An Ambiguous Literary Genre

The Origins of Early Greek Mythography

in Mnemosyne
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The purpose of this paper is to investigate the origins of early Greek mythography, exemplarily represented by Hecataeus of Miletus and Acusilaus of Argos. The paucity of verbatim quotations and a total lack of information about the publication of their prose works and their audience makes it difficult to frame them within a specific literary genre. Despite that, a better understanding of their cultural milieu could help us approach their literary production in a new way. What arises from this investigation is how unprofitable it is to rely upon a rigid distinction among the production of early prose writers who clearly share a common goal and, to some extent, a similar communicative strategy.


A Journal of Classical Studies



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Firstly stated by Jacoby 1909. See also Porciani 1997 for a systematic dismissal of Jacoby’s thesis.


About these writers see Fowler 1996, 63ff.


Cf. Ercolani in Colesanti and Giordano 2014, 12: “a description of the textual production of ancient Greek culture in terms of a ‘theory of the genre’ proves indeed both misguided and misleading in the examination of prose texts”.


Depew and Obbink 2000, 6.


Dolcetti 2004, 9ff.


See Ulm 1963, 13ff., and Fowler, egm ii, 710-715.


Cf. Calame 2004, 234.


Thomas 1989, 155ff.


Minchin 1996, 9ff.


Thomas 1989, 155.


Goody and Watt 1963, 325.


Malinowski 1926, 23.


Goody and Watt 1963, 308-11.


Pearson 1939, 98 rightly underlines the aristocratic tone that Hecataeus used here; on this opening statement see Nenci 1951, 56ff., Corcella 1996, Porciani 1997, 47ff., Bertelli 2001, 80ff., Fowler 2000, 110ff., West 2002, 4-5.


Corcella 1996.


Lincoln 1999, whose conclusions are summed up in Fowler 2011, 52ff.


Fowler 2011, 53.


Fowler 2001, 101.


Bertelli 2001, 79.


See also Fowler 2011, 54.


Pellizer 1993.


On this point, I owe a lot to Thomas 2003.


On this, see Weçowski 2008.


Thomas 2000, 249ff.


Pàmias 2008.


Translation is from Faraone-Obbink 2013, 11-12.


On this point see Nicolai 2000.


Goldhill 2002, 5.


Thomas 2000, 4-9.


2001 and 2010.


See Nicolai 1997.


Fowler 2006, 44-45.


Fowler 2006, 36.


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