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Myth as Propaganda: Athens and Sparta

Author(s): Jan N. Bremmer


Source: Zeitschrift fr Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Bd. 117 (1997), pp. 9-17
Published by: Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Bonn (Germany)
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Myth

as Propaganda.-

title of our section

The

'Mythos als Argument'


This is of course hardly
rational discussions.1
classic study Cults, Myths, Oracles and Politics

and

Athens

Sparta

seems

to suggest that in antiquity myth played a role in


case.
in 1951 Martin Nilsson
the
his
Already
published
in which he showed that myths were
in Ancient Greece,
and so on.2 In other words,
instead of using the
dynasties

to further political
claims, to legitimate
we
would
rather employ
the term propaganda.
word
With
'argument', we, moderns,
propaganda,
a
much
has
received
attention
from
and
that
historians.
In recent years, to
mention
sociologists
subject
we have had a fine study of the term in the invaluable Historische
to Germany,
limit myself
Grund
used

begriffe, the 1994 study Propaganda. Meinungskampf, Verf?hrung und politische Sinnstiftung 1789
on this paper, Propaganda
as I was working
inDeutschland?
It is hardly surpris
and, announced
- a
on
to
have
these
studies
little
contribute
let
that
alone
Greek
feature they
antiquity,
ing
antiquity
can
the
other
studies of modern
On
modern
share with most
studies
hand,
propaganda.4
sharpen our
students of myth are not normally
attention for certain features which
interested in. So what could we
1989

learn from the study of propaganda?


is generally
The origin of the term propaganda
Fide. It is clear that in this combination
Propaganda

credited

to the Roman

Catholic

de

Congregatio

the verb propagare


still had a positive meaning.
In
us
most
to
connotation
which
the
of
would
attach
term
the
is
late.
It
is
fact,
negative
relatively
only in
will write about propaganda:
'it has not the sinister meaning
1929 that an Englishman
in Europe which
it has acquired in America'.5
And in 1933 the German national-socialist
could
still institute
government
the Reichsministerium
the name

for a ministry

f?r Volksaufkl?rung
in contemporary

a term absolutely
to imagine as
impossible
was
it
Lenin
who
in
his
What
is to be
Interestingly,

und Propaganda,

politics.
the reasoned use of historical
between
and scientific arguments
to indoctri
(1902) distinguished
nate the educated public and the use of slogans, parables and half-truths
to exploit the grievances
of the
For the latter approach, he used the term 'agitation' and he combined
uneducated.
the two approaches
in
the term 'agitprop'. Lenin's
distinction
is still attractive, but modern
research has made some progress.

done?

Naturally,

this is not

the place

to elaborate

upon modern

but they are useful for formulating


varying the insights of the contemporary

theories,

are rarely put in any systematic way. Slightly


behavioral
employing
theory, we may put the following
propagandist
1.What
is the social and political background
for the propaganda?
questions

which

agent? 4. Which media and symbols are used? 5. At what


measure
the effect? 7. Can we notice counter-propaganda?
last?
With
consider

1This

audience
8. How

questions:
2. What
is the goal? 3. Who
is the
is the propaganda
aimed? 6. Can we
long do the effects

of the propaganda

these questions
in mind I want to discuss
two mythical
cases which we
today would
as propaganda.
As Nilsson
has already made an important contribution
to the subject,

paper

was my

contribution

to the classical

section

of the German

Historikertage

inMunich,

September

surely
I will

1996.1

am

most grateful to Professor Hatto H. Schmitt for his invitation and hospitality. For their comments on my
manuscript Iwould
like to thankAnnette Harder and Bob Fowler, who also kindly corrected my English.
2M. P.
Nilsson, Cults, Myths, Oracles and Politics inAncient Greece (Lund, 1951, repr.New York, 1972).
3W. Schieder and C.
Dipper, 'Propaganda', inGeschichtliche Grundbegriffe 5 (Stuttgart, 1984) 69-112; U. Daniel and
W. Siemann (eds.), Propaganda. Meinungskampf, Verfuhrung und politische Sinnstiftung 1789-1989 (Frankfurt, 1994); G.
Diesener and R. Gries (eds.), Propaganda inDeutschland (Darmstadt, 1996).
4 But see H.
Buchli, 6000 Jahre Werbung. Geschichte der Wirtschaftswerbung und der Propaganda I (Berlin, 1962)
65-134 (Rome and Early Christianity); O. Thomson, Mass Persuasion inHistory (Edinburgh, 1977) 55-67 (Rome). Note
now also S. Hornblower, 'Propaganda', in idem and A. Spawforth (eds.), The Oxford Classical
Dictionary (Oxford, 19963)
1257f.
5 G.
Seldes, You can't print that: the truth behind the news, 1918-1928 (New York, 1929) 427.

