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Full Access From (Theogonic) Mythos to (Poetic) Logos: Reading Pindar’s Genealogical Metaphors after Freidenberg

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From (Theogonic) Mythos to (Poetic) Logos: Reading Pindar’s Genealogical Metaphors after Freidenberg

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image of Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions

AbstractThis paper analyzes the use of kinship categories to refer to personified (hypostasized) concepts in Ancient Greek literature, with particular emphasis on Pindar. This device serves to include an abstract concept within a genealogy that is dominated by divinities or quasi-religious entities. Comparing the use of this device in Hesiod, Plato, and Pindar, I suggest that, before the emergence of properly analytic categories within the philosophical discourse, genealogical metaphor served as the most important means of concept formation available to Ancient Greeks. In particular, Pindar’s use of genealogical metaphors points to a productive encounter between image and concept. In this context, I review the neglected work of the Soviet Classicist Olga Freidenberg, who put forward a theory of poetic metaphor as a transitional phenomenon between mythological image and philosophical concept, and discuss the differences between the method of historical poetics employed by Freidenberg and the idealist paradigm that informs the better known work by Hermann Fränkel, Bruno Snell, and Wilhelm Nestle on the shift from “mythos” to “logos” in early Greek thought and literature.

Affiliations: 1: University of Chicago, Email:, URL:


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