Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology II, Hēraklēs as an ‘Indo- European’ hero
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2019.08.02. "Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology II, Hēraklēs as an ‘Indo- European’ hero." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractIn the posting for 2019.07.26, I argued that the role of the Greek hero Hēraklēs as a boxer was cognate with the role of the Scandinavian hero Starkaðr as, likewise, a boxer. In using the term “cognate,” I was saying, in effect, that the myths about Hēraklēs as transmitted in the Greek language and the myths about Starkaðr / “Starcatherus” as originally transmitted in the various Old Norse languages and as later mediated in Latin paraphrases derive from an “Indo-European” system of mythmaking—just as the Greek and the Old Norse languages derive from a common language known to linguists as “Indo-European.” In this posting for 2019.08.02, I will start to widen the perspective while continuing to compare details I find in Greek myths about the hero Hēraklēs and in latinized Old Norse myths about the Scandinavian hero Starcatherus. At the start, the widening of the comparative perspective will seem slight, but the results, I hope, will lead to a significantly wider perspective in postings that will follow. My ultimate conclusion, as we will see, is that the figure of Hēraklēs is an ‘Indo-European’ hero. The more we compare him with his Scandinavian counterpart Starcatherus, the more evident this conclusion will become. Here, then, is how I will start to widen the lens for now: in this posting, I will view Hēraklēs as not only a boxer but also, simultaneously, as a wrestler. Such a view finds its expression in the ancient Greek athletic event known as the pankration, informally translatable as ‘maximum force’—and worth comparing with a combat sport known today as mixed martial arts.
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