Leucippides in Greek myth: abductions, rituals and weddings
This project focuses on the myth of the Leucippides. The two daughters of the Messenian king Leucippus, occasionally identified as Phoibe and Hilaeira, are mostly known for being abducted by the Dioscuri in a secondary episode of the Dioscuri’s life. Their story is short and lacking in details, but it has a huge potential for an interdisciplinary approach meant to highlight the relevance and diversity of uses of an allegedly minor myth. The sources available are limited in number but span the sixth – possibly seventh – century BC to the Imperial age and are spread throughout Greece and Magna Graecia. It is doubtless a persistent and widespread myth. I have chosen an innovative transversal approach, rarely used in the field, to pursue the clearest and most complete picture of the Leucippides possible given the current state of knowledge. All primary sources – ranging from poetry to historiography, epigraphy, visual arts and archaeology – have been considered. Every source has been analysed in its individuality, against its cultural backdrop and, finally, in relation to the others. This research pursues a better understanding of the story of the Leucippides. At its core, my study aims to take a step further than the mere collection and description of all sources available; my goal is the identification of the meanings and ways of use of our myth in different contexts in the Greek world and, where possible, the recognition of larger trends that bypassed geographical boundaries. In particular, the present research investigates the relationship between the myth of the Leucippides and its wider social and cultural context, inside the society in which it appears, taking into due account the different times and places. I analyse a series of points of interest that isolate the Leucippides from the backdrop of similar myths. The story of the Leucippides, in fact, contributes to the discussion of female identity-making processes in Greece, of active relationships between myth and society, of the cultural and exemplary nature of abduction stories and their connection to marriage, and of the transmission, geographical expansion and reception of myth in different contexts. This study is innovative in its approach to the entirety of sources available and unique in its reconstruction of a long-neglected myth and of its interaction with more articulated questions concerning society and culture. Given the large number of secondary characters in Greek myth and the limited pool of studies devoted to them so far, studies such as mine could serve as a model for others to follow. This study will be a stepping stone for further studies on the Dioscuri and Helen through the family and the thematic connections tying them to the Leucippides, but also for comparative approaches to abduction and related Indo-European myths.
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