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Ancient Etymology and the Enigma of Okeanos

Elsa Bouchard
From the journal Rhizomata

Abstract

Okeanos is at once a mythological figure and a philosophical concept appearing in many ancient accounts of the world. A frequent object of allegoresis, his cosmological role and his name posed an enigma to Homer’s readers, especially those with a rationalizing bent. This paper proposes that the paradoxical representation of Okeanos as a primordial generative power and a geographical limit may be explained by the influence of etymological speculation, which was a popular heuristic method used by Greek intellectuals from the archaic period throughout antiquity.

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Published Online: 2020-11-25
Published in Print: 2020-11-25

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