Herodotus’ Proteus: Myth, History, Enquiry, and Storytelling

Mathieu de Bakker

in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693979
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745324 | DOI:
Herodotus’ Proteus: Myth, History, Enquiry, and Storytelling

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This chapter examines Herodotus' reshaping of Proteus to fit his historiographical narrative. By staging Proteus as king of Egypt in the Histories Herodotus breaks with the mythological tradition of Proteus as an immortal seer and sea-god. Whereas scholars tend to explain this reshaping as the result of the historian's investigations in Egypt, the chapter explores possible literary and rhetorical reasons that may have led Herodotus to present Proteus so differently from his mythical namesake. It argues that Herodotus, without losing sight of the Homeric intertext, held up Proteus as educator and example for the Greeks, and as an emblem for his own historiographical enterprise.

Keywords: Egypt; Proteus; Helen; Alexander; Homer; function of myth; empirical research; Xeinia; guest-friendship; Egyptians

Chapter.  8464 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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