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Counting the lions of Nemea: Medieval variations on a Herculean task


Endress, Laura (2020). Counting the lions of Nemea: Medieval variations on a Herculean task. Reinardus. Yearbook of the International Reynard Society, 32:71-88.

Abstract

The “Twelve Labours” of Hercules are among the topics most often associated with the illustrious half-god of Graeco-Roman mythology. This series of heroic deeds includes the defeat of a monstrous lion that ravaged the countryside of Nemea in southern Greece, an episode from the life of ancient Hercules that was handed down to medieval Europe through the works of classical authors, such as Virgil, Ovid and Statius, and their commentators. As is often the case, this process of textual transmission gave rise to variation and multiple interpretations: the sole Nemean lion is, in some instances, replaced by a pair of two felines or even a leonine trio, a phenomenon that can be observed both in text and iconography. The present contribution aims to elucidate the history of a particular variational pattern involving three Nemean lions, as seen in Raoul Lefèvre’s 15th century Recoeil des Histoires de Troyes. By tracing the evolution of this particular version of the episode, we will consider commentaries, mythographic treatises and historiographical compilations.

Abstract

The “Twelve Labours” of Hercules are among the topics most often associated with the illustrious half-god of Graeco-Roman mythology. This series of heroic deeds includes the defeat of a monstrous lion that ravaged the countryside of Nemea in southern Greece, an episode from the life of ancient Hercules that was handed down to medieval Europe through the works of classical authors, such as Virgil, Ovid and Statius, and their commentators. As is often the case, this process of textual transmission gave rise to variation and multiple interpretations: the sole Nemean lion is, in some instances, replaced by a pair of two felines or even a leonine trio, a phenomenon that can be observed both in text and iconography. The present contribution aims to elucidate the history of a particular variational pattern involving three Nemean lions, as seen in Raoul Lefèvre’s 15th century Recoeil des Histoires de Troyes. By tracing the evolution of this particular version of the episode, we will consider commentaries, mythographic treatises and historiographical compilations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Romance Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
470 Latin & Italic languages
410 Linguistics
440 French & related languages
460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
450 Italian, Romanian & related languages
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Literature and Literary Theory
Uncontrolled Keywords:Medieval Literature Reception of Antiquity Textual Tradition Hercules Medieval Commentaries Historiography Iconography
Language:English
Date:31 December 2020
Deposited On:22 Dec 2022 15:29
Last Modified:27 Dec 2023 08:03
Publisher:John Benjamins Publishing
ISSN:0925-4757
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1075/rein.00039.end