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Migration in Greek Origin Stories and Oracular Tales: The Phocian ghost soldiers revisited

Abstract : According to Herodotus (8.27-28), the Thessalians and their allies with all their military power had undertaken an incursion into the Phocians’ area. During this conflict the Phocians had been locked up on Parnassus, and Tellias, a seer of Elis, suggested to them that 600 of the bravest Phocians should colour themselves and their armour with chalk and surprise the Thessalians at night-time. The Thessalians were frightened and lost. In scholarship the ruse of the chalk has often been put into a context of the Orphic-Dionysian complex of myths and rituals (Müller) and/or it has been considered as a representation of a dead army, having the function of a ruse (Weniger, Henrichs). In this perspective, it has mostly been interpreted as an initiation rite (Harrison, Jeanmaire, West). This paper explores instead the link with a complex of oracular tales predicting migration and people displacement. In these tales the appearance of birds marked by chalk misled and threatened people competing for a country to live in. The outcome marks the origin of this people so much so that these oracular tales functioned as origin stories.
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Submitted on : Friday, April 26, 2019 - 12:35:55 PM
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Elena Franchi. Migration in Greek Origin Stories and Oracular Tales: The Phocian ghost soldiers revisited. Mètis - Anthropologie des mondes grecs anciens, Daedalus/EHESS, 2017, N.S.15, pp.181-202. ⟨10.4000/books.editionsehess.4689⟩. ⟨halshs-02111961⟩



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