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J. Bremmer

10

concentrate

on two examples
choice is somewhat

for which

we

have

had additional

material

but as it could

since

the publication
to take two contrasting

be illuminating
arbitrary,
on the myths of Athenian
Ion and Messenian
Kresphontes.
a role in the relations of Athens and Sparta with, respectively,
their allies

book. The

to focus

have decided

of his
cases,

Both mythical
figures
and subjects. The place

played
has been the object of lively discussions
Athenian
in recent years,
of Ion in fifth-century
propaganda
has
received
attention
of
because
of
the
the myth
of new
whereas
recently
Kresphontes
publication
homonymous
tragedy. As so often, we are of course much better informed about
papyri of Euripides'
is
but
this
Athens
than Sparta,
virtually always the case and one of the 'facts of life' in ancient history.
l.Ion

claims between Athens


and the Ionians and
played a role in the mythological
of a genealogical
between
and Sparta.6 The postulation
Ionians and Athe
between Athens
relationship
with the Ionians (685 and
nians is certainly old, since in Iliad XIII Homer already equates the Athenians
and Ionia was well attested around 600 and, therefore,
between Athens
the connection
689). Evidently,
are also closely
The two communities
'the eldest land of Ionia' (fr. 4a.2 West).
Solon can call Athens

Let us start with

Ion, who

is far more specific about the relationship. When


in another text, which
Carl Robert, more
discussed
the
of
than seventy years ago in his Die griechische
Ion, he commented:
Heldensage,
figure
Sohn des Hellen und Bruder des
'Der Vertreter der Ionier hei?t in den hesiodeischen
Xuthos,
Katalogen
seine S?hne waren,
ist zwar nicht ausgeschlossen,
und Doros. Da? schon dort Ion und Achaios
Aiolos
connected

At

the time, Robert

was

the best expert of


undoubtedly
some
of
A
he
was!
the
how
but
papyrus
wrong
Katalogoi,
twenty years
published
mythology,
wrote of Kreousa,
'the daughter with the beautiful cheeks of the divine
ago, showed that pseudo-Hesiod
and Ion famous for his horses';
Ion's name has disap
that 'she bore Achaeus
Erechtheus',
actually,
is
and
but
the
obvious
uncontested
10
from
the
On the
(fr.
(a) 23 M-W).
papyrus,
supplement
peared
aber weder

noch wahrscheinlich.'7

?berliefert

Greek

is rather complicated.
As Martin West
the genealogy
the history behind
has observed,
and
is
the
in
Athenian
will
have been at
history
only superficial
originally
genealogy
place
seems to have been Xouthos'
which
in Euboea,
home
support from
origin. This suggestion
gains
form of the name Ionian, as it appears in Hebrew
that the uncontracted
observation
Burkert's
Jawan,
other

hand,

Xouthos'

or Assyrian
the
Iawan(u), probably derives from contact with the Euboeans.8 Moreover,
to a cultic worship
of Ion also point to the east coast of Attica, namely his tomb at Pota
which
for obscure
moi and a sacrifice of a sheep during the main Suniac festival of the Salaminioi,
reasons took place only in alternate years;9 his father Xouthos
is equally at home in this region.10 The
Yauna

Persian

few references

name

from

Ion derives

6 On

Ion see most

recently

Iones,

and not

R. Parker,

'Myths

the other way

of Early

round,

Athens',

and

in J. Bremmer

it is most

(ed.),

that the name

intriguing

Interpretations

of Greek

Mythology

(London, 19882) 187-214, esp. 206f; E. Kearns, The Heroes of Attica (London, 1987) 108-110, 174-175; B. Smarczyk,
Untersuchungen zur Religionspolitik und politischen Propaganda Athens imdelisch-attischen Seebund (Munich, 1990) 132
134;N. Loraux, The Children of Athena (Princeton, 1993) 184-236; R. Parker, Athenian Religion: A History (Oxford, 1996)
144-145,313.

7 C.

Robert, Die griechische Heldensage II. 1 (Berlin, 1920) 145.


8 M. L. West, The Hesiodic
Catalogue of Women (Oxford, 1985) 58; W. Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution
A. M. Shastri, 'Yavanas inWestern Indian Cave Inscriptions', Yavanika. Journal of the
add
(Cambridge MA, 1992) 12-13;
Indian Society for Greek and Roman Studies 3 (1993) 58-66.
9 Paus.

1.31.3

(tomb);

Parker,

Athenian

Religion,

313f.

(Sunium).

Smarczyk,

Untersuchungen,

370

n.

103 also mentions

a genos Ionidai, but this is refuted by Parker, ibidem, 325.


10 IG I3 255A.13, cf.
Smarczyk, Untersuchungen, 101 n. 142 and SEG 40.4 (date); Eur. Mel Sophe 9-11 (I quote from
the new edition in C. Collard et al, Euripides. Selected Fragmentary Plays I [Warminster, 1995]); Strabo 8.7.1; Konon
FGrH26Fl.

