Aristomenes of Messene. Legends of Sparta's nemesis
by Daniel Ogden

ISBN-13: 978-0-9543845-4-8 ISBN-10: 0-9543845-4-7, hardback, xxiv+243 pp., 2004, GB £45.00
 
With Aristomenes of Messene, Daniel Ogden identifies yet another fertile and undervalued topic in Ancient History. He has previously studied illegitimacy in the ancient Greek world (Greek Bastardy, OUP, 1996), Greek ideas about the relationship between deformity and power (Crooked Kings of Ancient Greece, Duckworth, 1997), the nature and causes of dynastic murder in the Hellenistic world (Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death, Classical Press of Wales, 1999) and the techniques of calling up the dead in the ancient world (Greek and Roman Necromancy, Princeton UP, 2001). Among his other books is a volume edited for the Classical Press of Wales, The Hellenistic World: New perspectives (2002).

The legends of Aristomenes, hero of the Messenian resistance to Sparta, were designed to excite, gratify and amuse. Yet they remain almost unknown even to specialist ancient historians. This book, the first monograph to be devoted to Aristomenes, redirects attention to his adventures, which at times resemble those of King Arthur, Robin Hood and even Sinbad the Sailor. The book goes beyond the question of the historicity of Aristomenes, and examines the meaning and symbolism of the stories in their own right. The study will be welcomed by those with an interest in the history of Sparta, in Pausanias (our principal source for the tales), and in Greek traditional narrative. Famously, Sparta tried to suppress the identity and self-confidence of its Messenian helots. Yet here are stories which give access to the imagination of this long-muted but ultimately liberated people.

 

 

"Aristomenes, the legendary hero of the Second Messenian War, and the subject of much of Book 4 of Pausanias' Periegesis, is an intriguing and much-neglected figure. Daniel Ogden's reconstruction of the ways in which Aristomenes may have been represented across many centuries of shifting narrative tradition goes a long way towards compensating for that neglect."

-Jason König, University of St Andrews
The Classical Review, Vol 55, No2, 2005, pp 574-575


 
CONTENTS
Preface ix
Map of Aristomenes' Messenia
Introduction: Aristomenes, greatest glory of Messenia
1. Pausanias' account of the Aristomenes legend
2. The Aristomenes legend as popular tradition
3. From Achilles to Aesop: the nature and character of Aristomenes
4. Aristomenes loses his shield
5. Aristomenes in and out of the underworld
6. Aristomenes and the mysteries
7. Aristomenes, Aristodemus and the hairy heart
8. Aristomenes and history
Conclusion
Appendix 1: Aristomenes in the Messeniaca of Rhianus of Bene
Appendix 2: The reconstruction of the Aristomenes tradition from Tyrtaeus to Stephanus of Byzantium
Appendix 3: Unfinished tales - the Nachleben of Aristomenes in English literature and The Arabian Nights
Bibliography
Index 1: Ancient sources for Aristomenes
Index 2: General