BMCR 2005.09.19

Historia y mito. El pasado legendario como fuente de autoridad. Actas del Simposio Internacional celebrado en Sevilla, Valverde del Camino y Huelva entre el 22 y el 25 de abril de 2003

, , , Historia y mito : el pasado legendario como fuente de autoridad : actas del simposio internacional celebrado en Sevilla, Valverde del Camino y Huelva entre el 22 y el 25 de abril de 2003. Málaga: Centro de ediciones de la Diputación de Málaga, Servicio de Publicaciones, 2004. 520 pages ; 24 cm. ISBN 8477856257 €20.28.

[[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]]

This book is the result of an International Symposium on Ancient Historiography and Myth, and contains three quite different parts: the first and the third one may be of interest to researchers on ancient literature (specially historiography) and the classical tradition, and the second one will appeal most to scholars of ancient Hispania. Most of the articles — twelve — are in Spanish, but there are also three each in English, French and Italian.

The first three studies have Herodotus as their center, discussing his forerunners and the meaning of myth in his work. Candau, González Ponce and Chávez focus on the question of the use of the new chronology as a sign of an innovative attitude in Herodotus and Thucydides, which they attribute to their disdainful attitude toward local historiography, considered by both to be heavily dependent on popular traditions. Lanzillotta considers the logographers the creators or at least predecessors of local historiography, against Jacoby’s thesis. Stadter focuses on the tale of Helen and that of Croesus and Atys in order to try to explain how Herodotus worked with mythical material to make it history and how historical facts could get redefined within mythological frameworks.

Schepens/Bollansée study the applicability of the concept of Universal History to Greek and Latin historiography and show the limitation of the objectives of ancient writers, who at the very least set limits of time (Ephorus), of pragmatism (Polybius), or did not manage to interact coherently with the distant past (Diodorus Siculus). Only the Christian authors, through the Jewish tradition, went back to the origins and had a somewhat wider vision, although in the view of Schepens/Bollansée Universal History as such only exists from the sixteenth century on.

Four studies deal with groups or peripheral regions of Greece. Lenfant contrasts the problematic identification the historians make between Trojans and Persians with the simplistic identifications of orators like Isocrates, especially in the Panegyric. Erksine contributes a not very novel study on the influence of Trojan myths in Italy. Counillon studies the names of the Paphlagonian cities in the Catalogue of Ships and whether their use in Hellenistic times is an indication of their antiquity or a recreation of their names on the part of the colonizers. Gabriella Ottone, in one of the book’s best pieces,1 reviews the myths that sustained Greek power in Cyrene and their implications for the works of Pindar and Apollonius of Rhodes, as well as for the study of origin myths.

Prontera writes an introductory article on Greek geography as a literary genre, in which myth was central to the different phases of initial distinction, progressive assimilation, and finally, clear separation.2 The first section of the book ends with an essay of Perez Jiménez, a recognized expert on Plutarch; he focuses on the Parallel Lives of notable men from the dawn of myth (Theseus, Romulus, Heracles, Lycurgus, Numa), especially the first two, and considers that in Plutarch there is an attempt to transform the models of history into real men, but men also representative of the Plutarchean ideals of ethics and good government.

The second part is centered in the study of Iberia in antiquity. The work of Ramos Jurado warns of the scanty reliability of the Greek sources on Iberia, a region that had become the receptacle for all myths of margins. Giovannielli-Jouanna concentrates on the figure of Heracles and the episode of Geryon, as told by Diodorus Siculus and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, to show the different degrees of historicisation of the episode and the specific interests which motivate the writers.

Gómez Espelosín explains the problems which Greek and Latin historiography had in transmitting a true image of the Celts; more optimistic is Andreotti’s diagnosis of the sources on the Iberian people. Knapp comments on the new papyrus of Artemidorus, especially important because it preserves a map of Iberia (which allows Knapp to review the ancient geography of the region): his proposal is that it represents the area around Huelva (the province where the Congress took place).

This second part closes with a work of Torregaray on titles that are witnessed by the texts, coins and epigraphy of the Laudes Hispaniae. She describes the progressive improvement in the titles that were given to Spain in Rome: the pacata Hispania becomes the In omnes provincias exemplum and finally the Hispania terris omnibus felicior.

The third part is more heterogenous, but the common point is the current uses of myth. Guzmán attempts a short review of the history and myth surrounding Alexander, although his inclusion of too many aspects makes his contribution a bit fuzzy. Estévez Sola studies the mythical founders of Hispania in the Latin and Spanish language medieval chronicles of Spain, Túbal (son of Japheth and grandson of Noah) and his relationship to Hercules and his companion (in other sources nephew) Ispán, the eponym of Spain. Cesáreo Bandera offers a suggestive literary essay on the difficulty of creating epic in European literature from the Renaissance on, which he explicates by reframing the problematic of violence and the sacred in myth, which was completely transformed with the arrival of Christianity.