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Myth

as Propaganda:

11

and Sparta

Athens

on a Linear B
the probable name I-ja-wo-ne
inMycenaean
times, witness
already may have occurred
tablet from Knossos
(KN X 146,4).n
the
is of course hard to establish, but various indications within
The precise date of the Katalogoi
with the work of Stesichorus
poem and comparisons
The
late date of the Athenian
date about 580/570.12

and the pseudo-Hesiodic


if not actually
'adoption',

Aspis strongly suggest a


invention of Ion explains

king list, although his sons were credited with supplying


why there is no place for him in the Athenian
a
which
is at least as old as Herodotus
tradition
the names for the four old Athenian
tribes,
(5.66.2). The
a function which
is relatively
late
could find for him was that of polemarch,
highest position Athenians
still calls him

the title
although he knows
Ion's lack of a more elaborate and sizeable identity also reflects itself in his complete
polemarchos.13
vase painting. Admittedly,
to identify Ion on one of
Erika Simon has proposed
absence from Athenian
nature of this identi
the completely
but she herself recognises
the fa?ades of the Parthenon,
speculative
fication.14 It is therefore not surprising that cultic worship of Ion is only attested twice in Athens.15
What
Not

in fact Herodotus

the monarchy;

and postdates

stratarches,

to our set of questions


in response
say about this genealogy
regarding propaganda?
can be made. Smarczyk has attrac
but some observations
since we have little evidence,

can we

that much,

between
that the relationship
suggested
struggle for Salamis in the time of Solon.16 We
tively

Athenians

and Ionians

played

a role

in the Athenian

need not follow

reconstruc
his, necessarily,
speculative
our
for
which,
background
genealogy,
together with the
of 580-570,
fits
the
decades
of
the
sixth
early
perfectly
century. The
his
in
to
well
have
order
then, may
support the Athenian
genealogy
proposed

forms
tion, but his suggestion
proposed date for the Katalogoi
poet of the Katalogoi,
territorial claims.

an excellent

and linguistic
that Ionia was colonized
there are strong archeological
from
arguments
Although
that Homer, when equating Athenians
with Ionians,
there is no need to assume
recorded a
Athens,
to the impor
the relevant verses are probably a testimony
of the Ionians.17 Rather,
collective memory
tance of Athens

as a locale

the Katalogoi

similarly,
not actually composed
place at great festivals,

for epic performances


before Homer became definitively
fixed in writing;
to Athenian
also owe their Athenian
references
if the poem was
recitation,
as Martin West
in Athens,
has suggested.18
Epic recitations must have taken

will

such as the predecessor


of the Panathenaea
before it became reconstructed
in the
so
new
These
often
of
the
sixth
festivals
drew
visitors
from
middle
abroad and
the
century.
genealogy
was probably aimed not only at the Athenians
but also at the immediate neighbours,
who were partners
in the conflict about Salamis.
It is not

that easy

the success

to reconstruct
the relative

of the genealogy.
In any case, in Athens
it was not
to Ion. Regarding
the Ionians, it is impossible
to

few references

considering
reactions to the new genealogy,
say anything about sixth-century
that in the fifth century various Ionians were called
connection

overwhelming,

but it has not yet been observed


in this
to
most
mention
the
have,
only
s.v.
Ion
and
the
immortalised
(OCD3
2)
rhapsode Ion of Ephesos,
by
It fits in with this onomastic
observation
that Herodotus
says
explicitly

the poets Ion of Chios


famous,
Plato's homonymous
dialogue.
Ionians took their name
that the Asiatic

from Ion (7.94,

Ion. We

8.44).

11But see A.
Heubeck, 'ZumNamen der "Icove?',M?nchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 48 (1987) 139-148; less
sceptical, C. J. Ruijgh, Scripta Minora I (Amsterdam, 1991) 268.
12 J.
March, The Creative Poet (London, 1987) 157-159; R. Janko, The Iliad: A Commentary IV (Cambridge, 1992) 14.
13
Jacoby on Hellanikos FGrH 323a F 23; P. J. Rhodes, A Commentary on theAristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford,
1981) 100 (Her. 8.44.2; Thuc. 2.15.1; Philochoros FGrH 328 F 13 etc.).
14 E.

Simon,

15 Sunium
E. Kearns,
16

LIMC

(Basel,

1990)

Classical

Dictionary3,

Untersuchungen,

374-378.

'Ion', Oxford

Smarczyk,

V.l

s.v.

'Ion'.

(above) and IG I3 383.147-149. This hardly makes him 'a central figure' inAthenian cult, as is suggested by
763.

