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Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus$
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Emily Baragwanath and Mathieu de Bakker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199693979

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693979.001.0001

Herodotus’ Proteus: Myth, History, Enquiry, and Storytelling

Chapter:
(p.107) 3 Herodotus’ Proteus: Myth, History, Enquiry, and Storytelling
Source:
Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus
Author(s):

Mathieu de Bakker

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693979.003.0004

This chapter examines Herodotus' reshaping of Proteus to fit his historiographical narrative. By staging Proteus as king of Egypt in the Histories Herodotus breaks with the mythological tradition of Proteus as an immortal seer and sea-god. Whereas scholars tend to explain this reshaping as the result of the historian's investigations in Egypt, the chapter explores possible literary and rhetorical reasons that may have led Herodotus to present Proteus so differently from his mythical namesake. It argues that Herodotus, without losing sight of the Homeric intertext, held up Proteus as educator and example for the Greeks, and as an emblem for his own historiographical enterprise.

Keywords:   Egypt, Proteus, Helen, Alexander, Homer, function of myth, empirical research, Xeinia, guest-friendship, Egyptians

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