27

It is well-known today that many peoples trace their origin back to a group of people known as the Proto-Indo-Europeans, who probably lived c. 4000 BCE. Among them are some of the most mythologically-rich cultures in the world - most of Europe (including the Greeks and Romans); northern India; and also the Persians.

Much work has been done in reconstructing the shared language of the PIE people; what about their mythology? I am aware of some weak but well-substantiated connections, such as the fact that the Norse Æsir and the Hindu Asuras were probably the same group of beings at one point. Have we managed to reconstruct any narratives that putatively are derived from common PIE myths?

  • Consider also the very wide-spread cults of a great mother goddess: those seem to be common to most of mankind, crossing the boundaries of a single linguistic family. There is also the cult of the father god, which is perhaps slightly less common, but still very common. – Cerberus Sep 26 '15 at 14:40
  • @Cerberus: The PIE culture and its derivatives were highly patriarchal. The chief god has been reconstructed as Dyeus Pater (forgive my lack of IPA). Female gods seemed to play a minor role in original PIE religion. Perhaps you thinking of Gimbutas' theory of pre-IE European culture. – Noldorin Sep 28 '15 at 21:03
  • @Noldorin Long time no see! That indeed the kind of father-god I had in mind; it is more widespread than Proto-Indo-European, e.g. in Afro-Asiatic cultures. Indeed, ultimate the origin of the Proto-Indo-European fater-god might lie in the Afro-Asiatic cult? The cult of a mother goddess may have been very widely spread. Evidence exists from all over the world; cf. also Chinese yin. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_goddess – Cerberus Sep 28 '15 at 22:46
  • 1
    @Cerberus: Indeed! Good to see you around still. The origin of PIE language and culture seems to lie so far back in history that I'm not sure we can say, but I wouldn't rule it out. Both Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic cultures seem to have their genesis in pre-history. I think it's more likely that both IE and AA adopted their father gods from Sumerian culture if anything. By the time the first AA culture first came to dominate any region (Egypt or Assyria), PIE had already significantly dispersed. – Noldorin Sep 29 '15 at 22:40
  • And yes, I'm sure you're right about the mother goddess too. The question is though, were these creations independent? I wouldn't be surprised if they were. Father and mother figures would certainly be natural prototypes for gods, due to their huge significance in human culture and development, as far back as one can imagine. I'm inclined to think they appeared in lots of places independently, in fact. :) – Noldorin Sep 29 '15 at 22:42
20

Yes, the very common divine twins myths are believed to trace back to a shared Proto-Indo-European narrative. The central motif involves two twins born of the sky deity (or sun), with some customary attributes such as being horsemen or riding horse-drawn chariots.

Another manifestation of the binary conception of society and the world is the cult of twins widespread in Indo-European mythology. A myth of divine twins who are children of the sun god goes back to Proto-Indo-European antiquity. The myth is found in all the main ancient Indo-European traditions, which not only repeat the same motfisbut also share correspondences in the names of the heroes, thus establishing the Proto-Indo-European character of the motif and the personages.

- Gamkrelidze, T. V., and Vjaceslav V. I. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and Proto-Culture. Vol. 80. Walter de Gruyter, 1995.

A variant of this myth is found in all major Indo-European traditions of old. It's popularity in very geographically diverse Indo-European cultures allows scholars to securely reconstruct it as a common Proto-Indo-European heritage.

In addition, elements of this myth is preserved in the systems of dual kingships widespread in antiquity. Examples include the famous Romulus and Remus of Rome, the twins Eurysthenes and Procles of Sparta, and Hengist and Horsa of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain.


Examples of myths considered linked to a common PIE origin include:

  • 2
    T. P. Wiseman in his Remus makes a good point that Remus is actually a later creation. There's also growing discontent with the notion of just calling all twins in mythology remnants of the PIE divine twins. Surely, some are, though (the Ashwini/Ašvieniai example is spot on, for one). – C. M. Weimer Sep 23 '15 at 15:03
1

Common things can be tracked in Norse and Slavic mythologies, some gods can be portrayed in same way, like Perun and Thor. Their only difference is that Thor has hammer and Perun has an axe. Also Slavic mythology has some same things with mythology of India - slavic god Krishen is analogue of indian Krishna. These common things are actually a sign that whole Europe was concentrated in same place.

By last research, some historians suspect that origin of Indo-European folks come from Urals(Russia), southern area. During a certain period of time some tribes just decided to move to west(explains similar languages of Urals folks and estonian/finnish/hungarian languages).

In fact, all the mythologies of all the cultures can be considered as relatively created.

  • 1
    "By last research, some historians suspect that origin of Indo-European folks come from Urals(Russia), southern area" Do you have a source for this? On this site, we highly encourage that answers be supported by reputable sources. I would also like a source for "In fact, all the mythologies of all the cultures can be considered as relatively created." – user62 Sep 21 '15 at 19:52
  • +1 for answering the question with the example of Perun and Thor. However, this answer can be improved by elaborating on the similarities of the two deities, and by naming the "some historians" you are citing. In fact it is probably not helpful to drag the highly hypothetical (not to mention disputed) Indo-European Urheimat location into this answer. And I think by "Urals", you mean the Pontic Steppes. That said, @Hamlet the mere existence of this hypothesis is not something you really need "reputable sources" for. – Semaphore Sep 22 '15 at 4:33
  • @Semaphore sorry, by "I would also like a source for In fact, all the mythologies of all the cultures can be considered as relatively created.", I meant "Although you have evidence that some myths have common origins, what is your evidence that all myths have common origins?" Though I suppose you are right, you don't need a source for a hypothesis that isn't intrinsic to the answer. – user62 Sep 22 '15 at 5:33
  • @Hamlet I was referring only to the first half of your comment, which requested sources on the Indo European homeland hypothesis. I would agree that the claim that all mythologies are "relatively created" needs citation support - this answer would probably be better off not making such claims at all. – Semaphore Sep 22 '15 at 5:50
-3

I think the poetry of Innana's high priestess Enheduanna, recently translated into English from the original cuneiform tablets (and currently thought to be the earliest known writing) have quite a rich mythology.

There is a sizeable pantheon that developed in the fertile crescent and a lot of stories involving them.

  • 1
    Is any of that believed to be from Proto-Indo-European mythology? – Joe May 13 '15 at 4:54
  • 2
    No, none of it is. – C. M. Weimer Sep 23 '15 at 15:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.