17For the
problem see now the subtle discussion by R. Osborne, Greece in theMaking (London, 1996) 33-37.
18
The
Hesiodic Catalogue, 169-171.
West,

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J. Bremmer

12

role in Athens'
in the sixth century,
history was of limited importance
to judge his place in the fifth century, when he twice plays a noteworthy
run 'boun
role, viz. on two identical Samian inscription and in Euripides'
tragedy Ion. The inscriptions
at
to
once
were an
Ion
I3
sacred
Athens'
The
of
the
stones
marker
(IG
1496).
precinct belonging
dary
thesis of an export of Athenian
cults to its colonies
in order to
important argument for John Barron's

we

established
Having
are now in a better

that Ion's

situation

Barron's
has been refuted by
cults.19 However,
dating of the relevant inscriptions
unifying
argued that the inscriptions must date from the period after suppressing
Smarczyk, who has persuasively
are part of a series of boundary markers, which have
the Samian revolt, around 439.20 The inscriptions
and Kos, of which
the majority mentions
been found in Samos, Chalcis, Aegina
'Athena (who rules
propagate

As was the case


1502). They all, therefore, stress the Athenian
Athens)'
provenance.
(IG I3 1481-99,
as
ones
an
marked
the land
the property of
absentee
with other boundary stones, the Samian
landlord, an
one
of Ion's Athenian
makes
wonder
hero (or god). The explicit mention
whether
Athenian
the
origin
from the Samians themselves.
In any case, the stress on the
hero had not acquired some form of worship
to personify
it likely that Ion was meant
character of the other gods and heroes makes
Athenian
here the
on
ancestor
not
and
the
Ionians
their
Athenian
'an
der
der
the
of
Einheit
Ionier
erinnernde
dependence
Heros'.21

the traumatic revolt of its allies,


of a century later, in 412/11, Athens
experienced
now realised that their only hope for survival
of Samos. The Athenians
with the exception
lay in their
clear in 411, when the protagonist
of Aristopha
alliance with the Ionians. This change of heart becomes
a quarter

About

nes' Lysistrata
together 'all the states which are colonies of this land' (582). But the
speaks of bringing
next year, 410, the strategical and political
situation had taken a turn for the better and in his Ion Euripi
to proclaim
the ancestral
role of Athens
the Ionians.22
In his
des once again used the myth
regarding
now
ancestor
of
all
the
became
the
of
Ion
real
father
the
whereas
his
Patroos,
Ionians,
Apollo
tragedy
was
to
demoted
become
Ion's brother by the mortal
the ancestor of the Dorians,
paternal uncle Doros,
who equally
Xouthos,
a
divine ancestor
such

was demoted
- how could

and is no longer a son of Hellen


{Ion, 292, 1297, 1589-94). With
not support Athens! One last time, the myth of Ion was

the Ionians

claims.
put at the service of the Athenian
There are no parallels for this version of the Ion myth and there is no reason to deny this innovation
to Euripides,
since it seems very much determined
by the situation of 410.23 At the same time, this
to make this particular version attractive. Subsequent
moment
in history was too exceptional
generations
to keep a modest
in
the
hearts
of
the
did not accept
Athenians.
His cult
it, but Ion continued
place
alive

remained

and his name

remained

popular well

into the Roman

period.24 The
in the succeeding

Ionians, on the other


centuries. The name

from Athens
themselves
hand, seem to have distanced
completely
to be relatively popular in the fourth and third centuries. For example,
and the figure of Ion continued
the second half of the fourth century an Ion of Samos added an epigram to the Delphian monument
after the battle

Lysander

of Aegospotami

and Hermocles

even gave

of Chios

a public

speech

in
for

on Ion in

19 J. P.
Aegina',
20

Barron, 'Religious Propaganda of theDelian League', JHS 84 (1964) 35-48 and 'The Fifth-Century Horoi of
ibidem 103 (1983) 1-12.

Smarczyk, Untersuchungen, 58-153 (with extensive bibliographies), who is followed by Parker, Athenian Religion,
144f.
21 Contra
Smarczyk, Untersuchungen, 134. Parker, Athenian Religion, 145 well speaks of the 'grim propriety' of the
dedication of the confiscated land to the 'herowho symbolized their duties to the native city'.
22 For

the date

see

the elegant

argument

of R. Klimek-Winter,

'Euripides

in den

dramatischen

Agonen

Athens.

Zur

Datierung des Ion', Gymnasium 103 (1996) 289-297.


23 We

know

next

to nothing

of Sophocles'

Ion and Creusa,

cf. W.

Luppe,

ZPE

67

(1987)

1-3.

24 Cult: IG II24711. Name: M. J. Osborne and S. G.


Byrne, A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names II (Oxford, 1994) s.v.
Ion.

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Myth

as Propaganda:

Athens

13

and Sparta

the name became very rare in Ionia, although


to change the name of his birthplace
to Ionopo
tradition that Strabo tells us that
of Ion from the Ionian onomastic

In imperial times, however,


still requested the emperor

late third-century Delphi.25


of Abounoteichos
Alexander

lis.26 It fits this gradual disappearance


'Ionia was called after the Ionians, just as Attica was named Ionia after Ion the son of Xouthos'
(8.7.1);
the latter detail is slightly elaborated
later, when he says that in early times Attica was called Ionia and
In other words,
Ionia and Ion had become
las from the Iaones (Strabo 9.1.5).
fully separated by the
Ionians.

