1st Edition

Euhemerism and Its Uses The Mortal Gods

Edited By Syrithe Pugh Copyright 2021
    346 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    346 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Euhemerism and Its Uses offers the first interdisciplinary, focussed, and all-round view of the long history of an important but understudied phenomenon in European intellectual and cultural history.

    Euhemerism – the claim that the Greek gods were historically mortal men and women – originated in the early third century BCE, in an enigmatic and now fragmentary text by the otherwise unknown author Euhemeros. This work, the Sacred Inscription, has been read variously as a theory of religion, an atheist’s manifesto, as justifying or satirizing ruler-worship, as a fantasy travel-narrative, and as an early ‘utopia’. Influencing Hellenistic and Roman literature and religious and political thought, and appropriated by early Christians to debunk polytheism while simultaneously justifying the continued study of classical literature, euhemerism was widespread in the middle ages and Renaissance, and its reverberations continue to be felt in modern myth-theory. Yet, though frequently invoked as a powerful and pervasive tradition across several disciplines, it is still under-examined and poorly understood.

    Filling an important gap in the history of ideas, this volume will appeal to scholars and students of classical reception, mediaeval and Renaissance literature, historiography, and theories of myth and religion. 


    Syrithe Pugh

    1. Gods in space and time: Callimachus and Euhemerus

    C. L. Caspers

    2. Euhemerism in Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

    Dalida Agri

    3. Lactantius’ Euhemerism and its reception

    Elizabeth DaPalma Digeser and Avery Barboza

    4. Grounding the gods: spreading geographical euhemerism from Servius to Boccaccio

    Amanda Gerber

    5. Mythography as ethnography. Euhemerism in Giovanni Boccaccio’s explications of Mercury in the Genealogie Deorum Gentilium Libri

    David Lummus

    6. Tracking Titan from Boccaccio to Milton: euhemerism and Tyrannomachy in the Renaissance

    Syrithe Pugh

    7. ‘Canonized bones’: Shakespeare, Donne, and the euhemeristic aesthetic in early modern England

    Ethan John Guagliardo

    8. Totus adest oculis? Approaching euhemerism in Ben Jonson, His Part of King James His Royal and Magnificent Entertainment, 1604

    Emma Buckley

    9. ‘The Sins of Euemeros against truth and honesty’: Indo-European Comparative Mythology versus Euhemerism in Victorian Britain

    Michael D. Konaris

    10. Frazer as euhemerist: he case of Osiris

    Robert A. Segal

    11. Between reception and deception: the perennial problem with euhemerism

    Nickolas P. Roubekas


    Syrithe Pugh is Reader in the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen. Her research focusses on the reception of classical literature during the Renaissance period.