Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Mythos of the One-Eyed Man in Greek and Inner Asian Thought

Arimaspians and Cyclopes:
The Mythos of the One-Eyed Man in Greek and Inner Asian Thought

Jonathan Ratcliffe
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
The following material originally formed part of the research for my master’s thesis, which investigates the exchange of myths and symbols between the cultures of the Classical world and Inner Asia. However, given the constraints imposed by time, the prescribed length of the thesis, and my personal choice to focus closely on the affinities inherent in Greco-Roman and Turkic-Mongolian imperial symbolism, that project did not fully address the topic. It is only now that, having spent two years thinking over the interconnectivity and continuity that are important aspects of this story, I am able to present this research in its entirety.

The enduring presence and intercultural value of the motif of the monocular or one-eyed man in both Greek and Inner Asian mythic traditions are very significant and often ignored aspects of the interface between these two cultural spheres. In this discussion I will trace the history of this phenomenon, and by taking a holistic view of all the available material, will attempt to reassemble this symbol’s function within multiple cultural frameworks.
I begin with Greek records of the Inner Asian Arimaspians, analyzing them with reference to the recurrent one-eyed beings in the Inner Asian tradition found in the works of Chinese and Indian geographers writing about the nomadic peoples of the steppe regions. I also examine materials from within the bounds of records made by the nomads themselves — for instance, the thirteenth-century CE Secret History of the Mongols (§3–6) and the living Kyrgyz epic Manas. Lastly, I ask the all
important question whether the most famous mythic monocular beings in Classical tradition, the Cyclopes, were also formed under similar intercultural influences. 

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1 comment:

boinky said...

this is a rare but not unknown congenital deformity, and of course the skulls of elephants probably inspired the fact that they were giants.