2. Kresphontes
Let us now move

from

for Athens

Whereas

we

to the dimly lit traditions of Sparta.


transparent world of Athens
on
rely
early testimonies,
Spartan tradition often comes to us via
for Messenia
the picture is even further complicated
Moreover,
by its

the relatively
could mostly

picture of Pausanias.
to
the Spartans in the course of the 8th century, its liberation in 371 and the new foundation
subjugation
in 369. Yet some figures are just mentioned
of
Messene
often enough to be of a certain use
of the city
to dominate
its allies, Sparta had conquered Messenia
Athens only managed
at
for our purpose. Whereas
the refracted

an early stage in its history.


Its relationship with Messenia
therefore was different and this difference
reflects itself in the second figure I want to discuss here, the Messenian
king Kresphontes.
about the relevant traditions has been
As was the case with Ion, in recent years our knowledge
and Michigan,
Euripides'
slightly enlarged. As a result of papyri from Oxyrhynchus
tragedy Kresphon
tes is now more than the few gnomai it was in the time of Nauck's
collection
of Euripidean
fragments.27
on the period of the return of the
to have written
is the only known
Although
tragedian
Euripides
we

do have now

some insight into Spartan and Messenian


of
myth before the independence
can
over
a
trace
the
if
Athenian
and
thus
Messenia,
eyes,
myth
through
longer period of time. We
as the Ion, but it seems fairly certain that it was
cannot date the Kresphontes
with the same precision
we cannot with any certainty connect
first between
430 and 424.28 Unfortunately,
the play
produced
with the impact of some of the dramatic events of that particular period, such as the Spartan defeat at
Heraclids,

even

Pylos in 425.
of Kresphontes?
The myth is part of the complex of the return of the Heraclids,
the
territorial
claim of the Spartans in the Peloponnesus.
We need not here
legitimated
the historical background
of the myth, but it is sufficient for us that it established
the Spartans as

So what
the myth
discuss

is the myth

which

was

new arrivals.29

probably part of epic poems, as seems suggested by Herodotus


(6.52), and
area
the P?loponn?se
and then divided
the
between
them by casting
conquered
in varying ways in his T?menos and Temenidai,
lots. Euripides
relates this division
of which
the content
due to new papyri.30 In the Temenidai
has also become
clearer in recent decades
it is Oxylus who
Thetory
the Heraclids

told how

divides

into three parts, of which


the eldest son T?menos
received
the best part (the
and the sons of Aristodemus
on the other
In
the
T?menos,
Sparta.

the P?loponn?se

Argolid),

Messenia,

Kresphontes

25 Name

of

Ion: P. M.

Fraser

and E. Matthews,

A Lexicon

of Greek

Personal

Names

I (Oxford,

1987)

s.v.

Ion; L.

Robert, Opera Minora Selecta V (Amsterdam, 1989) 233 n. 7; H. Solin, Die stadtr?mischen Sklavennamen II (Stuttgart,
1996) 364. Ion of Samos: P. A. Hansen, Carmina epigraphica Graeca II (Berlin and New York, 1989) no. 819.5, 13; A.
Cameron, The Greek Anthology from Meleager to Planudes (Oxford, 1993) 1 note 3 (date). Hermocles: S7G3.579 = FD
III.3.224, cf. A. Chaniotis, Historie undHistoriker inden griechischen Inschriften (Stuttgart, 1988) 304f.
26 Luc. Alex.
58, cf. L. Robert, A travers l'AsieMineure (Paris, 1980) 408^14.
27 See now A.
Harder, Euripides' Kresphontes and Archelaos (Leiden, 1985); Collard et al, Euripides. Selected Frag
mentary
28

Plays

I, 121-147.

Harder,

Euripides'

Kresphontes,

3f.

29 See most
recently I.Malkin, Myth and Territory in the Spartan Mediterranean (Cambridge, 1994) 33-45.
30 See
especially Annette Harder, 'Euripides' T?menos and Temenidai', in H. Hoffman and eadem (eds.), Fragmenta
dram?tica (G?ttingen, 1991) 117-135, whose reconstruction of the two plays I here follow.

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J. Bremmer

14

and the sons of Aristodemus


by lot Messenia
Sparta, after they had volun
an
to T?menos.
The whole procedure
is
if neglected,
interesting,
testimony
son
area
an
as
the
eldest
and
the
of
of
lots,
Zeus, Posei
dividing
by
just
position

receives
hand, Kresphontes
the Argolid
tarily conceded
for both

the important
don and Hades did, when

the universe between


them.31
dividing
there is mention
of some injustice
In the case of the Temenidai

done to the sons of Aristodemus,


but
at
kind
of
could
What
have
occurred
this very point.
the papyrus stops
injustice
during the casting of the
to
in Athenian
this
division.
When
in his Ajax Sophocles
lots appears from the third allusion
tragedy
came
man
to
lot
he
and
without
when
man, by
orders, having thrown in
says: 'And again
against Hector,
a token (i.e. into a helmet)
that was no runaway, no lump of wet earth, but one that was bound to leap
first out of the helmet?'
relate how
last would

(1283-7),

of the Peloponnesus.
Later sources
The man whose
lot would come out

he clearly refers to the division


put lots in an urn filled with water.

