"An outstanding contribution to the study of foundation myths in ancient societies. Mac Sweeney sets out an exciting new paradigm in which they are treated as segments of multilayered foundation discourse; the individual contributors apply this model to a wide range of ancient societies from Italy to Afghanistan, with breathtaking results."—Ian Rutherford, University of ReadingThroughout the ancient world, origin stories were told across the ancient world in many different ways: through poetry, prose, monumental and decorative arts, and performance in civic and religious rituals. Foundation myths, particularly those about the beginnings of cities and societies, played an important role in the dynamics of identity construction and in the negotiation of diplomatic relationships between communities. Yet many ancient communities had not one but several foundation myths, offering alternative visions and interpretations of their collective origins.
Seeking to explain this plurality, Foundation Myths in Ancient Societies explores origin stories from a range of classical and ancient societies, covering both a broad chronological span (from Greek colonies to the high Roman empire) and a wide geographical area (from the central Mediterranean to central Asia). Contributors explore the reasons several different, sometimes contradictory myths might coexist or even coevolve. Collectively, the chapters suggest that the ambiguity and dissonance of multiple foundation myths can sometimes be more meaningful than a single coherent origin narrative. Foundation Myths in Ancient Societies argues for a both/and approach to foundation myths, laying a framework for understanding them in dialogue with each other and within a wider mythic context, as part of a wider discourse of origins.
Contributors: Lieve Donnellan, Alfred Hirt, Naoíse Mac Sweeney, Rachel Mairs, Irad Malkin, Daniel Ogden, Robin Osborne, Michael Squire, Susanne Turner.
Naoíse Mac Sweeney is Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Leicester and author of Foundation Myths and Politics in Ancient Ionia.