Euhemerus (Εὐήμερος) (working late fourth century B.C.) was a Greek mythographer at the court of
Cassander, the king of Macedon. Euhemerus' birthplace is disputed, with Messinain Sicilyor Messenein the Peloponnese as the most probable locations, while others champion Chios, or Tegea.
He is chiefly known for a rationalizing method of interpretation, known as Euhemerism, that treats mythological accounts as a reflection of actual historical events shaped by retelling and traditional "mores". In the
skepticphilosophical tradition of Theodorus of Cyrene and the Cyrenaics, Euhemerism forged a new method of interpretation for the contemporary religious beliefs. Though his work is lost, the reputation of Euhemerus was that he believed that much of Greek mythologycould be interpreted as natural events subsequently given supernatural characteristics. Living at court in the generation following the superhuman feats of Alexander the Greatand Alexander's subsequent deification, with the contemporaneous "pharaoization" of the Ptolemiesin a fusion of Hellenic and native Egyptian traditions, Euhemerus was trained in the rational philosophizing current of Hellenistic culture; the two strains meet in his materialist rationalizing of Greek myth. "Euhemerus may be credited as the writer who systematized and explained an ancient and widely accepted popular belief, namely that the dividing line between gods and men is not always clear," S. Spyridakis, among others, has observed. [S. Spyridakis "Zeus Is Dead: Euhemerus and Crete" "The Classical Journal" 63.8 (May 1968, pp. 337-340) p 338.]
In Classical religion, which lacked a revealed text and a prophetic tradition, a fluid
theogonyabsorbed most contradictory claims. The tenets of Euhemerus, exceptionally, were attacked, even viciously. [Spyridakis 1968:337. Spyridakis notes the intense scorn of Callimachus.] Of the Latin translation, only a few brief fragments have come down to us, where they were quoted in patristic writers, especially in a fragment said to be from Diodorus Siculus, preserved by Eusebiusin his history of the Church. Other fragments survive quoted by Lactantiusin his treatise "De Falsa religione" ("Concerning False Religion," 1.11), a context sympathetic to Christian mythography. Euhemerist ideas apparently also survived in Philo of Byblos, who transmitted a euhemerist view of Phoenician religion, if we may trust the account of him preserved in the pages of the Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea: "It was Eusebius' object to refute the pagans, not recover the history of Phoenicia" [Truesdell S. Brown, "Euhemerus and the Historians" "The Harvard Theological Review" 39.4 (October 1946, pp. 259-274) p 272.] (see "Euhemerism and the early Christians" below).
In modern times Euhemerism has been compared, specifically by
David Friedrich Strauss, with many nineteenth-century German rationalists, such as Johann Gottfried Eichhornand Heinrich Paulus, in their interpretations of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Euhemerus's rationalizing, skeptical method, which reduces religion to what we would now call anthropology or sociology, has seemed like the forerunner of those sciences. Sigmund Freud, in " Civilization and Its Discontents" and " The Future of an Illusion", makes religion into a kind of hopeful mirage seen by pre-scientific pre-psychoanalytic humankind. Even Freud, rebuked by Jules Romain[cite book | author = Romain, Jules |title = Dr. Knock | publisher = | year = 1923] and other friends, worried that he—too much the humanist—had failed to understand the spiritual experience. "Euhemerism" is sometimes used pejoratively to mean naive reductionism by modern secular thinkers, who misunderstand religious behavior by attributing to the pious only those motives (economic, psychological, utilitarian) which are secular.
Euhemerus' "Sacred History"
Only quoted fragments, mainly in Diodorus Siculus, remain from Euhemerus' main work, a "Sacred History" ("Hiera Anagraphê"), which may have taken the form of a philosophical fictionalized travelogue, universally accepted today as a philosophical Romance, incorporating imagined archaic inscriptions, which his literary persona claimed to have found during his travels. His critique of tradition is epitomized in a register of the births and deaths of many of the gods, which his narrator
personadiscovered inscribed on a golden pillar in a temple of Zeus Triphylius on the invented island of Panchaea; [ Plutarchnoted that no Greek nor barbarianhad ever seen such an island. (Fragment noted in Spyridakis 1968:338).] he claimed to have reached the island on a voyage down the Red Searound the coast of Arabia, undertaken at the request of Cassander of Macedon, according to the Christian historian of the fourth century AD, Eusebius of Caesarea. This lost work references a rational island utopia. The ancient Hellenic tradition of a distant Golden Age, of Hesiod's depiction of human happiness before the gift of Pandora, of the mythic convention of idealized Hyperboreans, made concrete in the legendary figure of the Scythian philosopher-hero Anacharsis, or the idealized "Meropes" of Theopompushad been recently enriched by contacts with India. [(Brown 1946:262); compare Plato's Atlantisor the exotic tropical isle described by Iambulus, which was noted in Diodorus 2.55ff. (Spryidakis 1968:338).] Euhemerus apparently systematized a method of interpreting the popular myths, which was consistent with the attempts of Hellenistic culture to explain traditional religious beliefs in terms of a rational naturalism. Herodotuspresented rationalized accounts of the myth of Io ("Histories" I.1ff) and events of the Trojan War ("Histories" 2.18ff). Euhemerus went farther, asserting that the Greek gods had been originally kings, heroes and conquerors, or benefactors to men, who had thus earned a claim to the veneration of their subjects. Zeusfor example, was according to him, a king of Crete, who had been a great conqueror; the tomb of Zeus was shown to visitors near Knossos, perhaps engendering or enhancing among the traditionalists the reputation of Cretans as liars. [ Sprydakis 1968:340.]