the three competitors


the best part, viz. Messenia.

threw in a clod of earth which dissolved


in
Kresphontes
lots came out first and we may safely assume
that at that point

receive

the other two


Naturally,
claimed
Messenia.32
Kresphontes
It is obscure at what precise moment
the water.

in time this myth was created, but the allusions


in Sophocles
in the fifth century. This knowledge
show that it was well known in Athens
also extended
and Euripides
in fifth-century Miletus
and in fourth-century
to Ionia, where
(5/G3.58)
(IGBulg 1.449), its
Apollonia
name
in
of
the
Messenian
occurred
the founders of
the
Neleids,
memory
surely
Kresphontes
colony,
on
will
Greek
have
focussed
attention
of
the myth of Kresphontes
Connoisseurs
Miletus.33
mythology
in the course

War. The message


of this version
the Peloponnesian
said to have derived from the sons of Aristodemus,

of

is clear:

the Spartans, whose


were wrongly
cheated of the
of the myth of the division
of the P?lo

was

double monarchy
rule of Messenia.

It is noteworthy
versions
that in fifth-century
in any way. It is only Herodotus
is never claimed by the Spartans
a woman
had married
called Argeia. This close
that Aristodemus

the Argolid
ponn?se
8.131) who mentions

(6.52f. 7.204,
connection
of

to the period after the battle of Sepeia (about 495 B.C.) and
and Argos most naturally belongs
in the sixth century, if not earlier.34
firmly locates the cheating of Kresphontes
comes in. As
had to end badly as well, and here Euripides'
This bad beginning
tragedy Kresphontes
in Apollodorus'
accounts
and Hyginus'
in that
Carl Robert already saw, Euripides'
tragedy is reflected
Sparta

Kresphontes
third, Aepytus,

was murdered

who

escaped

himself

by his brother Polyphonies,


and returned in order to avenge

also had killed

two of his

sons; only the


the kingdom:35
in a typi
Merope,
during a sacrifice.36

and to reclaim

who had married his widow


cally Euripidean way, he killed Polyphonies,
does
indeed confirm, as we now know from a more recently published
of Kresphontes
The prologue
and married his widow
slew Kresphontes
(fr. 66 A, fr.l, 2 Harder).
papyrus, that Polyphontes
it likely that he was not a fixed charac
into Aepytus makes
The change of name of young Kresphontes
to alter the names of
ter in the Spartan-Messenian
for Greek myth
tradition, since it is not customary

31 For more

Medea

the names

males;

significant

examples

are often much

of females

see Bremmer,

kill

'Why did Medea

less stable. This

her brother

Apsyrtus?',

possibility

in J. Clauss

even

becomes

and S. I. Johnston

(eds.),

(Princeton, 1997) 83-100, esp. 91; add the division of Argos between 3 sons of Phoroneus inHellanikos FGrH 4 F

36.
32
Euripides'

2.8.4;
Apollod.
T?menos.

33 L.

35
follow

the various

of a Spatial

7.170ff.

in Bremmer,

Organisation',

Apollod. 2.8.5; Hyginus, Fab.


Marriage:

add

of Bursian,

which

this example

Paus.

4.3.3

see C. Ca?ame,

Interpretations

of Greek

Sacrifice:

Bremmer,

'Modi

different

and

is closer

to the version

'Spartan

Mythology,

the Mythological

Genealogies:
153-186.

were

to similar

apparently
marriages

di communicazione

con

of

Repre

137. Note that themodern editions of Hyginus by Rose (1933) andMarshall


overlooked
between

Bremmer, Interpretations of Greek Mythology, 47; M. Finkelberg,


316.

is somewhat

(Paris, 1938) 200.

of Sparta

constructions

genealogical

the emendations
36

Ilias

Robert, Etudes ?pigraphiques et philologiques

34 For
sentation

1.6; Schol.

Polyaenos

il divino:

(1993)

by Robert.
a successor

and

the widow

of

the previous

sovereign

'Royal Succession inHeroic Greece', CQ 41 (1991) 303


la preghiera,

la divinizazione

e il sacrificio

greca', in S. Settis (ed.), / Greci I:Noi e iGreci (Turin, 1996) 239-283, esp. 269.

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nella

civilt?

in

Myth

as Propaganda:

and Sparta

Athens

15

of Euripides'
that none of the names of the protagonists
play
Polyphon
- is attested in
sources. The conclusion,
and young Kresphontes
therefore,
independent
this
has
that
invented
tradition.37
itself
mythological
suggests
Euripides
used this mytho
the precise content of the play and to what extent Euripides
We cannot reconstruct
its recent invention,
and presumably
However,
despite
propaganda.
logical plot for contemporary
when

probability,
ies, Merope

we

observe

taken up by the Messenians


after their
of its anti-Spartan
content, the play was enthusiastically
were
new
to recon
in the fourth century,38 when they
return and
searching for material
independence
was still precarious,
their own past. As their independence
struct
'invent' would be a better word
was
state
to
connect
recent
of Arcadia. Kresphontes
the myth with the
federal
they used the occasion

