8917: "Wry double face", attributed to "The expressionist" and dated "Gothic 13th century". Royal Cast Collection, Copenhagen. The original is at the museum Erkebispegården in Trondheim, Norway.
|I. The Relative Positions of Myth and History
Some ask: "Is it true?", "Are the tales of
mythology true?", or else: "Did the Trojan War really take place?", or "Did Heracles exist as a real person?"
The physical vocation of History
Those questions are justified ... After all the
myths claimed to be true accounts, not fictions. No
one attempts to prove the real existence of
Don Quixote (not yet). For he was known from the
start as a fictional character. But the distinction
between fiction and myth still persists, having
been reinforced by the archaeological discoveries
of Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890). However, we may
notice (and this is what we shall examine here)
that such questions almost invariably refer to the heroic myths rather than to the divine
Why this preference? Obviously because the
heroic myths allow, at least theoretically, the
possibility of verification, whereas the "truth" of
the divine myths cannot be based on verifiable
"facts". The questioner realises that the divine
myths contain philosophical and religious
components. But since these cannot be attested, the
question "Is it true?" cannot be properly applied
Truth has a good reputation, and
typically the questioner thinks that History, by
building its account on the verification of facts,
is the best fit to deliver it. And having realised
that the divine myths are beyond verification, he
limits his inquiry to the heroic myths or expects
the divine myths to be treated as
else discards them as "symbolic".
For instance, he may be prepared to acknowledge
that there really was a Trojan War and that a
certain man Achilles actually fought in it. But he expects the
myths' claim that Achilles was the son of
a sea-goddess to be explained in factual ways.
Consequently he may also expect History either to
strip the nereid of her divine nature, or else
ignore her "until new evidence surfaces". "If
History cannot answer today," he reasons, "she
might be able to answer tomorrow." Assuming this
perspective, he never needs to feel discouraged by
the uncertainties of History as he cherishes the
hope that new research may eventually eliminate the
doubts or turn them into proved facts. 
But the myths are not just the legends
resembling History. They also addressamong
other thingsphilosophical and religious
dimensions that cannot be apprehended in factual
ways. The narrative of past events (including the
details of social and political life with its
rituals and superstitions) are interweaved with a
theogony and a cosmogony, with emotional and
ethical valuations, and with moral and ontological
issues. The myths have physical and metaphysical sides. And it is not an easy
task to remove divine presence from the tales of
mythology: the heroic action develops in front of a
The broken egg
History, Philosophy and Religion are derivatives
of the myths, and they appear as separate fields
when the holistic mythical view breaks down about
or before 800 BC.
Until then the myths were like and egg: they
contained, in an unique blend, about all that was
needed for life. When an egg breaks, anything may
be done with its components except combining them
inside the eggshell as they were before. Even if we
had at our disposal all the original mythological
material (but it is certain that the legacy of the
myths is severely fragmented) still the myths could
not be recreated (or rather we could no longer
recreate ourselves under their aegis). The quality
that kept the different parts together is, in AD
2004, irretrievable, and has been so since long
It is not difficult to perceive traces of myth
among the pre-socratic philosophers and in the work
of Plato (427-347 BC), as well as in the "father of
history" Herodotus (484-430 BC). Admittedly, those
traces reveal the origin of these fields of
inquiry, but the works of these authors reveal as
well some fundamental differences between the
mythical approach and their own.
Herodotus's attempts to base his discourse on
verified or at least credible accounts resemble our
own concept of "historical truth". In that sense,
he is a representative of "the dawn of reason", and
consequently he neither invokes the muse  nor is he
particularly satisfied with the mythical accounts.
Sometimes he found them "silly", and at other times
he reduces them to plausible stories.
Both Herodotus and Thucydides (c. 460-399 BC)
attributed historicity to certain ancient legends.
But they had to reinterpret them in order to digest
them. This new kind of intellectual task was
summarized by Plutarch (AD 45-120) in his biography
therefore succeed in purifying Fable, making her
submit to reason and take on the semblance of
History." (Plutarch, Parallel
Lives Theseus 1.2).
The Broken Egg (illustration of an image)
The mythical egg is held together by the imagery of the tales which constitute one all-embracing tale that is expressed by means of poetry, music and dance within the frame of an oral tradition. The contents of that imagery is as important as its form: the myths mirror the world through both.
