Monday, 4 June 2018

Hesiod and Geomythology

The ancient Greeks had a myth about five successional kinds (ages) of mankind: gold, silver, bronze, heroic and iron. While most classicists accept the last three kinds have some basis in historical truth (interpreting them as the archaeological sequence of bronze and iron metalworking), the silver or gold kinds are instead treated as metaphorical or symbolic. In this article it is instead argued for a geomythological interpretation; the first two metals as a folk memory of the Neolithic, when deposits of these native metals were discovered. 
Smith, O. D. (2018). "Hesiod and Geomythology". Logoi: The Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduate Classics Journal. 1(1): 1-10. URL

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Atlantis Story: An Authentic Oral Tradition?

The story of Atlantis appears in Plato’s Timaeus-Critias (c. 355 BCE) as an oral tradition Solon acquired in Egypt and adapted into an epic poem, but which he left unfinished. Nevertheless, Solon told the story to his family relative Dropides, who passed it orally to his son (Critias the elder), who in turn told it to his grandson (Critias the younger). Either this oral transmission actually took place, or Plato was the fabricator. If the latter, the entire tradition (including the island of Atlantis) is likely to be fiction. This article shows there is a lack of evidence for the Atlantis story being an authentic oral tradition and highlights problems with the transmission. Supposing oral retellings of the tradition did take place, it is seemingly impossible to distinguish fact from fiction in the story since the tale of Atlantis must have been garbled as it was retold over generations; reciting a tradition by word of mouth is unreliable. 

 Smith, O. D. (2016). "The Atlantis Story: An Authentic Oral Tradition?". Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures. 10(2): 10-17. PDF

Friday, 24 May 2013

Atlantis and Euhemerism (Geomythology)

The author analyses the Atlantis story (Plato's Timaeus-Critias) and argues it is an authentic oral tradition that was passed from Solon to the family of Dropides, before eventually reaching Plato. The story was garbled via oral transmission (retelling a story by word of mouth is unreliable) and therefore semi-fictionalized, but probably contains a folk memory of a real location or an event. Geomythology is a form of euhemerism that tries "to explain certain specific myths and legends in terms of actual geologic events that may have been witnessed by various groups of people" (Vitaliano, 1973: 1). The author argues for a deep-time geological folk memory in the Atlantis myth of copper and gold when deposits of these native metals were first discovered during the Neolithic (Chalcolithic) and identifies the metropolis of Atlantis with Sesklo and the great plain of Atlantis, with the Thessalian plain. 
 Smith, O. D. (2013). Atlantis and Euhemerism (Geomythology)University of Roehampton: BA Dissertation. URL [published as e-book Atlantis as Sesklo]