Herodotus and the Heroic Age: The Case of Minos
In the fifth century, traditional myths about gods and heroes of a remote age still constituted a shared cultural language for speaking about a variety of more or less specific current issues of a philosophical, ethical, social, and political nature. Other than tragedy and epinician poetry, we should especially remember the role of myth in Thucydides, whose ‘Archaeology’ sets down his fundamental, and ideologically charged, view of history. It is time to reassess Herodotus' participation in this contemporary coded discourse and examine the ways in which he uses the mythical past as well as the cases when he appears to signal his choice not to use it. One dismissive passage in Herodotus (3.122) confirms the significance of Minos — the focus of this chapter — in fifth-century discourse as a precursor or rival of Athenian thalassocracy (Thucydides and Bacchylides). But two additional mentions, in Books 1 and 7 respectively, connect Minos in more interesting ways to present realities of Greeks and non-Greeks in the East and West. How is the treatment of Minos in the Histories representative of Herodotus' ‘myth-speak’?
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