Founding myth

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A founding myth is an origin story that is partly based on fiction and is perceived as binding. This type of myth can contain both religious and political elements. The term comes from political sociology .

Examples of religious forms are ideas of divine revelation , election and mission, and providence and fate . Such founding myths are partly based on beliefs , without which their potential for impact fades.

As political myths , founding myths are constitutive for a general self-image in modern nation states . The functions of founding myths are the creation of consensus can be reached, of meaningful values, the generation of collective identity notions and the legitimacy of power and privileges . They can also play a role in the case of strongly value-oriented political parties as well as in the case of long ago or “legendary” company foundings .


Founding myths occupied a prominent place in Greek mythology . "Ancient Greek rituals were connected with the population and thus with specific places in each case" observed Walter Burkert , the once erected sanctuaries and altars remained sacred places for all time . Hence the Greek founding myths establish a special relationship between the deity and the local population. This derived its roots from a hero and saw its traditional legal claims legitimized by the founding myth. The Greek founding myths often embodied the justification for the continued existence of an older social and value system.

The Roman founding myth lets the founders of Rome be suckled by a she-wolf (symbol of wild power) and Romulus immediately defends his city with all his might. Another example is Virgil's Aeneid , in which Aeneas, fleeing from the burning Troy , arrives after many wanderings to Latium, where he becomes the progenitor of the Romans.

The founding myth of the Mark Brandenburg (1157) is reflected in the shield horn legend .

The founding myth of the USA that the individual or group can make their fortune against all odds and create law and order ( American Dream ) is carried out in many Wild West films ( going back to the Pilgrim Fathers ). In 2005, the American historian David McCullough analyzed in detail the development of the American founding myth in his book 1776: America and Britain at War .

See also


  • Matteo Galli, Heinz-Peter Preusser (ed.): German founding myths (= yearbook literature and politics. Volume 2). Winter, Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8253-5416-9 .
  • Almut-Barbara Renger, Roland Alexander Ißler (Hrsg.): Europe - bull and wreath of stars. From the union with Zeus to the union of states (= founding myths of Europe in literature, music and art. Volume 1). V&R Unipress, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-89971-566-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Founding myth  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul Geyer: Romance Studies and European Founding Myths. In: Claudia Jünke, Michael Schwarze (ed.): Inevitability of the myth. Mythopoiesis in European Romania after 1945 (= Romania viva 3). Meidenbauer, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-89975-049-7 , pp. 171–181, here p. 175.
  2. Hans-Peter Müller , Steffen Sigmund (Ed.): Contemporary American Sociology. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2000, ISBN 3-8100-1672-1 .
  3. ^ Karl-Josef Kuschel : Children of Abraham. On the possibility and necessity of a coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslims. In: Thomas Bauer , Thorsten Gerald Schneiders (ed.): "Children of Abraham". Religious exchange in a living context. Festschrift for the opening of the Center for Religious Studies. Lit, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-8023-0 , pp. 33-55, here p. 34.
  4. Detlef Junker : Fundamentalism in the USA and the American broadcast idea of ​​freedom. In: Katarzyna Stokłosa, Andrea Strübind (ed.): Faith - Freedom - Dictatorship in Europe and the USA. Festschrift for Gerhard Besier for his 60th birthday. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 3-525-35089-9 , pp. 643-657; Markus Schürer: The Dominicans and the problem of the generaciones venturae. In: Gert Melville , Jörg Oberste (Ed.): The mendicant orders under construction. Contributions to processes of institutionalization in medieval religiosity. Lit, Münster et al. 1999, ISBN 3-8258-4293-2 , pp. 169-214, here pp. 197 and 206
  5. Walter Euchner : The function of visualization in politics and science. Politics and political thinking in the imaginations of science and art. Lit, Berlin et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-8258-1228-7 , p. 72
  6. Egon Flaig : Political Forgetting. In: Günter Butzer, Manuela Günter (Ed.): Cultural forgetting. Media - rituals - places. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-525-35580-7 , pp. 101–114, here p. 104.
  7. ^ Yves Bizeul: Theories of Political Myths and Rituals. In: Yves Bizeul (ed.): Political myths and rituals in Germany, France and Poland. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-428-09918-4 , pp. 15-39, here pp. 21 ff.
  8. ^ David McCullough : 1776: America and Britain at War. New edition. Allen Lane, 2005, ISBN 9780713998634 .