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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Indo-European Religious Background of the Gygēs Tale in Hērodotos


In his exposition to the story of Kroisos in the first book of his Histories, Hērodotos narrates the rise of the Mermnad dynasty of Lydia through an act of assassination and usurpation by their founder, Gygēs. Commentators on Hērodotos’s text have seemingly neglected the resonances between the tale of Gygēs and the ancient Eurasian religious ideology of the sacred marriage, which conceptualized sovereign power as a goddess wedded to a male sovereign. This paper seeks to place the Gygēs narrative within the context of Indo-European traditions of the sacred marriage, suggesting that its origins lie in historicized myth.


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