A Mythopoeic Glossary of the Latin Middle Ages, 350 to 1250 AD

153 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2014

Date Written: June 9, 2014


To study the tradition of Hellenistic myth and legend in the West is to study the development of principally figurative language in the literatures of its peoples; an appreciation of which figurative language cannot be fully realized without understanding the writers themselves and the historical and literary context in which they are writing. Hellenistic, or even Christian, myth and legend do not exist anywhere beyond the stories in which they appear, each of which only resonate in their own particular literary and historical context. This may seem obvious to a literary scholar but not so obvious to someone seeking for universal truths or archetypes in ancient legend. The search for universality in ancient legend which has dominated the study of myth in the last 100 years has unfortunately obscured and in many cases completely disregarded their linguistic foundations and importance in the historical development of human languages.

In antiquity , the vocabulary of myth and legend served as figurative language for a large variety of human activities as well as toward the comprehension of the natural world for a population with an extremely limited set of words and phrases to describe such events and activities. Indeed, the tremendous flowering of the written records of what is known as Greek myth and legend in the Archaic age, the works of Hesiod, Pindar, Homer, indicate that the Aegean peoples were beginning to explore the complexities of human existence and their place on the earth not through the signs and symbols handed down to them by Akkadian and Babylonian cultures but through the products of a unique literary language.

The Middle Ages inherited a number of methods of interpretation regarding Hellenistic myth from Antiquity. The myths and legends of antiquity were seen as (i) allegories of terrestrial elements and forces of Nature: Fire/Vulcan, Air/Juno, Sky/Juppiter, Water/Neptune, Earth/Terra, Underworld/Pluto; (ii) Cosmology, the names of the stars; (iii) moral etymology; their names reveal their morality; (iv) moral metaphorical; their descriptions and acts reveal their morality; (v) Euhemeristic, historical.

Keywords: Hellenistic Mythography, Medieval Latin, Late Antiquity

Suggested Citation

Killings, Steven, A Mythopoeic Glossary of the Latin Middle Ages, 350 to 1250 AD (June 9, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2447646 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2447646

Steven Killings (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

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