That imagery is first fixed by the visual arts and later by the alphabet, a device built with symbols that lack semantic meaning. The alphabet makes the egg swell until it cracks. Its components are then released, and the fields of Science, Politics, History, Philosophy, and Religion, are produced.
Politics represents the change of communal life: from rural to urban, from dispersion to centralization. Freedom is curtailed as the villagers are confiscated by a federalist polis which produces models for the visual arts, institutionalizes religion, legislates, etc. Politics, like Natural Science and History, has a "physical" vocation.
Philosophy and Religion represent the "metaphysical" side. Religion is originally a sense of the sacred, deriving from a qualitative perception of the cosmos, seen as beautiful and significant. The institutionalization of religion (for instance through elaborate theology) suggests a diminution of the religious feeling (as "sense of the sacred"), but may as well contribute to preserve what is left of it.
Once the egg is broken, the myths are regarded as a separate field. Man ceases "to live in the myth" (Kerényi), and instead explains the myths, regarding them as external objects: he analyzes, interprets, classifies, elaborates theories, reveals allegories and symbols, identifies rational aspects, discovers historical roots, ritual connections, structural patterns, psychological meanings, social or moral implications, etc.
To a certain extent, however, the mythical tradition persisted in the world of art (literature, music, and visual arts).
But why did the egg break? What caused the
unified mythical view to break into pieces?
Apparently, the main agent was the phonetic
alphabet, an invention that appeared during the
Before the arrival of this revolutionary
technology, the "truths" (physical and
metaphysical) about man and the world were
transmitted acoustically, by metrical and
rhythmical speech, that is by poems and music.
Those creations (for poem means something
made or created) were delivered (so we are told) by
itinerant singers known as aiodoi and
rhapsodes. But their accounts were orally delivered
to a community which, having made their
acquaintance with the myths approximately in the
same way as someone learns his mother tongue,
already knew the tales.
In which ways does the spoken word differ from
the written? Marshall McLuhan (1911-80) reminds us
that speech is "an outering
of all our senses at once", that "the spoken word is more
emotionally laden than the written", and
that the oral man lived "in
an integral world patterned by myth",
leading "a complex
kaleidoscopic life". His internal world "was a creative mix of
complex emotions and feelings." But the
phonetic alphabet, concludes McLuhan, having fallen "like a bombshell",
committed man to its "visual
linear values" fragmenting his consciousness
through "the separation of
both sights and sounds from their semantic and
"Many a page
of prose and many a narrative has been devoted to
expressing what was, in effect, a sob, a moan, a
laugh, or a piercing scream. The written word
spells out in sequence what is quick and implicit
in the spoken word." (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding
Media, Part II: The Spoken Word).
McLuhan's observations are somewhat echoed by
Classical criticism in its description of the
impact of writing on memory:
invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds
of those who learn to use it, because they will not
practice their memory. Their trust in writing,
produced by external characters which are no part
of themselves, will discourage the use of their own
memory within them." (Plato, Phaedrus 275b).
Herodotus, however, had opened his work thus:
"These are the
researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he
publishes, in the hope of thereby preserving from
decay the remembrance of what men have done
Those two quotations reveal different
conceptions of memory. Plato refers to the
individual memory, which is internal; Herodotus to
the collective, which is external.
Generally we realise that memory is vital for
the preservation of an identity, or for learning.
And in the context of the myths, Memory plays a
decisive role. For instance, when the poet says
"Tell me Muse ... " or "Sing goddess...", he is
addressing the daughters of Memory
(Mnemosyne), whom he
regards as the owners of all tales and the source
of his inspiration. The Socratic notion of
knowledge as recollection is akin to that of the
myths, as is Plato's connection of knowledge to
The Truth of Illusions
The acquisition of truth depends on knowledge,
and the latter on memory. The Greek word for truth (alétheia) literally means "that which is not forgotten" (léthe = oblivion).
For Philosophy, the implications of truth are many (see for instance Plato, Theaetetus 151e-152e, 161e-167a, and Aristotle Meta.
1027b-1028a). But History abides mainly by factual
truth. In any case, what is outside truth or
goes against it may be called lies or illusions. The Muses tell Hesiod
(according to him) in a remembered passage:
enough to make up lies which are convincing, but we
also have the skill, when we will, to speak the
truth." (The Muses to Hesiod. Hesiod, Theogony 25).
