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The Myth of the Golden Fleece

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This contribution analyses the Greek myth of the Golden Fleece with special attention to its (possible) Oriental components. The first part of the myth, which is situated in Greece, contains a number of relevant motifs in this respect: the 'desperate housewife' (cf. the Joseph story in Genesis); the king's responsibility of the land (cf. the stories around David in the OT); the scapegoat motif, and the sacrifice of one's own child (cf. Abraham and Isaac). The second part of the myth, which is situated in Colchis, concentrates on the Golden Fleece proper. Recent investigations have argued its connection with the Hittite kurša, and my contribution tries to strengthen this connection. In Greek myth and ritual we can see its development into the Golden Fleece of the Argonauts but also into Athena's aegis; the early history of the Golden Fleece still connects it with Anatolia. The killing of the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece seems inspired by the defeat of Illuyankaš. Both the kurša and the myth of Illuyankaš played an important role at the Hittite Purulli festival, which may have promoted their combination. The routes of transmission of the Oriental parts of the myth probably were Cilicia, Cyprus and the later Royal Road.

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