Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Pushing the boundaries of myth: Transformations of ancient border wars in Archaic and Classical Greece
by Bershadsky, Natasha, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2013, 449; 3557392
Abstract (Summary)

The dissertation explores the phenomenon of long-running border wars, which are believed to have been ubiquitous in Archaic Greece. Two most famous confrontations are examined in depth: the war between Eretria and Chalcis over the Lelantine Plain, and the struggle between Sparta and Argos over the territory of Thyreatis. It is suggested that in the Archaic period these disputed territories were contested in recurrent ritual battles. The battles took place in the framework of peace agreement between the neighboring cities, so that the disputed territory constituted a sacred common space for the opposing cities. The participants in ritual battles belonged to the social class of hippeis, for whom the battles both expressed their local identity and reaffirmed the Panhellenic values, underlying aristocratic inter- polis ties. The ritual battles reenacted mythical destructive confrontations, which were imagined to result in death of all combatants; however, the ritual battle themselves, which were normally non-lethal, were led according to strict rules and represented the enactment of the hoplite ideal. The tradition of the aristocratic ritual battles began to break down in the middle of the sixth century, when, following the adoption of a more aggressive style of warfare, the border territories that had been ritually contested became annexed by one city-state. However, the myths of confrontations between neighboring cities did not lose their ideological power. In the Classical period, these myths constituted a contested ideological territory in the inter- and intra-polis struggles between democratic and oligarchic political camps. In particular, the myths about the confrontation between neighboring cities were adopted by democratic regimes as their foundational narratives.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hall, Jonathan
Commitee: Faraone, Christopher, Ferrari Pinney, Gloria, Slatkin, Laura
School: The University of Chicago
Department: Classics: Ancient Mediterranean World
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 74/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies, Classical Studies, Ancient history, Military history
Keywords: Borders, Greece, Lelantine, Myth and ritual, Oligarchic-democratic struggles, Ritual battles, Thyreatis
Publication Number: 3557392
ISBN: 978-1-303-00495-7
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