The Myth of the Birth of the Hero: A Psychological Interpretation of Mythology

By Otto Rank; F. Robbins et al. | Go to book overview

SARGON

Probably the oldest transmitted hero myth in our possession is derived from the period of the foundation of Babylon (about 2800 B. C.), and concerns the birth history of its founder, Sargon the First. The literal translation of the report--which according to the mode of rendering appears to be an original inscription by King Sargon himself--is as follows:23a

" Sargon, the mighty king, King of Agade, am I. My mother was a vestal, my father I knew not, while my father's brother dwelt in the mountains. In my city Azupirani, which is situated on the bank of the Euphrates, my mother, the vestal, bore me. In a hidden place she brought me forth. She laid me in a vessel made of reeds, closed my door with pitch, and dropped me down into the river, which did not drown me. The river carried me to Akki,

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23
The great variability and wide distribution of the birth myths of the hero results from the above quoted writings of Bauer, Schubert and others, while their comprehensive contents and fine ramifications were especially discussed by Husing, Lessmann, and the other representatives of the modern direction.
Innumerable fairy tales, stories, and poems of all times, up to the most recent dramatic and novelistic literature, show very distinct individual main motives of this myth. The exposure-romance is known to appear in the following literary productions: The late Greek pastorals, as told in Heliodor's "Aethiopika", in Eustathius' "Ismenias and Ismene", and in the Story of the two exposed children, Daphnis and Chloe. The more recent Italian pastorals are likewise very frequently based upon the exposure of children, who are raised as shepherds by their foster-parents, but are later recognized by the true parents, through identifying marks which they received at the time of their exposure. To the same set belong the family history in Grimmelshausen's "Limplizissimus" ( 1665), in Jean Paul's "Titan" ( 1800), as well as certain forms of the Robinson stories and Cavalier romances (compare Würzbach's Introduction to the Edition of "Don Quichote" in Hesse's edition).
23a
The various translations of the partly mutilated text differ only in unessential details. Compare Hommel's "History of Babylonia and Assyria" ( Berlin, 1885), p. 302, where the sources of the tradition are likewise found, and A. Jeremias, "The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient Orient", II edition, Leipzig, 1906, p. 410.

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