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Potent kings and antisocial heroes: lion symbolism and elite masculinity in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece

Potent kings and antisocial heroes: lion symbolism and elite masculinity in ancient Mesopotamia... AbstractIn the great kingdoms of ancient Mesopotamia, the king’s power was often evoked by means of lion symbolism. This has led scholars to conclude that lion motifs, and especially that of the lion-slaying hero, in early Greek art and literature were cultural borrowings from the more populous and urbanised civilisations to the east. Yet it is also notable that the Greek tradition, at least from the time of the Homeric poems, tended to problematise the ethics of the leonine man. This article explores the function of lion imagery in narratives of elite masculinity in western Asia and early Greece respectively. It will argue that Greek myth and epic reflect on and problematise any potential equation between lions and kingly prestige, power and masculinity, instead drawing attention to the savagery and social isolation of the lion-like man-of-power, and his difficulty in conforming to the expectations of civilised society. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Ancient History de Gruyter

Potent kings and antisocial heroes: lion symbolism and elite masculinity in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece

Journal of Ancient History , Volume 9 (1): 18 – Jun 26, 2021

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
ISSN
2324-8114
eISSN
2324-8114
DOI
10.1515/jah-2020-0021
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

AbstractIn the great kingdoms of ancient Mesopotamia, the king’s power was often evoked by means of lion symbolism. This has led scholars to conclude that lion motifs, and especially that of the lion-slaying hero, in early Greek art and literature were cultural borrowings from the more populous and urbanised civilisations to the east. Yet it is also notable that the Greek tradition, at least from the time of the Homeric poems, tended to problematise the ethics of the leonine man. This article explores the function of lion imagery in narratives of elite masculinity in western Asia and early Greece respectively. It will argue that Greek myth and epic reflect on and problematise any potential equation between lions and kingly prestige, power and masculinity, instead drawing attention to the savagery and social isolation of the lion-like man-of-power, and his difficulty in conforming to the expectations of civilised society.

Journal

Journal of Ancient Historyde Gruyter

Published: Jun 26, 2021

Keywords: lions; masculinity; kingship; Mesopotamia; Homeric

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