"Lies which are convincing" could be thought as
plain lies leading to error and disaster, or else
as illusions in the service of knowledge and
memory. A typical example of the latter is provided
by the members of the audience of a play:
who succeeds in enthralling his audience does more
justice by the effect this has on his audience than
the playwright who fails to captivate them:
likewise the member of the audience who succumbs to
the spell of the play will through that experience
be a better, wiser man than the member who resists
and remains unmoved." (Oliver Taplin: Emotion and Meaning in Greek Tragedy).
In this example, to succumb to the spell is to come closer to truth, which cannot be completely separated from either fiction or the myths because there are other kinds of truthdifferent from empirical truthsuch as psychological truths or those contained in ideal values.
He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,
Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.
Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.
When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.
He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.
He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.
(Robert Graves, 1895-1985: In Broken Images).
Historical truth rests on facts more than
religious or philosophical truths do. History is
therefore more physical than Religion and
Philosophy (which are more metaphysical),
and therefore it may be more exact in its
details, and more able to "show" them or "prove"
Also dogmatismreligious or
philosophicalrepresents an aspiration to
exactitude. But as far as we can see, very little
was exact in the myths. Oral tradition seems to
have little demand for exactitude. Such a demand
appears later, growing since the introduction of
the alphabet. Similarly, the performances of
musicians were less exact before it became possible
"To know a story" may mean, on a certain level,
to be accurately acquainted with its details or
facts, that is, with its surface. That knowledge
may require some measure of exactitude. But it is
precisely through the absence of exactitude that
the myths could be retold and yet be new each time
("Homer is new, this
morning...," says Charles Péguy).
There was no definitive version, no canonization.
And as also ancient Greek drama shows, the
variations in the narrative content implied
deepening moods, shifting the emphasis, suggesting
new layers of meaning, etc. The truths of drama are
different from the truths of facts.
If we discovered an ancient document proving the
historicity of the Trojan
War, and giving an account of it, that does not
automatically mean that such a discovery would
enhance our lives more than Homer has done. Still
"the lies of the poets" do not enhance our lives
for being lies, but because their spell leads us to
deeper truths about ourselves and the world than
the factual truths.
History has been called "raw material" whereas
the representations of poetry are what has been refined by artistic means ("Je n'ai fait mon oeuvre que par
élimination", says a French author).
Therein lies their power, which even the historian
needs in order to avoid being lost in "a jungle of
historian can be 'great' if he is not also a great
artist ..." (Arnold J. Toynbee, A
Study of History).
History's notion of Time resembles the
linear, sequenced, and fragmented mode of the
When applying the same mode to the myths, we obtain
genealogies and chronology. Within these two the
divine myths must be treated apart from the heroic
since the gods are out of Time (or Time itself is a
divinity, sometimes regarded as the brother of Memory).
Time does not appear
as linear in the myths. Cause and effects may still
be visible, but events are presided by Fate. The
issue of the direction of Time also shows its
connection with Fate. For Time, in personal terms
(as even Spengler remarked), is life and purpose
subject to direction, which connects to character
and Fate. For the myths the future will not bring
anything essentially new. They appear to form a
close circle, or a woven tapestry already finished.
The Hesiodic (and later Ovidian) Ages of Man suggest a
cyclic idea of the world. What has happened is
happening permanently, but it happens in the depths
and heights of meaning and beauty (the attributes
of Cosmos), rather than in the surface of facts or
events (the "raw material"). Therein lies the
relevance of the myths, their capacity to present
and represent "imperishable issues".
Time is invisible,
and some could ask (just as it is asked "Did the Trojan War really take place?"): Does Time really exist? Can we really measure Time? How does Time differ from
"Sequence of Events"? Why do we imagine an entity
presiding such sequences? Is Time inside ourselves or
outside? Or both inside and outside? How much can
we rely in our perception of Time before we get lost
in formulae? And what about Time's direction: could
it change and move from future to
Time has a distinct
metaphysical outlook that is not represented in the
time-lines of History. But perhaps even the myths
had to fragment themselves in order to convey the
"But myths, if
they are really going to be myths, must separate in
time the things of which they tell, and set apart
from each other many realities which are together,
but distinct in rank of powers, at points where
rational discussions, also, make generations of
things ungenerated, and themselves, too, separate
things which are together; the myths, when they
have taught us as well as they can, allow the man
who has understood them to put together again that
which they have separated." (Plotinus, Ennead III.5.24).
|II. The Pseudomyths of History
The general feeling is that the
mythswhether divine or heroiccould be a
lie, and that History, relying on facts, could
provide us with truth, hopefully a solid or exact
We are not going to criticize the "father of
history" Herodotus. Many have done that, including
Plutarch (AD 45-120). Nowadays Herodotus is also
called "uneven and shallow". We are of course more
exact, and we also boast about this virtue as we
fill our own essays with lengthy lists of notes and
bibliographical references. The ancients were not
as good as we at it, but we feel that our many
references somewhat prove our zeal and accuracy,
serving too as evidence of the extension of our
knowledge. In any case, we would not do without
them! They are often a headache, and they could be
monotonous in their repetitions, but nevertheless
... We are used to them.
