Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Politicians Knew Homer

In his article called 'The Logic of Cosmogony', Walter Burkert writes, in a passage regarding how ancients attempted to tell the tale about 'the beginning' of 'everything' (pp. 92-3):

The most common response...is: in the beginning there was Water. This is not limited to the ancient world: it is also reported from America, e.g. the Popol Vuh of the Quiche/ Maya. The Egyptians developed water-cosmogonies in diverse variants, having the yearly flood of the Nile before their eyes; but Enuma elish too has ground water and salt water, Apsu the begetter and Tiamat who bore them all, as the first parents of everything. Surprisingly enough, this recurs in the midst of Homer's Iliad with Oceanus and Tethys, 'begetting of everything'; this may be direct influence. (It was William Ewart Gladstone, better known as British Prime Minister, who first saw this connection.)

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