Herakles and Melqart: Networking Heroes

Irad Malkin

in A Small Greek World

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199734818
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918553 | DOI:

Series: Greeks Overseas

Herakles and Melqart: Networking Heroes

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This chapter discusses Greek and Phoenician (with Tyre’s central role) “colonial” networks. Colonization created the network-oriented, city-state culture of the ancient Mediterranean (contrasting with the ól, or “yoke” of the Near Eastern empires, in the words of Ezekiel). The chapter places special focus on the gods-heroes Herakles and Melqart, founders of dynasties and cities, as giving expression to notions of foundation, territorial appropriation, accommodating middle grounds, as well as irredentist claims. Analysis of sources (biblical and others) reveals those aspects that allowed for identifying the two. The grafting of Herakles onto specific sites of intended Greek colonization (especially western Sicily) sometimes followed preexisting networks established by Phoenicians. A polytheistic network allowed for translation and syncretism; it also transformed (even in Thasos, where Herakles was superimposed upon Melqart) the quintessential wandering and terrestrial Herakles into a city-associated and even maritime hero. Herakles provided irredentist “charters” for conquest (Dorieus) that could transform into a middle ground of common existence (Elymians, Phoenicians, Herakleia Minoa). His use by Greeks in the Mediterranean helped integrate the new colonies into Panhellenic networks of myth.

Keywords: Phoenicians; Tyre; Herakles; Melqart; Sicily; Dorieus; irredentist myth; polytheism; syncretism; middle ground

Chapter.  11564 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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