It would not be realistic to criticize History.
For History does not really exist; only
historians do (or as R. W. Emerson says: "There is properly no history; only
biography"). But if we nevertheless insisted
in criticizing History, it would be fair to choose
the best historian. But that seems an impossible
task too (who could ever be the best historian?). A kind of solution could be to
attempt, not a criticism of History but of a more
vague historical perspective. But this is
not easy either since this perspective is an
integral part of our current conceptions. We can
hardly attempt anything comprehensive in this
respect, but still some generalities may be
Career starts with lies
First we may notice that the historical
perspective, as it came to express itself
before, during and after Classical times (c.
480-323 BC) is less concerned with facts and
"historical truth" than anyone could expect. Indeed
it is not impossible to say that dealing in lies
became, if not more common, at least more official than in previous times.
"Spin doctors" and "clever guys" seem to have
replaced "the lies of the poets" with all kinds of
devices that linked their historical present to the
legendary past by bettering heroes, genealogies,
etc. We may still say that History comes later and
finds "the truth" thus unveiling the historical
lies of the past. But what is it there to tell us
that History is not cheating today? Then again one
may argue that the current frauds or errors will be
discovered one day too ... Maybe so ... Yet,
looking back to the human curriculum we might see
that men and women would have lived more or less
permanently in the midst of historical lies, and
that these were denounced as such only by later
generations which in turn lived under other lies,
or under updated versions of the old ones.
This is not said to put in doubt the good
intentions of historians. Yet we may notice that
such falsifications are no longer the work of the
myths, which, standing on a different ground,
perhaps falsified much less. Indeed, it is not
difficult to discover that the historical
perspective started its career telling lies.
Was it because it was still influenced by "the
lies of the poets" from which it would some day
liberate itself? It does not look that way ... For
he is not influenced by the myths who arranges the
myths for purposes alien to them.
What is then behind the falsifications of the historical perspective?
Could it be guilty seduction? That is,
that kind of seduction that works not for the spell
itself and for what naturally comes from it but for
ulterior motives? And which could these motives be?
The variations could be many, but the themes are
few and well known: mainly Power, Gold, and Fame, along with all
combinations of the three.
Seduction tells a story, not for the values
contained in it, but for purposes alien to it. For
instance, it could tell a tale of love, but the
purpose is not to gain insight in love: rather it
could be to catch the fortune of a victim ... Or it
may tell a story of heroism, not to gain insight in
it (for example in the complex nature of courage),
but to keep the citizens mobilized and alert; that
would be propaganda ...
Most tales that are told, not for the tale
itself, but having some gain in view, could be
forms of guilty seduction: commercial
advertisement, political propaganda, religious or
philosophical indoctrination, scientific research
that has been oriented to achieve preconceived aims
... All of them tell stories according to their
field and jargonperishable stories, no matter
how many facts they contain. And the
question remains: For what purpose? For in
comparison, "the lies of the poets" are of an
innocent kind ...
Genealogy and Archaeology
Let us take a typical
examplegenealogywhile bearing in mind
1) In the myths genealogy shows that the world
is not created but procreated through love and
and Theogony are one and the same; in this,
like in other issues, the myths have an unified
picture of the world.
2) Genealogy plays an important role in
endorsing the mythical nature of a tale. The
foundation of the myths lies in divine
presence, which is often established through
3) Genealogy appears as a sort of skeleton that
helps to keep the mythical flesh together. From it
While relating the myths to History, we are not
concerned with (1) and (2) but with (3); and within
the frame of (3) we are concerned with the heroic
Modern scholarship tends to discover in the
complicated genealogies of Homer, Hesiod and the aiodoi, both "systematization" and
"rationality", although they also notice that
"later historians were more
More "exacting" in what? For example, in linking
historical royal houses, and sometimes themselves,
to the heroes and gods of the myths:
historian was once at Thebes [Egypt], where he made for himself a
genealogy which connected himself by lineage with a
god in the sixteenth generation." (Herodotus, History 2.143).
