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date: 18 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter looks at the themes and motifs typically associated with children throughout Greek literature, arguing that they give us an indication of the way children and childhood are conceived of in Greek culture rather than a picture of social reality. The chapter uses three examples as paradigmatic (Apollo compared to a child knocking down a sandcastle in Iliad 15; Astyanax in the Iliad; and Pindar’s treatment of Achilles’ childhood in Nemean 3). Three motifs commonly associated with children and childhood in Greek literature—play, pathos, and precocity—are examined, and their connections to other important motifs, such as choral dancing, laughter, parental care and indulgence, the natural world, exposure, and survival are discussed. These create a general conception of childhood as, ideally, a carefree time of life characterized by laughter, play, and whimsicality, in which children are expected to be carefully tended and protected.

Keywords: Artemis, Dionysus, Hephaestus, Hermes, Zeus, dance, laughter, music, pais, parthenos, play, precocity, toys, tragedy

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