Euhemerus in context

Classical Antiquity 25 (2):211-242 (2006)
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Abstract

Euhemerus, the famous theorist on the nature of the gods who lived around 300 BC, has usually been discussed as a disembodied intellectual figure, with scholars focusing on his literary and philosophical sources and influence. Although he is called “Euhemerus of Messene,” there is uncertainty as to where he was born, lived, and worked, in particular whether he came from Sicilian or Peloponnesian Messene. Until now, the conquests of Alexander the Great and the establishment of the Successor Kingdoms have been considered the only context for Euhemerus. This paper will draw upon literary, historical, and archaeological evidence to argue that Euhemerus belongs in a Sicilian context. The long history of the worship of rulers in Sicily from the oikistai to the tyrants of Syracuse, the wealth of Sicily, the proximity of the Lipari Islands, the multiethnic milieu of Sicily with its vigorous interaction and syncretism, all contributed to Euhemerus' experiences and thought. We suggest that centuries of Sicilian cultural and political experience, not merely the “phenomenon” of Alexander the Great and the dawn of the Hellenistic Age, provided the impetus to the ideas of Euhemerus, and that Euhemerus brought this Sicilian contribution to bear on the new problems of the wider world

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