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This book examines the figure of the returning warrior as depicted in the myths of several ancient and medieval Indo-European cultures. In these cultures, the returning warrior was often portrayed as a figure rendered dysfunctionally destructive or isolationist by the horrors of combat. This mythic portrayal of the returned warrior is consistent with modern studies of similar behavior among soldiers returning from war. Roger Woodard's research identifies a common origin of these myths in the ancestral proto-Indo-European culture, in which rites were enacted to enable warriors to reintegrate themselves as functional members of society. He also compares the Italic, Indo-Iranian, and Celtic mythic traditions surrounding the warrior, paying particular attention to Roman myth and ritual, notably to the etiologies and rites of the July festivals of the Poplifugia and Nonae Caprotinae, and to the October rites of the Sororium Tigillum.
In this book, Roger D. Woodard argues that when the Greeks first began to use the alphabet, they viewed themselves as participants in a performance phenomenon conceptually modeled on the performances of the oral poets. Since a time older than Greek antiquity, the oral poets of Indo-European tradition had been called 'weavers of words' - their extemporaneous performance of poetry was 'word weaving'. With the arrival of the new technology of the alphabet and the onset of Greek literacy, the very act of producing written symbols was interpreted as a comparable performance activity, albeit one in which almost everyone could participate, not only the select few. It was this new conceptualization of and participation in performance activity by the masses that eventually, or perhaps quickly, resulted in the demise of oral composition in performance in Greece. In conjunction with this investigation, Woodard analyzes a set of copper plaques inscribed with repeated alphabetic series and a line of what he interprets to be text, which attests to this archaic Greek conceptualization of the performance of symbol crafting.
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