Glaucus and the Importance of Being Earnest. Herodotus 6.86 on Memory and Trust, Oath and Pain

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Abstract

It is above all in the archaic cultures, when the discrimen between religious and political facts is not yet clearly defined and there lacks an autonomous law system, which the oath discloses its irreplaceable role which supports the memory, safeguarding social dynamics in all its public or private forms. The wealth of the cases presented in the Histories by Herodotus offers a phenomenology of the oath, useful to illustrate the mechanisms and the coherent symbolic universe of reference. The oaths illustrate, in an exemplary manner, the search for guarantees against neglect, mutability and deception with gestures that evoke images of irrevocability, with the use of immanent and durable items, with signs and ritual cuts, with formulas able to involve and threaten to upset the established order. The story of Glaucus the Spartan shows, in my opinion, the necessity to build a common base of shared values on which to establish any type of identity and social relationship and overcome the use of violence for the resolution of conflicts. On one hand, the Herodotus’ tale develops a new paradigm of memory by a complex intrigue which revolves around memory, oaths and generational transmission: it offers a wide example of the ways in which memory and oath are intertwined as “cultural objects”. On the other, the tale concerns not only the friction between memory and oblivion, but also between true and false memory. The Glaucus’ oath illustrates, in an exemplary manner, the search for guarantees against neglect, mutability and deception with gestures that evoke images of irrevocability, with the use of immanent and durable items, with signs and ritual cuts, with formulas able to involve and threaten to upset the established order.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteMemory and religious experience in the Greco-Roman world
Pagine21-53
Numero di pagine33
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2013

Serie di pubblicazioni

NomePotsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge 45

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