Euhemerus: Historical Science Fiction

Wednesday , 8, October 2014 Leave a comment

The Man, The Myth: The Zeus

Euhemerus was a 4th century B.C. Greek (by way of Sicily) thinker and mythographer who is best known for his idea that Greek myths had their origins in non-supernatural historic events. He was an atheist and wrote speculative romances (yes, fiction) that showed how – for example – Zeus was originally a powerful king of Crete, whose legend expanded after his reign, until he was mythologized to godhood.

Beowulf (8th cent. AD, referring to 6th century events) could be described, and was certainly viewed at the time of its telling, as an honest legend about the final scourging of mankind’s great external foe – the wicked dinosaurs and serpents – from the earth, and the terrible cost of such victory.

1600 years following Euhemerus, another great contributor to speculative romance, Snorri Sturluson, attempted to trace the origin of some of the Norse gods. In particular, he wondered if Odin might not have Midgardian origins in the form of a historic warlord.

I imagine that had Euhemerus continued to exist in spiritual form after his death (he certainly didn’t believe that he would) he would have either been scandalized or very amused to find that later Christian thinkers were very capable of using the atheist’s theory as apologetic in favor of the God of History. Furthermore, as seen in Beowulf and Sturluson, applied euhemerism doesn’t demand materialism: the supernatural abounds in such stories…yet it is framed as historical supernaturalism. In other words, the theory may suggest that Zeus may have been merely a man and an earthly king, but it would identify his imagined history as one who benefited from supernatural events.

When Gods Walk the Earth, Comic Books Abound

Pre-apocalyptic myths form fragments of history, not unlike the scraps at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls, after all, are most certainly historic, yet every last scholar who works seriously with them also speaks of their discovery, preservation and wealth with anti-materialist reverence.) The romance philosopher storytellers like Euhemerus and Sturluson try to do more than fill in the gaps of knowledge or connect the dots of reason – they, like master players of the Glass Bead Game, see victory in interconnectedness to an unseean source.

Like the dark energy that makes up 77% of the universe, there is a force unknown to the mortal mind, yet identified in the abstract by the Euhemerists, that is critical to the expansion of history. The world has suffered a catastrophe, and only the occasional nomad historian – the romantic storyteller – finds a fragment, hears a myth, and begins to make connections. If  before the Flood, there were giants, descendants of angels, a deep corruption, Civilization and a power of anti-civilization, and other powers in conflict over demonic territories…if there was cultural worship and cultural anti-matter, if society was locked between poles of ziggurats to the Image of Man and a plague of decline, and then, in cataclysmic rush it was all gone, what then?

How can anyone but the nomad romantic begin to piece it back together?

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