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Rider Haggard, classics, and great Zimbabwe : constructing lost cities in King Solomon's mines, and Elissa.

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The British novelist Sir Henry Rider Haggard, who is arguably best known for his swashbuckling African adventure stories, wrote a considerable number of works concerned with the presence of ancient white cities in southern Africa. These narratives appear to have been inspired by nineteenth century theories surrounding the Ruins of Great Zimbabwe which came to the public‘s attention after their (re)discovery in 1871 by the German explorer Karl Mauch. Reluctant to attribute such accomplishments to local African ingenuity, laymen and archaeologists developed theories that the ruins could have been built only by an ancient white race. This motif appears in two of Haggard‘s lost city novels, King Solomon’s Mines (1885) and She (1887), and a work of historical fiction, Elissa; or The Doom of Great Zimbabwe (1900). In addition to this archaeological influence, a significant amount of Classical material has also contributed to these narratives in various ways. The aim of this dissertation is to establish the role of Great Zimbabwe and Classics in Haggard‘s composition of these works. Chapter One provides a discussion of Haggard‘s background and takes aspects such his education and connection to the Ruins of Great Zimbabwe into account so as to establish his familiarity with the two topics which dominate this study. Chapter Two explores Haggard‘s initial venture into the lost city genre with King Solomon’s Mines and demonstrates the parallels between the ruins and his narrative. The second half of the discussion is concerned with the contribution of Classics in his description of landscape, people and events. Chapter Three looks at Haggard‘s treatment of the lost city genre and his engagement with Classics and ancient civilizations in She. The chapter focuses on aspects such the myth of Atlantis, the contribution of Egyptology and the role of Classical females in Haggard‘s portrayal of in novel‘s eponymous character. Chapter Four is concerned with the influence of nineteenth century Zimbabwean archaeology and two ancient accounts of the Carthaginian queen Dido in Haggard‘s construction of Elissa‘s plot.


Master of Arts in Classics. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College 2016.


Haggard, H. Rider--(Henry Rider)--856-1925.--She., Haggard, H. Rider--(Henry Rider)--1856-1925.--King Solomon's Mines., Mauch, Karl,--837-1875., Zimbabwe--History--1890-1965., Zimbabwe--Social conditions--1890-1965., Great Zimbabwe (Extinct city), Zimbabwean literature., Adventure stories., Excavations (Archaeology)--Zimbabwe., Theses--Classics.