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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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(p.145) Conclusion
Founding Gods, Inventing Nations

William F. McCants

Princeton University Press

This concluding chapter summarizes key themes and presents some final thoughts. Throughout the millennia of culture myths surveyed in this book, the most contentious and frequently mentioned innovation has been ironsmithing, and attitudes toward it were indicative of attitudes toward civilization in general, since it was usually implicated in civilization's rise. But despite the pro- or anticivilization sentiment of the authors of these myths, their attitudes toward technological development did not necessarily dictate the attitudes of those who venerated their texts. Hesiod and the Yahwist wrote myths that decried civilization's dark side, particularly the violence wrought by iron weapons. But the nations that venerated their stories also celebrated civilization's benefits and strove to add to them and claim them as their own. They did so by altering their culture myths in the retelling, emphasizing some myths more than others, or by inventing new ones to complement the old. Muhammad, drawing on more positive scriptural assessments of civilization that grew out of this process, ignored negative culture myths, even crediting God with giving iron and ironsmithing to humans.

Keywords:   civilization, culture myths, ironsmithing, Muhammad

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