Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XVI, with a focus on Dorians led by kingly ‘sons’ of Hēraklēs the kingmaker
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2019.11.08. "Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XVI, with a focus on Dorians led by kingly ‘sons’ of Hēraklēs the kingmaker." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractIn the logic of ancient Greek myths centering on the hero Hēraklēs, as we have seen cumulatively in the series of essays bearing the title “Thinking comparatively about Greek Mythology” (“TC” I through XVI so far), this hero is always pictured as a kingmaker, never as a king. But what about the sons of Hēraklēs? I ask such a question in view of the mythological fact that this hero, in the course of his countless adventures, fathers countless children, left and right. And the answer to my question is quite clear: in myths about the male descendants of Hēraklēs—and the lineages of such descendants are known generically as Hērakleidai (Heracleidae), meaning ‘sons of Hēraklēs’—we see that such ‘sons’ are consistently destined to become kings, not just kingmakers. Some myths about lineages of Hērakleidai tend to be more localized, while others are more Panhellenizing, but the most Panhellenizing versions of all such myths about royal male descendants of Hēraklēs are centered on one son in particular. His name is Hyllos, married to Iolē, the newest wife that Hēraklēs never had. This Hyllos fathers three brothers named (1) Tēmenos, (2) Aristodēmos, and (3) Kresphontēs, who become the prototypical ancestors of the three main dynasties ruling over the Peloponnesus in the first millennium BCE, namely, the kingdoms of (1) Argos, (2) Sparta, and (3) Messene. Which one of the three brothers became king over which one of these three kingdoms was determined by way of drawing lots, as represented in the illustration that introduces my essay here. What I intend to show in this essay is that such myths about the dividing of the Peloponnesus into three kingdoms—linked to myths about an invasion of the Peloponnesus by Dorians led by the Hērakleidai—are relevant to various different theories about dialectal variation in the Greek language as spoken in the second millennium BCE.
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