B. Van Zyl-Smit


The intriguing story of how Gyges came to succeed Kandaules as king of Lydia in
685 B.C. is told as historical fact by Herodotus in Historiae 1.8-12. In addition to
the account of Herodotus, Plato in Republic 2.359d-360b includes the tale of a
shepherd called Gyges who finds a ring which renders him invisible and enables him
to usurp the throne. This, as will be shown below, refers to the same historical
episode and has often been combined with Herodotus' version by later writers. In
spite of its kernel of historical veracity, this story has been handled in later literature
as if it were mythological. Like many Greek myths it has provided inspiration for
later writers in a variety of genres. 1 It is the purpose of this paper to examine how
Jean La Fontaine in seventeenth-century France, Theophile Gautier in
nineteenth-century France, Friedrich Hebbel in nineteenth-century Germany, Andre
Gide at the start of the twentieth century in France and Anthony Powell in the
second half of the twentieth century in England, have each made use of this story in
the creation of a particular work of literature.

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