HAU

Twin-born with greatness: the dual kingship of Sparta

Marshall Sahlins

Abstract


This article examines the comparative configurations of diarchy by means of an extended analysis of the Spartan dual kingship in ancient Greece. Twinned and inseparable, both human and divine, the Spartan kings were themselves descended from celestial twins, hence it is argued that the Spartan diarchy is an empirical instantiation of the king's two bodies – the dual kingship as an expression of sovereign twinship. The essay goes on to consider other royal twins of Greek mythology, one of whom was usually descended from a god, and argues that such myths of dynastic origin constitute a cosmology of sovereign right in which the Spartan myth of stranger-kings of divine descent was opposed to the Athenian ideology of autochthony.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau1.1.003