis in their city. Apollo, speaking through the oracle, required the Magnesians to honor him and Artemis and suggested that the Greeks should treat Magnesian territory as “sacred and inviolable” (ἱερὰν καὶ ἄ)The Magnesians decided that they should hold games with stephanitic prizes in her...

  7. TWO CREDULITY AND HISTORICAL CAUSATION
    (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: theuseof “history.” Its manipulation is recognizable to us today; in every election season, history seems to get rewritten. This state of affairs is even more pronounced when early history arises from myth, and myth for the Greeks was largely handed down in the form of tradition. Only a minority of Greeks subjected it to any...

  8. THREE KINSHIP MYTH IN THE LITERARY SOURCES Alliances and Assistance
    (pp. 45-68)

    The dialogue between historiansofthe ancient world and authorsinthe 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, ever with one foot in the interdisciplinary field of classics, are increasingly recognizing that the traditional approach of compiling, collating, comparing, and contrasting our sources (e.g., literary, archaeological), to see what picture emerges from them, has limitations that are no longer acceptable. Now, more and more effort is being made to...

  9. FOUR KINSHIP MYTH IN THE LITERARY SOURCES Conquests and Territorial Possession
    (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 ofsungeneia. Each of the examples in the previous chapter happened to involve foreigners, which potentially adds further cause for incredulity, as in the case of Thucydides. Now the nature of the problem has to do with the vast stretches of time that separate our main sources from the events they describe, except for the case of Archidamus. The first two involve claims of kinship in the archaic period, Solon’s assertion of...

  10. FIVE ALEXANDER THE GREAT
    (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 Greatwasthe state, but his successes proclaimed his personal glory as well. Indeed, the glory that Alexander achieved burns so brightly that the real man is often hard to find in the surviving sources. The problem is that those sources are centuries removed from the real Alexander. They rely on accounts often written in his own lifetime, but even those accounts provided varying interpretations of the king, his personality,...

  11. SIX EPIGRAPHICAL EVIDENCE OF KINSHIP DIPLOMACY Paradigmatic Inscriptions
    (pp. 109-123)

    Our consideration of inscriptions referring to kinship or other close relationships, often by the termssungenēs/sungeneiaoroikeios/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 of our evidence, but we have reason to believe that a shift occurred in the purposes that kinship myth served, though not in the basic motivation to use myth for political gain, and that the use of kinship myth correspondingly increased.

    The hellenistic period was an age of empires. Thepolis...

  12. SEVEN EPIGRAPHICAL EVIDENCE OF KINSHIP DIPLOMACY Local Myths in Pausanias
    (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. I have chosen inscriptions on which we have some hope of shedding light despite the lack of specificity about the mythological basis for the claim of kinship. As I suggested before, the consideration of epichoric, or local, myths can help reveal the intentions of the Greeks who issued these decrees....

  13. EIGHT CONCLUSIONS
    (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 purposes despite being obviously baseless.Christopher Jones has already recognized that the “concept of artificiality is not really helpful,” because it comes into play not as a means of deception but as a necessary mechanism for constructing familial ties.¹ This sort of fabrication is different from the learned allusions and affectations on...

  14. APPENDIX ONE. THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF PLUTARCH, SOLON 8–10
    (pp. 165-169)
  15. APPENDIX TWO. GREEK MYTH AND MACEDONIAN IDENTITY
    (pp. 170-173)
  16. APPENDIX THREE. A TALE OF TWO PHOCI
    (pp. 174-176)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 177-220)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 221-234)
  19. INDEX LOCORUM
    (pp. 235-246)
  20. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 247-256)