Euhemerus


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Euhemerus

(yo͞ohĕm`ərəs), fl. c.300 B.C., Cyrenaic philosopher, b. Sicily. He is famous for a theory of mythology embodied in his philosophical romance, Sacred History, a work of which only fragments remain. Euhemerus' theory, called after him euhemerism, was that the gods originated from the elaboration of traditions of distinguished historical persons. His theory was consistent with the attempts of his period to explain religious beliefs in terms of naturalism.
References in periodicals archive ?
Brown, 'Euhemerus and the historians', Harvard Theological Review, 39, 4 (1946): 259-74; Franco De Angelis and Benjamin Garstad, 'Euhemerus in context', Classical Antiquity, 25, 2 (2006): 211-42.
Although he includes Ennius' minor works (worthwhile, as they have received no commentary since Vahlen), he subtracts the fragments of Euhemerus because they are probably prose (but still have no new commentary, although they need it), just as he omits the fragments of Accius' Didascalica, which, prose or not - and who can tell?
A theory held by the 4th-century-BC Greek mythographer Euhemerus that the gods of mythology were but deified mortals.
Another feature of Hellenistic Utopias is that they were commonly located at the edges of the earth - either far off among the Scythians or in a legendary land like the Meropis of Theopompus(53) or the Happy Land of Iambulus.(54) Euhemerus located his Utopia, the Sacred Isles (modelled on Homer's Phaeacia) well beyond South Arabia and near to Ocean.(55) The fact that the Brahmans likewise lived at the edges of the known earth made them a natural vehicle for Utopian ideas.(56) In fact, as the edges of the known world receded, the Brahmans moved to follow them: once the Ganges was better known, writers began to locate them on the Ganges and not at Taxila at all,(57) and in Christian writers they are found to be the last stop before the Earthly Paradise.(58)
The reverse of this belief was Euhemerus's doctrine, as explained by Lactantius, "that the gods, one and all, are nothing but mortal beings who have been raised from earth to heaven through the idolatry of their contemporaries."(56) Cicero restated it thus: "Human experience moreover and general custom have made it a practice to confer the deification of renown and gratitude upon distinguished benefactors.
It is thought Euhemerus was born at Messina, though some claim he was born at Chios, Tegea, or Messene in the Peloponnesus.
By the second century A.D., as he proceeds to demonstrate, the persistence of such controversy - over Odysseus' account of his wanderings, for instance, or the logs of Pytheas and Euhemerus - had in fact encouraged several authors to claim attention for their prose fiction by adopting the format of the explorer's tale.
Finally, there are seven appendices dealing with (I) the cult of the heroes in the Supplicatio, (II) the role of Orpheus in apologetic literature, (III) Euhemerus, (IV) the relationship between Athenagoras and Origen, (V) Galen's theory of digestion, (VI) bipartition and tripartition of the human body and (VII) the quotations from Scripture and their sources.
Myths are also preserved in the Homeric hymns and in fragments of epic poems on the Trojan War; in lyric poems, especially those composed by Pindar; in the works of the tragedians of the 5th century BC, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age (330-23 BC), such as Callimachus, Euhemerus, and Apollonius of Rhodes; and in writers of the time of the Roman Empire, for example, Ovid, Plutarch, and Pausanias.
The influence of philosophy in ancient Greece led to allegorical views of myth or to the historical reductionism of Euhemerus (fl.