Giorgio de Santillana argued that mythology was not historical but cosmological (Hamlet’s Mill, 50):

“whatever is true myth has no historical basis, however tempting the reduction, however massive and well armed the impact of a good deal of modern criticism on that belief. The attempt to reduce myth to history is the so-called ‘euhemerist’ trend, from the name of Euhemeros, the first debunker. It was a wave of fashion which is now receding, for it was too simpleminded to last. Myth is essentially cosmological. As heaven in the cosmos is so vastly more important than our earth, it should not be surprising to find the main functions deriving from heaven. To identify them under a variety of appearances is a matter of mythological judgment, of the capacity to recognize essential forms through patient sifting of the immense amount of material.”

Is this a false choice? Wouldn’t the ancients have viewed history precisely as the unfolding of heavenly patterns?

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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