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River Raptures: Containment And Control Of Water In Greek And Roman Constructions Of Identity

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Chapter Summary

Like all important natural phenomena, local waters in the Greco- Roman world were given individualized identities as nymphs or gods. This practice merged traditions of anthropomorphism with specific, localized properties. This chapter investigates two common types of water personalities in myth. First, there is the tendency of a water God, to be a reincarnation of a person who drowned in the water or died nearby. Second, there is a folkloric pattern in Greek culture of a hybrid water god who, when wrestled into submission, yields secret knowledge to his opponent. The symbolism of water has always been laden with intimations of danger and mortality. Acheloös appears in Greek myth as a shape-shifter who alternates among the forms of a man, a bull, and a serpent. The bull-man, a wild thing half-tamed, must often have served as a multivalent symbol and a tool of colonial hegemony.

Keywords: bull-man; Greco- Roman world; water God



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