because

was
of Arcadian
and young Kresphontes
the daughter of King Kypselos
Basilis,
given a new wife,
an
old Arcadian hero.39 The construction
after
renamed Aepytus
firmly dates this version of the myth to
must have been looking for a recognisable
the early 360s when Messene
past and the Arcadian
league
had not yet disintegrated.40
(DS 15.66), the Arcadians

tells us that during the 'inauguration'


in 369
of Messene
sacrificial victims, and the Messenians
had invoked their own

In fact, Pausanias
had produced

and Aepytus
It seems reason
them, Kresphontes
amongst them (4.27.6).
us
that Aepytus
able to suspect that the full Messenian
killed his
myth is visible in Pausanias, who tells
in Messenia
and 'won over the governing men
father's murderers
and
the
courtesies
by
people by
were called the clan of the children of
so respected
that his descendants
and became
presents,
Aepytus
tr.
was
The
of
rather than of Herakles'
P.
further
enhanced
Levi).
(4.3.8,
importance
Aepytus
by making
to return and live with

heroes

one of his descendants

hero Aristomenes

the national Messenian

(Paus. 4.5.4).
senior had ever been an original Messenian
It is very doubtful whether Kresphontes
hero. There are
no indications
for such an origin, and the fact that the temple of Triopas'
(the
daughter Messene
were exhi
and the other kings of Messene
'hall of fame'), where paintings of Kresphontes
Messenian
and Spartan heroes,41 makes
this even improbable.42 Nevertheless,
it is
mostly Homeric
clear that, together with the play of Euripides he, too, was enthusiastically
embraced by the Messenians,
more
lack
of
national
heroes.
Like
he was invoked during the
other,
impressive
by
presumably
Aepytus,
contained

bited,

of Messene
and one of the Messenian
tribes was named after him (IG V.l. 1433, 1.40).
'inauguration'
over a long period of time. In the
His memory
remained alive in Messenia
of the second
beginning
era
were
the
Christian
Messenians
still
of
even
named after him (IG V.l. 1469), and
in the third
century
the sacred council

century
Artemis

of elders

of Oupesia,
state officials
responsible
traced its descent from Kresphontes.43
did not go unanswered
mythological
propaganda

The Messenian
Isocrates'

that the Messenians

murdered

young Spartan
sons escaped the assassination
and offered
of the 'city' and the various references
iar mention

His

of females:

Bremmer,

Interpretations,

45.

in the oration

Protagonists:

to the peace

differently

Harder,

congress

Euripides'

considers the possibility of 'un otherwise unknown local myth', which is also accepted by P. M?ller,
s.v. Kresphontes

of 366 firmly

9, who

Kresphontes,

in LIMC VI. 1 (1992)

II.

38 D. Asheri, 'La
diaspora e il ritorno dei Messeni',
(Como, 1983) 27-42.
39

and the cult of

in Sparta. In his Archidamos


'the founder of their city'.
Kresphontes,
the rule of the land to the Spartans (6.22, 31). The pecul

relates

37 Names

for the temple

inMessene,

Ortheia

Griechische

Robert,

674; Harder,

Heldensage,

in E. Gabba (ed.), Tria Corda. Scritti in onore di A. Momigliano

Euripides'

54; add Paus.

Kresphontes,

8.29.5.

40 Cf. J.
Roy, 'Thebes in the 360s B.C.', inD. Lewis et al (eds.), Cambridge Ancient History2 (Cambridge, 1994) 187
208.
41 Paus.
42 This
32,

esp.

suggested

4.31.11
was

14f. E.

= J.
Frey-Br?nnimann,

already
Schwartz,

that Euripides'

seen,

in LIMC

in a perceptive

'Tyrtaios',
Kresphontes

Hermes
combated

V.l

(1992),

study, by B. Niese,
34 (1899)
428-468,
the version

s.v. Kresphontes
'Die ?lteste
esp.

of Isocrates

449

I, no.

Geschichte
not

only

1.
Messeniens',
does

not mention

Hermes
Niese,

26

(1891)

but

he

1
also

and Plato.

43 SEG

23.215-217, cf. P. G. Themelis, 'ArtemisOrtheia atMessene. The Epigraphical and Archaeological Evidence',
inR. H?gg (ed.), Ancient Greek Cult Practice from theEpigraphical Evidence (Stockholm, 1994) 101-122, esp. Ill, 115.

