Myths of the Underworld Journey: Plato, Aristophanes, and the 'Orphic' Gold Tablets

Myths of the Underworld Journey: Plato, Aristophanes, and the 'Orphic' Gold Tablets


By (author) Radcliffe G. Edmonds


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Paperback $35.98
  • Format: Hardback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 150mm x 229mm x 23mm | 499g
  • Publication date: 20 September 2004
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521834341
  • ISBN 13: 9780521834346
  • Sales rank: 1,614,475

Product description

This book was first published in 2004. Plato, Aristophanes and the creators of the 'Orphic' gold tablets employ the traditional tale of a journey to the realm of the dead to redefine, within the mythic narrative, the boundaries of their societies. Rather than being the relics of a faded ritual tradition or the products of Orphic influence, these myths can only reveal their meanings through a close analysis of the specific ways in which each author makes use of the tradition. For these authors, myth is an agonistic discourse, neither a kind of sacred dogma nor a mere literary diversion, but rather a flexible tool that serves the wide variety of uses to which it is put. The traditional tale of the journey to the Underworld in Greek mythology is neither simple nor single, but each telling reveals a perspective on the cosmos, a reflection of the order of this world through the image of the other.

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Author information

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III is assistant professor of Greek, Latin and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College. A member of the editorial board of the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, he has contributed to Classical Antiquity, TAPA, and Ancient World.

Review quote

Review of the hardback: 'Edmonds is a lively and intelligent guide to the many forks and detours on the journey. ... anyone with an interest in Greek eschatology will find it a stimulating book.' JACT Review of the hardback: '... provides solid, interesting, and helpful insights'. Bryn Mawr Classical Review Review of the hardback: 'This is an enterprising, enjoyable, and scholarly book ... Edmonds' extensive treatment of the gold funerary lamellae should help to make those puzzling but fascinating texts better known, and his discussions of both the Frogs and the Phaedo deserve close attention from anyone seriously interested in those very different yet mythologically related works. Edmonds' arguments are always informative and thought-provoking, even where they prompt disagreement.' Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Review of the hardback: '... stimulating ... Edmond's approach leads to some intriguing discussion, and he does show how careful attention to the way the elements of a traditional tale are reworked in each telling can uncover hidden complexities.' Journal of Hellenic Studies Review of the hardback: '... convincingly analyses how extensively Plato in the Phaedo redefines the ritual purity of the mysteries and funeral rites and traditional elements in mortuary journeys ... The fascination for the reader in this analysis, as in Edmond's earlier ones, will be found in the details.' Raymond J. Clark, University of Ottowa

Table of contents

1. Introduction: the start of the journey; 2. Roadmaps of deviance: the 'Orphic' gold tablets; 3. Descent into the depths of comedy: The Frogs of Aristophanes; 4. The upward path of philosophy: the myth in Plato's Phaedo; 5. Conclusions: the end of the road.