I thought I might start a new series of posts over time collecting and blogging about ancient rationalizations about the past. Our first contender for BAR fame? Palaephatus. Now Palaephatus wrote in his introduction to his work Περὶ ἀπίστων:
Now some people, who have no acquaintance with philosophy or science, are too credulous and believe everything that is said to them. Others, of a more subtle and inquisitive nature, totally disbelieve that any of these tales ever happened. My own belief is that there is a reality behind all stories. For names alone without stories would hardly have arisen: first there must have been deeds and there-after stories about them.
Palaephatus lists a great deal of “true stories” behind the myths. In his work, he writes that Centaur’s were real people, but rather than being half-horse and half-man, the stories arose from them being the first group of people to ride horseback (before then, he says, people only used horses to pull chariots)! And of course the truth behind the Trojan horse is not that a group of Greeks jumped free from it and attacked the city, but that the Trojans tore down parts of their wall to accommodate the horse, thereby allowing the Greeks to enter through the opening!