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Rationalizing Myth in Antiquity$
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Greta Hawes

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672776

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672776.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Rationalizing Myth in Antiquity

Greta Hawes

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes the nature of ancient rationalistic approaches and the general tenor of the ancient tradition. It examines the origins of rationalistic interpretation in early historiography through passages from Hecataeus, Herodotus and Herodorus, and then examines its conceptual limits via excerpts from Plato’s Phaedrus and Euripides’ Bacchae in which its use is criticized and even lampooned. Rationalization is not merely an interpretative mode, but a form of storytelling guided by a particular, contextual understanding of plausibility. In this way, it is underscored by both the principles of historiographical verisimilitude, and also the practices of active mythmaking, which means that it has much in common with the more conventional elements of Greek myth. The chapter ends with a discussion of the place of rationalization within the context of ancient hermeneutic practices, and its relationship to allegory and Euhemerism in particular.

Keywords:   Greek myth, rationalization, allegory, Euhemerism, historiography, storytelling

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