Stymphalos: Das Bild einer arkadischen Landschaft und ihrer Menschen in der antiken Literatur / Saskia Hoffmann

HoffmannThe Arcadian landscape and the town of Stymphalos mainly (and often uniquely) evoke an association with the myth of Heracles and his fight against the Stymphalian birds, who polluted Lake Stymphalia. This place on the Greek peninsula Peloponnese was not only mentioned by ancient authors because of the famous myth, as one of the twelve deeds of Heracles, but also due to other interesting aspects. For instance, Lake Stymphalia has particular hydrological features due to the karstic geology of the Peloponnese. As the result of a ponor (katavothre or sink hole), Lake Stymphalia varies in size seasonally. The lake water disappears through the sink hole in the ground, continues its course for a while and rises as the “new” river Erasinos near Argos.

This hydrological phenomenon is mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus for the first time. There are several myths, for example, Herakles and the Stymphalian birds; Artemis, the hunter and the deer; or Arethusa and Alpheios, which refer to certain features of the hydrological “behaviour” of the Lake. The latter two are connected with the goddess Artemis, who was worshipped as the deity of the polis Stymphalos in her own temple there, which is described by Pausanias. Furthermore, an extraordinary Hera cult, in which Hera was venerated in three aspects of a woman´s life: as an unmarried maiden (gr. Pais/Parthenos), as a wife (gr. Teleia) and as a divorced woman or widow (gr. Chera), was located and only existed at Stymphalos. Last but not least, the river cult of Metope, the main water suppliant of Lake Stymphalos, is worth mentioning.

Ancient Stymphalos, which is already referred to in the Homeric catalogue of ships among the Arcadian troops, who fought the Trojan War together with the other Greeks, was also the home town of two victors in the Olympic Games: Dromeus and Hagesias. Hagesias´ victory was eulogised by Pindar in a victory ode (epinicion), in which a frame of characteristic items of Stymphalos is elaborated along with his praise of Hagesias. This is why this ode, the Sixth Olympian, can be seen as a major text answering the question how the Stymphalos landscape is represented in its physiogeographic and human-geographic aspects.

The book by Saskia Hoffmann illustrates a mental picture of Stymphalos that can be deduced from the ancient literary sources that refer to this place. Methodically, this objective is achieved by the combination of philological text analysis and interpretation as well as its application to categories and criteria of geography and geology.

Saskia Hoffmann completed her PhD thesis in the framework of the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (GSC 208).

Hoffmann, Saskia: Stymphalos: Das Bild einer arkadischen Landschaft und ihrer Menschen in der antiken Literatur. Schriftenreihe altsprachliche Forschungsergebnisse 16. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovaç, 2020. 322 pages.

For the link to the publication please click here (Verlag Dr. Kovaç)


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