That's how the more exact sciences of Politics
and History started their careers. But perhaps no
one should deny the divine origin of Hecataeus of
Miletus (c. 550-476 BC), or anyone else for that
matter. Rather the difficulty seems to arise with
the words "in the sixteenth generation", that is,
with exactitude. This is the same man who
wrote (fr. I): "I write what
I believe to be the truth, for the Greeks have many
stories which, it seems to me, are absurd."
Along with genealogy, there were also
factssuch as "the bones of Theseus" that Cimon, the
son of Miltiades (victor of Marathon), recovered
from the Island of Scyros, following instructions
imparted by the Oracle of Delphi. The finding added to the popularity of Cimonthen head of the Confederacy of Deloswho was at the time engaged in a number of military operations against the Persians. The found stone coffin containing the bones of a tall man, with bronze spear and sword, were reburied in Athens.
Cimon died in c. 450 BC. Before these events, the
Athenians had claimed that the image of Theseus had helped them in the battle of Marathon (Plutarch, Theseus, 35.8).
Miraculous apparitions of this kind abound in
historical times, and could be said to be more
flagrant and childish than those found in the
myths. For in the myths the gods often appear in
or else we learn that the clear sight of a divinity
may cause death (as the story of Semele shows).
Truth still linked to Wisdom
We have seen that it is possible to accept the
existence of a man Achilles fighting in a
war around Troy, but that
it is more difficult to acknowledge him as son of a
Conversely, King Croesus of Lydia is
acknowledged as an historical character, and is
said to have reigned from 560 to 546 BC. That is
not discussed. But are the anecdotes told about him
by Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus (80-20 BC), or
Xenophon (430-357 BC), true (including the
miraculous sections, or even without them)? And
what about the many accounts of the Seven Sages, who are
said to have visited that king (sometimes defying
chronology)? Fortunately, several of these stories
preserve the charm of legend, making us forget the
matter of factual truth, though in this period the
wisdom of the poet is replacedin real lifeby the impoverished wisdom of the sage.
Fortunately too, we have been able to unveil the
errors and frauds of such historical accounts, but
as usual we do it a posteriori.
The Seven Sages incarnate the rise of the polis. They
probably were, according to Dicaearchus (disciple
sages nor philosophers, but merely shrewd men with
a turn for legislation." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives
of Eminent Philosophers 1.40).
Yet in this period, the issue of truth was still linked to wisdom, a wider concept
and an internal one (truth has become
increasingly external). Originally, wisdom was the
treasure of the poet. But when his time had passed,
wisdom was attributed to the sophoi, a sophós being a man that does not need
to go in pursuit of wisdomas philosophers did
afterwardsbecause he is already wise. Truth separated from wisdom was yet to come,
as facts became more relevant. Without
attempting a definition, neither of wisdom nor of
truth, we may still notice that wisdom is part of a living process of knowing or understanding,
whereas factual truth resembles a petrified product.
There is no doubt that the myths were used by
the political power of historical times, assisted
by its propagandists. The cult of the heroes of the
past persisted for centuriessometimes in ways
reminiscent of the cult of the heroes of
independence throughout the American continent.
Theseus came to be
regarded as the founder of Athenian democracy, and
his many deeds (which apparently increased with
time) contributed to the creation of the Athenian
self-image. This was a rather smooth
Also Robert Graves, in the introduction to his The
Greek Myths, reminds that
must be distinguished from ... political propaganda
as in Theseus's Federalization of
Yet the political usage of myths not always was
smooth. Following Herodotus we learn that
Cleisthenes of Sicyon (fl. 580 BC), disliking the Argive influence, put
an end to the minstrels' contests and restored the
tragic choruses to Dionysus 2, since they
had, as theme of their songs, the prowesses of the
Argives. Likewise he wished to cast out Adrastus 1's hero
shrine, who was in the marketplace at Sicyon. Yet, not daring
to do such a thing without authority, he sought it
in the Oracle of Delphi,
which utterly disappointed him by answering:
king of Sicyon, and you but a stone thrower." (The Oracle to Cleisthenes. Herodotus, History 5.67.2).