It is not easy to judge Euhemerus' importance among pagan thinkers.
Cicero's essay " De natura deorum" ("On the nature of the gods"), iii.53ff, contains some euhemerist views, which are put in the mouth of Cotta, but whether as an explication or as a refutation has been argued; [Friedrich Solmsen, "Cicero "De natura deorum" iii. 53 ff" "Classical Philology" 39.1 (January 1944), pp. 44-47.] how widely this reductionist system actually spread among the educated class is debatable. It is said that Euhemerus was a firm upholder of the Cyrenaic philosophy, and that by many ancient writers he was regarded as an atheist: his work was translated by Enniusinto Latin, but that work too is now lost.
Euhemerism and the early Christians
The early Christian apologists deployed the euhemerist argument to support their position that pagan mythology was merely an aggregate of
fables of human invention. Cyprian, a North African convert to Christianity, wrote a short essay, "De idolorum vanitate" ("On the Vanity of Idols") in 247 A.D. that assumes the euhemeristic rationale as if needing no demonstration. Cyprian begins::"That those are no gods whom the common people worship, is known from this: they were formerly kings, who on account of their royal memory subsequently began to be adored by their people even in death. Thence temples were founded to them; thence images were sculptured to retain the countenances of the deceased by the likeness; and men sacrificed victims, and celebrated festal days, by way of giving them honour. Thence to posterity those rites became sacred, which at first had been adopted as a consolation."
Cyprian proceeds directly to examples, the
apotheosisof Melicertesand Leucotheia; "The Castors [i.e. Dioscuri] die by turns, that they may live," a reference to the daily sharing back and forth of their immortality by the Heavenly Twins. "The cave of Jupiter is to be seen in Crete, and his sepulchre is shown," Cyprian says, confounding Zeus and Dionysus but showing that the Minoan cave cult was still alive in Crete in the third century A.D. In his exposition, it is to Cyprian's argument to marginalize the syncretismof pagan belief, in order to emphasize the individual variety of local deities::"From this the religion of the gods is variously changed among individual nations and provinces, inasmuch as no one god is worshipped by all, but by each one the worship of its own ancestors is kept peculiar."
Arnobius' dismissal of paganism in the fifth century, on rationalizing grounds, may have depended on a reading of Cyprian, with the details enormously expanded (to the satisfaction of the modern mythographer).
norri Sturluson's "euhemerism"
Prose Edda, composed around 1220, the Christian Icelandic bard and historian Snorri Sturlusonproposes that the Norse gods were originally historical war leaders and kings whose funereal sites have developed cults. Odin, the father of the gods, is introduced as a historical character living in present-day Turkey, tracing his ancestry back to Priam, the king of Troyduring the Trojan War. As Odin travels north to settle in the Nordic countries, he establishes the royal families ruling in Denmark, Sweden, and Norwayat the time. Thus, while Snorri's euhemerism follows the early Christian tradition, the effect is not simply to discredit the divinity of the gods of a heathen religion on the wane, but (on the model of Virgil's Aeneid), to legitimize the current rulers.
Euhemerism in the modern world
As among archaic tribes it is possible to trace the evolution of family and tribal gods from great eponymous chiefs and warriors, so, euhemerism claims, it is equally possible to see those gods as abstractions of the tribal "ethos," personalized with names. Among the Romans the gradual deification of ancestors and the
apotheosisof emperors were prominent features of cult, an extension of Greek veneration of heroes. All theories of religion which give prominence to ancestor worship and the cult of the dead are to a certain extent Euhemeristic. However, euhemerism isn't generally accepted by comparative religion scholars today as the sole explanation of the origin of the idea of gods. In 18th century France, the abbé Antoine Banier, in his "Mythologie et la fable expliqués par l'histoire" (1711 and later editions), was frankly Euhemeristic; other leading Euhemerists were Étienne Clavier, Guillaume de Sainte-Croix, Desiré-Raoul Rochette, Emile Hoffmannand, to a great extent, Herbert Spencer.
