Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XVIII, a post-Mycenaean view of Hēraklēs as founder of the Olympics
MetadataShow full item record
CitationNagy, Gregory. 2019.11.27. "Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XVIII, a post-Mycenaean view of Hēraklēs as founder of the Olympics." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractFor my brief essay here, TC XVIII in Classical Inquiries, I return to a point I made in an earlier essay, TC V §§4–10, where I highlighted a remarkable sequence of events narrated in the Library of “Apollodorus,” dated to the second century CE, in the course of an overall narrative about the life and times of the hero Hēraklēs. According to this narrative by “Apollodorus” (2.5.5; 2.72), the failure of Augeias, king of Elis, to compensate for the clearing of his stables by Hēraklēs results in a war waged by our hero against that king, and this war is brought to an end only after Augeias is defeated and killed by Hēraklēs, who then installs the king’s son Phyleus as the new ruler of Elis. Further, Hēraklēs then follows up by establishing the athletic festival of the Olympics at Olympia (“Apollodorus” 2.7.2, pp. 249 and 251 ed. Frazer 1921). It is this follow-up that I highlighted in TC V, arguing that such a sequence of events—where the hero (1) establishes a new kingdom and then, right after that, (2) establishes an athletic festival as the centerpiece of that kingdom—amounts to a myth that is meant to explain the origins of sovereignty. Here in TC XVIII, however, I add a further argument: such a myth explains the origins of a kind of sovereignty that took shape not in the glory days of the Mycenaean Empire but in an era that came thereafter. Relevant to this further argument of mine is a detail that we find in the overall story of Hēraklēs as retold by Diodorus of Sicily, dated to the first century BCE. According to the retelling by Diodorus (4.14.2), Hēraklēs not only established the athletic festival of the Olympics: he also competed and won in every athletic event. The illustration that I have selected to introduce my essay here is an ancient painting that shows Hēraklēs wearing on his head the olive garland that marks the sum total of his Olympic victories. And these athletic victories of Hēraklēs exemplify the emergence of new dynasties that are destined to dominate the Peloponnesus in a post-Mycenaean age.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42179563
- FAS Scholarly Articles