Memory lost, memory regained. Considerations on the recovery of Sacred Texts in Messenia and in Biblical Israel: A Comparison

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Abstract

The fourth book of Pausanias’ Periegesis may be read as an excursus in the collective memory of the Messenian people, condemned to almost 300 years of sorrowful diaspora after a conflict with the Spartans. According to the oracles, the possibility of a homecoming is linked to a small secret object, which, if properly kept, would guarantee the recovery of the lost land. Legend has it that this object was hidden in the mounts of Ithome by Aristomenes, the hero of the Messenian resistance against Sparta’s oppression and an expert of oracular knowledge. Many years later, a dream vision reveals to Epaminondas and to the military chief Epiteles the exact site where Aristomenes supposedly buried the secret object. A thin sheet of tin on which the mysteries of the Great Goddesses are inscribed is discovered inside a small bronze hydria – lost traces both of buried memories and of a new identity to be rediscovered and promoted. The theme of the recovered sacred memory, crucial within several ancient cultures of the Mediterranean, finds a term of comparison in another equally significant episode, namely the rediscovery of the Book of the Law under the reign of Josiah as told in 2 Kings 22-23. This paper aims at illustrating how the latter could serve as a “comparable” of the Messenian recovery, within the framework of a general reflection on the several uses of memory.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteMemory and Religious Experience in the Greco-Roman World
Pagine63-80
Numero di pagine18
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2013

Serie di pubblicazioni

NomePotsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beitraege

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