Theseus and Athens

Theseus and Athens

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Theseus is celebrated as the greatest of Athenian heroes. This work explores what he meant to the Athenians at the height of their city-state in the fifth century B.C. Assembling material that has been scattered in scholarly works, Henry Walker examines the evidence for the development of the myth and cult of Theseus in the archaic age. He then looks to major works of classical literature in which Theseus figures, exploring the contradictions between the archaic, primitive side of his character and his refurbished image as the patron of democracy. His ambiguous nature as outsider, flouting accepted standards of behavior, while at the same time being a hero-king and a representative of higher ideals, is analysed through his representations in the work of Bacchylides, Euripides, and Sophocles. This is the only work of scholarship that examines the literary representation of Theseus so thoroughly. It brings to life a literary character whose virtues, flaws, and contradictions belong in no less a degree to his creators, the people of Athens.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 158 x 232 x 20mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195089081
  • 9780195089080

Review quote

A worthwhile book, and essential for an understanding of the current scholarship on Theseus. Religious Studies Review

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Back cover copy

Theseus is celebrated as the greatest of Athenian heroes. Using an anthropological approach to Greek religion and society, Henry John Walker explores the world of Greek literature, myth, and political ideology to determine what Theseus meant to the Athenians at the height of their city-state in the fifth century B.C. Assembling material that has previously been scattered in scholarly works, Walker presents the evidence for the development of the myth and cult of Theseus in the archaic age. He then looks to major works of classical literature in which Theseus figures, probing the contradictions between the archaic, primitive side of his character and his refurbished image as the patron of democracy. His ambiguous nature as outsider, flouting accepted standards of behavior, while at the same time being a hero-king and a representative of higher ideals, is analyzed through his representations in the works of Bacchylides, Euripides, and Sophocles.

show more