The myth of the cicadas (Phaedrus, 259b5ff.) and that of the dying swans (Phaedo, 84e3ff.) occupy a special position among Plato’s myths, in that they are entirely the author’s invention, as scholars have often pointed out. However, both myths clearly draw from a rich poetic tradition that can be traced back as early as archaic epic. They have often been construed as mere interludes, and yet – whatever their relation with the Phaedrus and the Phaedo as a whole – they offer powerful images of the philosopher’s enthusiastic ‘song’ (i.e. dialectics) and of his Apollinean ‘busying-oneself-about-death’ (melete thanatou). By comparing Plato’s myths both with their poetic models and with Aristotle’s zoology, my paper will show how Plato’s cicadas and swans reveal an interesting blend of tradition and ‘science’. Almost certainly, Aristotle’s zoological interests date from before the time he went to Asia Minor. At the time of writing (or indeed revising) the Phaedo and the Phaedrus, I argue, Plato was aware of such interests, and by incorporating some zoological details into a rich poetic tradition he created a new hybrid, which I shall jokingly refer to as ‘ornitheology’ and ‘entomythology’. Both the Phaedo and the Phaedrus emphatically defend popular and mythological tradition against the rationalistic efforts of contemporary intellectuals: thus the Phaedo favourably (if implicitly) compares Aesop with Evenus (60c7ff.) and concludes with a myth that may be incredible for “an intelligent man” (114d), whereas in the Phaedrus Socrates makes a point of sticking to received mythology (229c5ff.) and reproaches his conceited companion for not knowing the story of the cicadas (259b5-6). Plato’s ‘ornitheology’ and ‘entomythology’ – I argue – can be seen as part of this anti-intellectualistic strategy, aiming at saving and rejuvenating the venerable tradition of mythology, including the Aeospic fable.
|Titolo:||Zoology into Legend Plato’s ‘Ornitheology’ and ‘Entomythology’|
CAPRA, ANDREA (Primo)
|Data di pubblicazione:||29-lug-2010|
|Parole Chiave:||animals ; Plato ; zoology ; Aristotle ; myth|
|Settore Scientifico Disciplinare:||Settore L-FIL-LET/02 - Lingua e Letteratura Greca|
|Citazione:||Zoology into Legend Plato’s ‘Ornitheology’ and ‘Entomythology’ / A. Capra. ((Intervento presentato al convegno The Celtic Conference in Classics. Panel: Animals in the Greek and Roman World tenutosi a Edinburgh nel 2010.|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||14 - Intervento a convegno non pubblicato|