Girl guides : towards a model of female guides in ancient epic.
Numerous ancient epics and their heroes share certain characteristics. Lord Raglan and Joseph Campbell, among others, developed these characteristics into hero models. In their models, it is mentioned that many heroes undergo a katabasis or a figurative death and resurrection. The presence of a female guide in the hero’s descent into the Underworld has been largely neglected in Classical scholarship, despite the fact that the study of epic has been for some time a largely saturated field. It will be this aspect of the epic that I intend to examine. I will be examining a selection of female guides and will create a model consisting of their similarities loosely based on those models of Raglan and Campbell. I will be examining the role of female guides in various epics; namely, the Gilgamesh Epic (Siduri), the Odyssey (Circe), and the Aeneid (the Sibyl) and in a later chapter, those in the Argonautica (Medea) and the Pharsalia (Erichtho). In addition to these guides, I shall be examining one guide that does not come from epic, Ariadne. The female guides I shall be examining appear in two forms, either as a literal guide who descends with the hero into the Underworld, or as a figurative guide who provides assistance from a distance through advice or instruction. One of the reasons why I feel that this topic is of importance is the socio-historical context in which these texts were written, times and places when women played a largely inferior and subservient role to men. The fictional literary guides seem to be representing strong and independent women. I find this to be remarkable considering the times that these texts were written in. The analysis of these female guides will conclude with a compilation of the similarities they share that shall form the basis for my own female guide model. My model will be established in two consecutive steps: first the female guides Siduri, Circe and the Sibyl will be examined and a preliminary model established. In addition, I will try and prove a common ancestry for them. Secondly, I will test my preliminary model on Medea, Erichtho and Ariadne. As a result, I will propose a final model comprising all the female guides dealt with in my dissertation. This model will be my contribution to scholarship on epic literature from a Comparative approach.