Rationalizing methods of interpretation that treat some myths as traditional accounts based upon actual historical events are a feature of some modern readings of Greek mythology. The twentieth century poet and mythographer
Robert Gravesoffered many such "euhemerist" interpretations in his telling of " The Greek Myths" (1955). His suggestions that such myths record and justify the political and religious overthrow of earlier cult systems have been received with skepticism. Fact|date=February 2007 Axel Olrik, in "Principles for Oral Narrative Research"(1921; translated by Kirsten Wolf and Jody Jensen, 1992) denies (§30) that such readings could be valid.
Leon of Pella
Mythological kings of Sweden
List of legendary kings of Britain
*Mythological Anglo-Saxon kings
* [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0062&layout=&loc=euhemerus Harry Thurston Peck, "Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities" 1898:] Euhemerus
* [http://36.1911encyclopedia.org/E/EU/EUHEMERUS.htm "Encyclopaedia Britannica" 1911:] Euhemerus
* [http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-05/anf05-116.htm Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol V:] Cyprian, "On the Vanity of Idols" e-text
* [http://www.ancientlibrary.com/index.php The Ancient Library]
*Smith, William. 1870. "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology." (London: C. Little and J. Brown) "sub" "Evemerus"
* [http://etext.virginia.edu/latin/ovid/banier.html Abbé Banier's Ovid commentary Englished] The Euhemerist tradition in Banier's "historical" commentaries on Ovid's "Metamorphoses".
*Brown, Truesdell S. "Euhemerus and the Historians" "The Harvard Theological Review" 39.4 (October 1946), pp. 259-274. Includes a comprehensive redaction of the existing fragments of Euhemerus' "Sacred History".
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EUHEMERUS° — (fourth century B.C.E.), writer. In his Hiera Anagraphe ( Sacred History ), Euhemerus suggested that the gods had originally been benefactors of mankind who were subsequently worshipped because of their great deeds. Josephus cites him as… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Euhemerus — Euhemĕrus (grch. Euemeros) aus Messene, griech. Philosoph der Cyrenaischen Schule, lebte am Hofe des mazedon. Königs Kassander, bes. dadurch bekannt, daß er die griech. Gottheiten für vergötterte Menschen erklärte. Euheremismus diese Art der… … Kleines Konversations-Lexikon
Euhemerus — /yooh hee meuhr euhs, hem euhr /, n. fl. c300 B.C., Greek mythographer. Also, Euemerus, Evemerus. Cf. euhemerism. * * * ▪ Greek mythographer also spelled Euemeros, or Evemerus flourished c. 300 BC, Messene? [now Messina, Sicily, Italy]… … Universalium
Euhemerus — Euhemeros (griechisch Εὐήμερος, lat.: Euhemerus; * um 340 v. Chr.; † um 260 v. Chr.) war ein antiker griechischer Philosoph, Schriftsteller und Mythograph, geboren in Messana auf Sizilien (oder Chios, Tegea oder Messene auf dem Peloponnes), und… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Euhemerus — /juˈhimərəs/ (say yooh heemuhruhs) noun fl. c. 300 BC, Greek writer … Australian English dictionary
Euhemerus — /yooh hee meuhr euhs, hem euhr /, n. fl. c300 B.C., Greek mythographer. Also, Euemerus, Evemerus. Cf. euhemerism … Useful english dictionary
EUEMERUS vel EUHEMERUS — EUEMERUS, vel EUHEMERUS amicus Cassandri, filii Antipatri, Historicus antiquus, e civitate Messana, teste Plutarch. l. de Iside et Osiride. (Atqui Arnob. l. 4. Agragantinum vocat) Lactant. l. 1. c. XI. Antiquus auctor Euhemerus, qui fuit ex… … Hofmann J. Lexicon universale
EUHEMER — Euhemerus … Abbreviations in Latin Inscriptions
ЕВГЕМЕР — • Euhemĕrus, Ευήμερος, вероятно, из сицилийской Мессаны, жил при дворе Кассандра и был последователем киренейской школы, которую часто упрекали в безбожии. Он был сочинителем ιερα αναγραφή или священных храмовых надписей, где он… … Реальный словарь классических древностей
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