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Elysion and Egypt

Nanno Marinatos, A. Sebastian Anderson


The purpose of this paper is to present a novel synthesis of Archaic Greek cosmography and to highlight the role of the Near East—and especially Egypt—in the formation of Greek imagination about the beyond. The time span under examination is the era between the eighth and seventh centuries bce, the so- called Orientalizing period. It will be argued that a coherent Greek cosmology was formulated at this time by Hesiod and Homer, and that this cosmology is comprehensible only by reference to a cosmic map that is reconstructed here. Further, it will be argued that Egyptian motifs concerning the afterlife were adopted by the Greeks, but that the fundamental Egyptian metaphysical philosophy that the sun revives the dead was not borrowed. Finally, it will be argued that itinerant singers transmitted the motifs during the Orientalizing period.


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