mindGrazing

chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Yet More on the Don Juan Myth

Posted by Jason on December 21, 2008

In my previous posts on this topic, I’ve explored -very briefly- the possibility of Don Juan being a Spanish iteration of Zeus and his philandering exploits from Greek mythology and literature. 

https://mindgrazing.wordpress.com/2008/11/11/what-makes-don-juan-so-intriguing/

https://mindgrazing.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/more-pieces-to-the-don-juan-mystery/

I’ve done some researching and it seems that most of the Arab literati that came into Spain really had little use for Greek literature and mythology. John Walbridge, in his book Wisdom of the Mystic East, asserts that most of the translators that brought Greek knowledge to the Arabs were not interested in Greek literature per se. Most of the emphasis was placed on philosophy and scientific writings, rather than drama and mythology. According to Walbridge, “…the Greek gods appeared even to the best informed medieval Muslims as little more than names…”

So, apparently the Arabs brought only philosophy and science with them from the Greeks. Some scholars like Gustav Grunebaum say the Muslims were quite aware of Greek literature and literary forms, citing formal similarities between some stories in The Arabian Nights and some Greek novels. It’s probable that this knowledge was floating around in those days, but identifying a viable link could be difficult.

There is still the possibility that stories Zeus and his exploits were brought to Spain in the 6th to 8th centuries B.C. when the Greeks and Phoenicians had several trading posts and villages along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Could this oral tradition have endured and evolved in some way through for almost 2000 years in the hearts of the common people until Tirso de Molina codified the legend of Don Juan in 1630? I don’t know. I’m not very smart in the ways oral history and folk history.

I also saw a bit that Greek literature really came into Europe in the early Renaissance through Italy, etc. If Don Juan is a Spanish corruption of some Zeus mythology, it might have come from Spanish contact in the Italian campaigns of the Spanish Habsburg rulers. More info later…

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