Thetis and Cheiron in Thessaly

Kernos 22 (2009)
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Abstract

This article examines an area of Thessalian mythology and cult surrounding the figures of Thetis the Nereid and Cheiron the centaur. It argues that the pair derive a substantial amount of their characterisation, in ancient narratives, from their mutual association, and that only by studying them together can we receive a full insight into their mythological and religious personae. Thetis and Cheiron are shown to differ significantly with regard to a number of themes, such as their relationship with symbolic topography and the natural landscape of Thessaly and – most strikingly – their kourotrophic roles. Thetis’ strong association with ambiguous nurture is argued to connect with her physical conception, especially her association with the shape-changing sepia, cuttlefish, an association which involves her in the wider ancient discourse of unreliable female beauty. It is also shown that the Thetis of Homeric epic is significantly different from the Thetis found in other ancient narratives.Cet article étudie une partie de la mythologie et du culte thessaliens autour des figures de la Néréide Thétis et du centaure Chiron. Il montre qu’une part importante de leur caractéristiques, dans les récits anciens, provient de leur association et que c’est seulement en les étudiant ensemble qu’on prend la pleine mesure de leur dimension mythologique et religieuse. Thétis et Chiron présentent des différences substantielles sur un certain nombre de plans, tels que leur relation à la topographie symbolique et au paysage naturel de la Thessalie, et, de manière plus surprenante, leur rôle de courotrophes. L’association étroite entre Thétis et l’ambiguïté du nourrissage est mise en relation avec sa constitution physique et avec le sepia protiforme, le poulpe. Cette dernière association l’insère dans un ample discours ancien sur la duplicité de la beauté féminine. En outre, la Thétis de l’épopée homérique est fort différente de la Thétis que l’on trouve dans les autres récits anciens

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