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Founding Gods, Inventing NationsConquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam$
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William F. McCants

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151489

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151489.001.0001

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Inventing Nations: Postconquest Native Histories of Civilization’s Origins

Inventing Nations: Postconquest Native Histories of Civilization’s Origins

(p.85) Four Inventing Nations: Postconquest Native Histories of Civilization’s Origins
Founding Gods, Inventing Nations

William F. McCants

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines postconquest native histories of civilization. These histories are nationalistic in the sense that they place the origins of civilization locally and in the distant past and assert or imply that the cultures of other nations are inferior and derivative. Moreover, they make shared ancient culture, rather than kinship, the primary marker of ethnic belonging. In the postconquest periods considered, claims to have originated civilization were bolstered by citing ancient texts attesting to the same. Although this sometimes led to forgeries and frequently to exaggerated claims for the antiquity of a translated text, it also fueled the translation of preconquest histories. Where preconquest texts are available for comparison, the preconquest provenance of the translated material is usually borne out. Thus, the question is usually not whether the postconquest culture myths are authentic but rather why postconquest authors chose particular myths to translate and how they presented them to their multiple audiences to elevate the status of preconquest native civilization.

Keywords:   civilization, Greek ethnography, postconquest period, native history, ethnic belonging, ancient culture

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