The Returns of Odysseus: Colonization and Ethnicity

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Overview

This remarkably rich and multifaceted study of early Greek exploration makes an original contribution to current discussions of the encounters between Greeks and non-Greeks. Focusing in particular on myths about Odysseus and other heroes who visited foreign lands on their mythical voyages homeward after the Trojan War, Irad Malkin shows how these stories functioned to mediate encounters and conceptualize ethnicity and identity during the Archaic and Classical periods. Synthesizing a wide range of archaeological, mythological, and literary sources, this exceptionally learned book strengthens our understanding of early Greek exploration and city-founding along the coasts of the Western Mediterranean, reconceptualizes the role of myth in ancient societies, and revitalizes our understanding of ethnicity in antiquity.

Malkin shows how the figure of Odysseus became a proto-colonial hero whose influence transcended the Greek-speaking world. The return-myths constituted a generative mythology, giving rise to oral poems, stories, iconographic imagery, rituals, historiographical interpretation, and the articulation of ethnic identities. Reassessing the role of Homer and alternative return-myths, the book argues for the active historical function of myth and collective representations and traces their changing roles through a spectrum of colonial perceptions—from the proto-colonial, through justifications of expansion and annexation, and up to decolonization.

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Editorial Reviews

Peter Green
...Malkin has to cope with the fashion for "poetic reconstructions"....[He] argues...that current reconstructions are too arbitrary, too limited to modern preoccupations, and not ready enough to take into account the actualities of colonization and exploration when trying to make sense of the "myths of return"...
— The New Republic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520211858
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 370
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Irad Malkin is Professor of Ancient History at Tel Aviv University and author of Religion and Colonization in Ancient Greece (1987) and Myth and Territory in the Spartan Mediterranean (1994).

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Preface
Introduction 1
1 Contexts and Concepts 33
2 Sailing and Colonizing in the Sea of Returns 62
3 Ithaca and the Cult of Odysseus 94
4 The Odyssey's Alternatives: Ethnicity and Colonization in Epirus 120
5 Pithekoussai, Odysseus, and the Etruscans 156
6 Odysseus and Italy: A Peripheral Vision of Ethnicity 178
7 The Other Nostoi: Nestor, Epeios, Philoktetes, Trojan Siris 210
8 The Other Nostoi: Diomedes 234
App Homeric Issues 259
Bibliography 275
Index 315
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