Skip to content

Richard Hunter: Serpents in the Soul: the ‘Libyan Myth’ of Dio Chrysostom

About the Workshop

This workshop explores from a multidisciplinary standpoint how oral literature stands alongside and engages with texts in literate societies. While the study of oral literature has transformed many disciplines in the last century, the label of “true” orality was originally granted only to pre-literate traditions. We bring together a variety of perspectives as to how different disciplines have bridged the perceived gap between verbal art and artistic text. To that end, the workshop builds an ongoing conversation on
topics such as the transmission and textualization of folk literature, the interplay between spoken word and written text, and the sociology of reading and performance. 

Our aim is to broaden participants’ perspectives of oral literature in a literate society by encouraging a methodological dialogue across disciplines. Each session features an invited speaker who gives a short introduction to a pre-circulated paper followed by a respondent who will open the discussion. We warmly invite anyone who is interested in questions surrounding orality and literacy to join us for food and fellowship.

Please join our mailing list to receive notices about events and pre-circulated papers. 

Richard Hunter's "Serpents in the Soul: the ‘Libyan Myth’ of Dio Chrysostom"


Abstract: Dio 5, the ‘Libyan Myth’, is an important document of ancient mythography, for it both tells a myth, interprets it allegorically, and begins with a brief general account of how myth can function educationally. The myth tells of creatures that infested Libya, part hideous snake, part beautiful woman; their favourite food was human flesh and they lured men to their death by showing them a glimpse of the body of the beautiful woman. Dio introduces the story as about human passions and the paper will consider what Dio 5 can teach us about the work which the ancients allowed myth to do. Particular attention will be paid to the Platonic background the myth and to similarities and differences with the Libyan wanderings of the Argonauts in the fourth book of Apollonius’ Argonautica and with those of Cato’s army in Lucan 9.