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J. Bremmer

16

use of
that the oration presupposes
the Messenian
date the oration to the period around 366. This means
- and thus confirms our
to
a
new
but
also
it
subvert
the myth
version.
attempts
dating
by introducing
can be gleaned from Nicolaus
More details about the Spartan counter-propaganda
Damascenus
(FGrH

90 F 31-34) and his source Ephoros (FGrH 70 F 116). They tell a slightly more sophisticated, presum
version that Aepytus
later story, in which
they add to the Messenian
got into
ably somewhat
eventually
and the people, just like his sons, until Sparta conquered Messenia
conflict with both the aristocracy
so no honour and wisdom
there!44
It is time to draw

some conclusions.

uses made

of their myths
that these myths
oral nature of myth made
seen

also

as an important

poetry

performed,
Ephoros

the cases

we have located the


of Ion and Kresphontes,
in particular
of time. We have identified
their respective
goals and
could be put to different goals in different moments
of time. Evidently,
the
In the case of Ion, we could also identify
it into a very flexible
instrument.
Taking
moments

of mythical
The occasions
the poetry was
propaganda.
during which
to
have
the
of
lent
claims
the
but
Isocrates and
festivals,
authority
poetry,
and public orations became new areas of propa
that in later times historiography
medium

must

religious
demonstrate

are often impor


of the opponent
the argument from chronology
(Ion as ances
propaganda, Greek myth employed
as
reactors
The
the
could
be
of
of
and
defamation
allies
cheat).
tor)
(Kresphontes
propaganda
potential
was not always accepted
but the propaganda
at face
(the Ionians) or present foes (the Messenians),
value. We have seen that the Ionians for a time accepted Ion but in due course rejected their Athenian
ganda. As in modern
tant parts of political

times, where

historical

rights

and bad behaviour

had appropriated
but completely
transformed
the Spartan myth of
the
of
despite
solemnity
religious poetry mythical
Evidently,
propaganda was always up
Kresphontes.
not
the
various
of
the
of
versions
Last
but
demonstrate
that at
for negotiation.
least,
myth
Kresphontes
could be produced at very short notice. We may think
least in the fourth century myth and counter-myth
ancestor,

whereas

of public

relation

the Messenians

as modern

offices

inventions,

but Greek

demonstrates

history

that the manipulation

of

public opinion has a long tradition.


Let us conclude with a more general observation.
will
themselves
the category
'myth', but the Greeks
term. In a very
the contours
late acquires

is our modern

myth

very
logos.45 Unlike

only

we must

keep

I would

the existence
of
'Myth as argument' presupposes
as history;
have thought of the discussed myths
recent book Claude Ca?ame has rightly stressed that Greek mythos
of our term

not draw

Ca?ame,
in mind that it is a modern

'myth'
the conclusion

concept:

and

in classical

that therefore

for the Greeks

is not yet opposed


to
not
but
does
exist,
'myth'

times
our

themselves

part of what we

call myth

is what they called history. Mythical history or historical myth is, what the Egyptologist JanAssmann
over the normal
has a 'Sinndeutung'
'Zweckbedeutung'.
as Assmann
is often closely
'cultural memory'
This so-called
of
connected,
observes, with questions
often entails the loss of a people's
national identity, since loss of independence
'cultural memory'.46
is clearly illustrated by the prominence
of originally
This process
in the
Spartan mythical
figures
'das kulturelle

has called,

Ged?chtnis',

which

in the course of the Spartan domination


the Messenians
had lost
mythology.
Evidently,
we
no
have
further
their own mythological
but
it
would
be
information,
past. Unfortunately,
interesting
or whether
to know whether
this past had gradually disappeared
the Spartans had eradicated
it by certain

new Messenian

measures,

for example

by eliminating

the Messenian

cultural

elite,

just as in the recent Bosnian

War

the

44 L.
Pearson, 'ThePseudo-History of Messenia and ItsAuthors', Historia 11 (1962) 397-426, esp. 405-407.
4^ C.
Ca?ame, Mythe et histoire dans l'antiquit? grecque (Lausanne, 1996); add now to his bibliography of the various
meanings

of myth,

J. J. M.

van Dijk,

"Ek

tcov u?6cov

ap?aaOai.

Greek

Fable

Theory

after Aristotle:

Characters

and Charac

teristics', in J. G. J. Abbenes et al (eds.), Greek Literary Theory after Aristotle. A Collection of Papers inHonour ofD. M.
Schenkeveld (Amsterdam, 1995) 235-258.
46 J.
Assmann, Das kulturelle Ged?chtnis (M?nchen, 1992); note also the reflections of O. G. Oexle, 'Memoria als
Kultur', in idem (ed.),Memoria als Kultur (G?ttingen, 1995) 9-78.

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Myth

monuments

of the Bosnian

Islamic

bombarded.47
purposefully
intensification
the
Conversely,

as Propaganda:

past were

Athens

systematically

17

and Sparta

destroyed

and even

the National

Library

in

Serajevo

the construction

of a new

League or Messenian
ancient Greek history.

Groningen,

Faculty

independence.

of Theology

of a new ethnic identity may entail


as in the cases of the Delian
'cultural memory',
als Argument',
then, touches upon important aspects of

of an alliance

or the revival

'Mythos

and Science

or the foundation

of an old

of Religion

47 For the destruction of the


Library see Th. Werner,
inOexle, Memoria als Kultur, 149-184.

Jan N. Bremmer

'Vernichtet und vergessen? B?cherverbrennungen

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imMittelalter',