Hesiod’s Theogony and analogist cosmogonies

Olaf Almqvist


Philippe Descola’s work on ontologies has created new possibilities for exploring the rich connections between creation myths and their ontological underpinnings. This has proven fruitful in studies of animist and totemist narratives whose myths often obsess with their respective ontological orientations. Analogist cosmogonies, however, remain more problematic. Descola argues that analogist ontologies are based upon a basic discontinuity between the diverse components of the cosmos. However, many analogist cosmogonic myths appear to depict a world based on continuity, kinship, and even monistic origins. While this discrepancy between ontological assumptions and cosmogonic myths may in some cases present a problem for Descola’s model, it does not invariably do so. In this essay I argue that at least Greece’s earliest cosmogonic myth, Hesiod’s Theogony, has little to do with a neatly unfolding harmony. Rather, Hesiod describes an inherently dangerous world composed of multiple and discrete elements in need of imposed order.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/708747