As he could not find satisfaction in the
oracle's answer, he introduced the cult of
Melanippus 1, who had died defending Thebes against the SEVEN, after
slaying Tydeus 2 and
Mecisteus 1, brother of Adrastus 1. In
addition Cleisthenes, being eager to remove the
Argive influence, renamed their tribes in a
ridiculous way, calling them Swinites, Assites and
Porkites, and reserving for his own tribe the title
Archelaoirulers of the people. This lunacy
lasted for sixty years after Cleisthenes' death.
Afterwards the Sicyonians, recovering their senses,
changed the names into more respectable ones, and
added one which they called Aegialeis after Adrastus 1's son
The myth of the return of the HERACLIDES made
possible one of the most perfect family-trees, that
of the Royal Houses of Sparta:
Casting lots after victory, the Heraclides
Cresphontes and the twin brothers Procles 2 and
Eurysthenes 1 divided the territory they had
conquered, Messenia being assigned to Cresphontes, and Sparta to the twins. The
twins Procles 2 and Eurysthenes 1 were bitter
enemies, but as they had won by lot the kingdom of
Lacedaemon, they decided to rule with two royal
houses, and this is why there were two kings in Sparta, also in
historical times. The genealogical line of these
houses runs directly from the historical kings up
to Heracles 1, for
Procles 2 and Eurysthenes 1 were sons of
Aristodemus, son of Aristomachus 2, son of
Cleodaeus 2, son of Hyllus 1, son of Heracles 1 (either by Deianira 1, or by Melite 2, a naiad). (See the complete line at Sparta.)
The "Return of the HERACLIDES" has
sometimes been seen as a representation of the so
called "Dorian invasions". Yet there's no certainty
if there ever were "Dorian invasions", and it is
not clear when this myth was combined, whether at
an early date or later.
After the failure of Periclean Athens, and the collapse
of the Alexandrian world, the wisdom of Empire
finally settled in the Mediterranean world, turning
its heritage into a version that, if it was not any
better, was indeed both gigantic and lasting.
When the Empire was youngthat is, still a rather introvert Republicit felt the importance of finding an explanation for the origins of Rome and the Romans. That explanation, we are told, was best provided by Virgil (70-19 BC) in his Aeneid, a poem that emulates both the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Borges has written that Virgil tried to repeat
Homer's prowesses, and that he, strange enough,
succeeded in his purpose. Others, however, have
preferred to unveil the element of seduction that
is present in the Aeneid, the "purposeful
propaganda" that permeates Virgil's poem and that
was aimed at proving that the Romans had a
rightgranted by Fateto rule the world.
They point out that Julius Caesar and Augustus
claimed to be descendants of Aeneas's son Iulus (also
called Ascanius, the founder of the Julian clan),
and affirm that Augustus and Virgil exchanged
favorsthe Emperor as sponsor and the poet
through a number of allusions, as for example Aeneas's visions of the
future in Chapter 6, and the shield that Vulcan fashioned for Aeneas which featured the
triple triumph of Augustus (Aeneid 8.714).
Morford and Lenardon call the Aeneid a
"supreme monument of Roman patriotism." 
But, as we know, Virgil based his account in
previous sources. And there had been several
references to Italy in the ancient Greek accounts.
For example Latinus, the eponym of the Latins, is
named by Hesiod (Theogony 1013), who
identifies him as the son of Odysseus and Circe (Apollodorus, in Epitome 7.24, says he was the son of Odysseus and Calypso. Later sources
say otherwise; for example, Hyginus in Fabulae 127 affirms that Latinus was son of Telemachus and Circe, whereas Dionysius
of Halicarnassus [1.43.1] asserts that the parents
of Latinus were Heracles and a
Hyperborean girl). Also King Minos ended his life in
Sicily while pursuing Daedalus, etc...
Massimo Pallottino reminds us that in the
testimonies of Virgil and Dionysius of
Halicarnassus "there is a
consciousness of the religious and cultural unity
of the Greek and Italo-Roman worlds, that is, of
classical civilization, whose first manifestations
go back to the beginning of historical
Still, a critical audience may distinguish the
spontaneous poetical account from those
creationspoetical or historicalstained
by ulterior motives, noticing perhaps that the
freedom that must have reigned during the "Dark
Ages" of Greece had disappeared in the Imperial Age
(and also in the Hellenistic and Classical times).
That audience may also notice that inspiration had
to be replaced by artificial constructionsthe
work, as they say, of a more "enlightened"
timeincreasingly concerned not so much with formation (what develops individual
qualities) but with information--that is,
the mere facts and utilities that entangle man--,
and the seduction it often entails.