Trifunctional hypothesis

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The trifunctional hypothesis of prehistoric Proto-Indo-European society postulates a tripartite ideology ("idéologie tripartite") reflected in the existence of three classes or castes—priests, warriors, and commoners (farmers or tradesmen)—corresponding to the three functions of the sacral, the martial and the economic, respectively. The trifunctional thesis is primarily associated with the French mythographer Georges Dumézil,[1] who proposed it in 1929 in the book Flamen-Brahman,[2] and later in Mitra-Varuna.[3]

According to Dumézil (1898-1986), Proto-Indo-European society comprised three main groups corresponding to three distinct functions:[2][3]

In the Proto-Indo-European mythology each social group had its own god or family of gods to represent it and the function of the god or gods matched the function of the group. Many such divisions occur in the history of Indo-European societies:

Supporters of the hypothesis include scholars such as Émile Benveniste, Bernard Sergent and Iaroslav Lebedynsky, who concludes that "the basic idea seems proven in a convincing way".[14]

The hypothesis was embraced outside the field of Indo-European studies by some mythographers, anthropologists, and historians such as Mircea Eliade, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Marshall Sahlins, Rodney Needham, Jean-Pierre Vernant and Georges Duby.[15]

On the other hand, Allen[16] concludes that the tripartite division may be an artefact, a selection effect rather than an organizing principle used in the societies themselves. Benjamin W. Fortson reports[17] a sense that Dumézil blurred the lines between the three functions and the examples that he gave often had contradictory characteristics, causing detractors[18] to reject his categories as non-existent. John Brough surmises that societal divisions are common outside of Indo-European societies as well, and consequently the hypothesis has only limited utility in illuminating prehistoric Indo-European society.[19] Cristiano Grottanelli states that while Dumézilian trifunctionalism may be seen in modern and medieval contexts, its projection onto earlier cultures is mistaken.[20] Belier is strongly critical.[21]

The hypothesis has been criticised by historians Carlo Ginzburg, Arnaldo Momigliano[22] and Bruce Lincoln[23] as being based on Dumézil's sympathies with the political right. Guy Stroumsa sees these criticisms as unfounded.[24]

This page was last edited on 9 July 2018, at 11:50 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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