Comments on Comparative Mythology 4, a Dysfunctional Misunderstanding of Trifunctionality in Myths About the Judgment of Paris
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2020, March 6. Comments on Comparative Mythology 4, a Dysfunctional Misunderstanding of Trifunctionality in Myths About the Judgment of Paris. Classical Inquiries.
AbstractIn the previous two posts, Classical Inquiries 2020.02.21 and 2020.02.28, I connected the idea of “trifunctionality” with the idea of “sins” committed in myths connected with two different Greek heroes, Hēraklēs and Paris/Alexandros. Each of these two heroes violated, according to myths told about them, three “functions” of society, which are (1) sovereignty, (2) warfare, and (3) what I described already in the first post, 2020.02.21, as “reproductivity.” In the case of Hēraklēs, as we saw in that same post, the myths show that he committed three different “sins” on three different occasions, violating on each occasion one of these three functions of society. In the case of Paris/Alexandros, on the other hand, as we saw in the second post, 2020.02.28, the myths show that he violated the three functions not on three separate occasions but all at once, on a single occasion, known as the Judgment of Paris, which is retold most concisely in Iliad 24.25–30. As we also saw in the second post, the “sin” of Paris was that he praised the goddess Aphrodite in her role as the representative of sexual pleasure—which is a vital aspect of the third function—and that he thus undervalued the first and the second functions of sovereignty and warfare as represented respectively by the goddesses Hērā and Athena. In such a zero-sum mythological game of having to choose one goddess as the best of the three goddesses, the act of praising Aphrodite requires the commensurate act of insulting Hērā and Athena by way of blaming them—and we can see a visual interpretation of such an insult in the painting I have chosen as illustration for my essay here. In the logic of such mythmaking, however, the undervaluing of the first and the second functions resulted not from giving too much praise for Aphrodite. Rather, as I will now argue, such undervaluing resulted from a dysfunctional misunderstanding, by the hero Paris, of the functionality of trifunctionality.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42638969
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