How Philosophers Saved MythsAllegorical Interpretation and Classical Mythology

How Philosophers Saved MythsAllegorical Interpretation and Classical Mythology

Luc Brisson

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226075358

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This study explains how the myths of Greece and Rome were transmitted from antiquity to the Renaissance. The book argues that philosophy was ironically responsible for saving myth from historical annihilation. Although philosophy was initially critical of myth because it could not be declared true or false and because it was inferior to argumentation, mythology was progressively reincorporated into philosophy through allegorical exegesis. The book shows to what degree allegory was employed among philosophers and how it enabled myth to take on a number of different interpretive systems throughout the centuries: moral, physical, psychological, political, and even metaphysical. This book also describes how, during the first years of the modern era, allegory followed a more religious path, which was to assume a larger role in Neoplatonism. Ultimately, the book explains how this embrace of myth was carried forward by Byzantine thinkers and artists throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance; after the triumph of Christianity, the book argues, myths no longer had to agree with just history and philosophy but the dogmas of the Church as well.