The Mythical Origins of the Medes and the Persians

Pietro Vannicelli

in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693979
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745324 | DOI:
The Mythical Origins of the Medes and the Persians

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This chapter considers the rich set of traditions Herodotus reports about the origins of the Medes and the Persians. It first investigates the traditions regarding Perseus and his descendants, and highlights the important role played by the genealogical link between Perseus and the Persians in the propaganda against Argos in the aftermath of the Persian wars. It next considers the great army list of book 7, in which the origins the Persians are presented in detail. After illustrating the phenomenon evident elsewhere in the Histories of the double-root of traditions about the origins of a people, with a distinction between the people and their eponymous hero on the one hand, and the ancestor of the royal dynasty on the other, it addresses the possibility of a similar double-root to Herodotus' traditions about the origins of the Persians and their kings. Various passages of the Histories indeed supply two different approaches to the origins of the Persian Kings, one of which contains Persian elements (a linear genealogy going back to Achaemenes: 7.11.2; cf. 3.75.1), while the other is purely Greek and connects them with Perseus (on Perseus: 1.125.3; cf. 7.220.4).

Keywords: Heraclids; Leonidas; medism; oracle; Persian kings; Spartan kings; Dorians; Lydians; Macedonias; Medes

Chapter.  5632 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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