The three last contributions are excellent. Gabriel Laguna, in a fundamental work for scholars of the classical tradition, tracks the origin of the term in Highet, and before him in Comparetti,3 and proposes a frame of study of undoubted utility in this discipline, still so in need of firm theoretical bases. Fernando García Romero, an expert in the poetry of Pindar and Bacchylides, studies the ideologically contaminated vision of Greek athletics that was used by the modern Olympic Movement, during its origins in the nineteenth century, to support its aristocratic prejudices against professional sport. Finally Fernando Wulff analyzes the relation the Franco regime had with distorted historiographical visions, especially those of a Frenchman, Pierre Paris, and a German, Adolf Schulten. These scholars based Spain’s peculiarities on an odd idea about the origins of Spanish populations, which had its roots in German and French Romanticism. It would be possible to summarize it in a phrase which has been repeatedly used: “Africa begins in the Pyrenees”. It served an idea of a perennial Spain different from Europe, unable to develop and always in conflict.

One must congratulate the publishers of the volume (although they should have paid more attention to typographical errors, above all in the Greek texts); they demonstrate that, in the neighborhood of Africa, a study on the limitations of history which allows us a clearer vision of classical Antiquity can be done; and also concerning the Hispania (and this is also a distortion) which was called terris omnibus felicior.



José M. Candau Morón, Francisco J. González Ponce, Antonio L. Chávez, “Crónicas, fundaciones y el nacimiento de la Historiografía Griega” (13-29)

Philip A. Stadter, “From the mythical to the historical Paradigm: The Transformation of Myth in Herodotus” (31-46)

Eugenio Lanzillotta, “Patriottismo e tradizioni mitiche. Le origini della storiografia locale in Grecia” (47-55)

Guido Schepens, Jan Bollansée, “Myths on the Origins of Peoples and the Birth of Universal History” (57-75)

Dominique Lenfant, “L’amalgame entre les Perses et les Troyens chez les grecs de l’époque classique: Usages politiques et discours historiques” (77-96)

Andrew Erskine, “The Trojan War in Italy: Myth and Local Tradition” (97-107)

Pierre Counillon, “Homre et l’hellénisation de la Paphlagonie” (109-122)

Gabriella Ottone, “Libye chora hyperpontia.Tradizioni epicorie e rielaborazioni mitografiche di legittimazione e propaganda” (123-149)

Francesco Frontera, “Sulle representazioni mitiche della geographia greca” (151-164)

Aurelio Pérez Jiménez, “Dos héroes fundadores: las Vidas de Teseo y Rómulo de Plutarco” (165-178)


Enrique Ángel Ramos Jurado, “La Iberia legendaria. Tipología de las leyendas sobre Iberia y paralelismos en la mitología grecorromana” (181-192)

Pascale Giovannelli-Jouanna, “L’hellénisme chez les historiens grecs de l’Ouest. Les historiens grecs et le Périple d’Héraclès dans 1’ouest de la Méditerranée: les enjeux du mythe” (193-209)

Francisco Javier Gómez Espelosín, “La imagen de lo céltico en la historiografía grecorromana” (211-239)

Gonzalo Cruz Andreotti, “Una contribución a la etnogénesis ibérica desde la literatura antigua: a propósito de la geografía de Iberia y los iberos” (241-276)

Robert C. Knapp, “The New Artemidorus Fragment and the Cartography of Ancient Iberia” (277-296)

Elena Torregaray Pagola, “Construcción historiográfica y proyección iconográfica de la representación política de la Hispania romana” (297-326)


Antonio Guzmán Guerra, “Leyenda, Historia y Literatura en torno a Alejandro” (329-363)

Juan A. Estévez Sola, “Los orígenes míticos de Hispania en las Crónicas espan~olas de la Edad Media” (365-387)

Cesáreo Bandera, “La Literatura Clásica como punto de referencia de la Moderna” (389-407)

Gabriel Laguna Mariscal, “La Literatura Clásica como referencia para la Moderna: algunas reflexiones y pautas metodológicas” (409-426)

Fernando García Romero, “El mito del deporte griego antiguo y la creación de los Juegos Olímpicos modernos” (427-445)

Femando Wulff Alonso, “Franquismo e Historia Antigua: algunas notas europeas con P. París y A. Schulten” (447-496)


1. She wrote Lybika. Testimonianze e frammenti (I frammenti degli storici greci 1), Tivoli 2002.

2. Francesco Prontera, Otra forma de mirar el espacio. Geografía e historia en la Grecia antigua, Málaga, 2003 (original in Italian: Geografia storica della Grecia Antica. Tradizioni e problemi, Roma, Laterza, 1991).

3. Gabriel Laguna Mariscal, “De dónde procede la denominación ‘Tradición Clásica’?”, Cuadernos de Filología Clásica. Estudios Latinos 24, 1 (2004), 83-93. Further indications in his really interesting blog (in Spanish and English) Tradición Clásica.