Herodotus on Melampus

Vivienne J. Gray

in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693979
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745324 | DOI:
Herodotus on Melampus

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This chapter takes the two stories that Herodotus tells about the mythical seer, Melampus. It explains how his treatment combines his heritage of inquiry, poetry, and storytelling, and in the process creates new myth. Herodotus displays his historical inquiry in the passage in which he has Melampus introduce the rites of Dionysus into Greece from Egypt, but also creates or develops the pattern of story in which the ‘culture hero’ introduces new customs into Greece. He develops the use of Melampus by the poets as an exemplum in his account of the battle of Plataea, where in order to enhance the greatness of that battle, he compares the request of the seer Tisamenos for Spartan citizenship as a reward for his service in the battle to Melampus' request for Argive kingship as a reward for curing their women; but he also patterns his story according to the traditional motif of the bargain, bringing Melampus into the world of the storyteller.

Keywords: inquiry; storytelling; poets; Homer; Pindar; Melampus; Battle of Plataea; rites of Dionysus; motif of the bargain; motif of imperfect knowledge

Chapter.  10644 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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