The Symology Of Autochthony, By Vincent Rosivach

Decent Essays

Autochthony is a concept which centers around the original inhabitants of a land, being “sprung from the earth”. This concept was wildly popular in fourth and fifth century Ancient Greece and in Autochthony and the Athenians, Vincent Rosivach posits a threefold theory which places the development of the idea of autochthony much later than commonly attributed. His most powerful argument centers around the etymology of the word, providing a proper, thorough analysis of how the root-prefix is used in Greek to mean numerous things. The political argument Rosivach makes near the end of the paper makes sense on the surface, but ultimately ends up being unsatisfactory – raising numerous important questions about Athenian citizens and how they …show more content…

Preceding the logical argument around etymology is how autochthony ties into Greek myth, specifically through the serpent and later king Erechthens. What is particularly interesting is that the author claims that Athenians commonly referred to themselves as “coming from the earth” before the advent of Erechthens as a king of Attica (297). Rather than the word being crafted to fit the specific definition the author attributes to the 4th and 5th century Athenians, this seems to suggest that the word has a more malleable and complicated evolution than the author of the text suggests. Sources from this point in Greek history are notably scant and the author draws one of his primary sources for the origin of the word from Homer’s Iliad. However, at this point in Greek history, the Athenian identity is not as strong (the author even cedes autochthony is used to politically manipulate the populace), Homer is not necessarily representative of what all or even most Athenians at the time perceived the word to mean, and countless stories and language throughout Homer’s works were stories passed down orally. This creates an enormous amount of room for speculation and ultimately leads to a weak conclusion on this front by the author. The third and final part of the argument Rosivach makes centers around the political ramifications of autochthony in Athenian politics and society. He

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