Mythology and the Expedition of Xerxes

A. M. Bowie

in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693979
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745324 | DOI:
Mythology and the Expedition of Xerxes

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This chapter considers the role that mythology plays in the later, somewhat more ‘historical’ part of Herodotus' work, to see whether there is anything qualitatively different in the way myth is used in these books compared with the earlier ones. The novelty in the use of myth is to be seen in two principal ways. First, in the way in which, on Xerxes' march, mythology is not simply brought into the narrative to provide extra information about an event, person, or place, but to provide a running commentary on the religious and moral quality of Xerxes' expedition: the myths that are mentioned all have a relevance to understanding the nature of that expedition. Secondly, myths take on a new function within the rhetorics of inter-national relations, being used in hostilely ‘protreptic’ and ‘eristic’ ways to promote a particular people's interests. It thus plays a major role in pointing up the deeply fissured nature of the Greek alliance: myth is not a source of unity.

Keywords: myth and history; Xerxes; Persian Wars; morality; rhetoric; international relations; protreptic; Hellenism

Chapter.  7704 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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