Greek Religion

ISBN-10: 0674362810

ISBN-13: 9780674362819

Edition: 1985

List price: $36.00 Buy it from $12.01
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In this book Walter Burkert, the most eminent living historian of ancient Greek religion, has produced the standard work for our time on that subject. First published in German in 1977, it has now been translated into English with the assistance of the author himself. A clearly structured and readable survey for students and scholars, it will be welcomed as the best modern account of any polytheistic religious system. Burkert draws on archaeological discoveries, insights from other disciplines, and inscriptions in Linear B to reconstruct the practices and beliefs of the Minoan-Mycenaean age. The major part of his book is devoted to the archaic and classical epochs. He describes the various rituals of sacrifice and libation and explains Greek beliefs about purification. He investigates the inspiration behind the great temples at Olympia, Delphi, Delos, and the Acropolis - discussing the priesthood, sanctuary, and oracles. Considerable attention is given to the individual gods, the position of the heroes, and beliefs about the afterlife. The different festivals are used to illuminate the place of religion in the society of the city-state. The mystery cults, at Eleusis and among the followers of Bacchus and Orpheus, are also set in that context. The book concludes with an assessment of the great classical philosophers' attitudes to religion. Insofar as possible, Burkert lets the evidence -- from literature and legend, vase paintings and archaeology -- speak for itself; he elucidates the controversies surrounding its interpretation without glossing over the enigmas that remain. Throughout, the notes (updated for the English-language edition) afford a wealth of further references as the text builds up its coherent picture of what is known of the religion of ancient Greece.
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Book details

List price: $36.00
Copyright year: 1985
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 3/15/1987
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 512
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.75" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.430

German-born scholar Walter Burkert currently teaches at the University of Zurich. He is the leading active scholar of the religion of early and classical Greece. Burkert's work proceeds through intense, meticulous historical and philological investigation, seeking to understand Greek religion in and of itself. His studies wed philology and history with methods drawn from anthropology and resemble the work of Jonathan Z. Smith. But, unlike Smith, who seems to rule out diachronic considerations categorically in favor of synchronic taxonomies or analogical comparisons, Burkert remains interested in questions of long-term historical evolution and cross-cultural influence. Burkert gives particular attention to psychological causation and the biological roots of human behavior as revealed by the science of ethology. For example, his study of Greek sacrifice, Homo necans, roots the practice of sacrifice in the biological necessity faced by prehistoric hunting groups that killed to survive. Burkert suggests that this necessary, aggressive behavior gave rise to anxiety, but through the practice of sacrifice the unavoidable aggression, which otherwise threatened to destroy society, was redirected to its promotion instead. In Structure and History Burkert's theoretical concerns are larger, including both myth and ritual. The precise relation between myth and ritual has been a vexing question for scholars of ancient religions; Burkert places them side by side and links them at a structural level. He thinks ritual is older than myth, because it is a form of behavior found even in animals. Nevertheless, ritual and myth share several important features: Both depend upon basic biological or cultural programs of action and detachment from pragmatic reality. Both serve communication. Because myth and ritual are related in this way, it is possible for them to be found together. Burkert's Greek Religion is the current, standard handbook on the religions of ancient Greece. His most recent work has been devoted to examining the influence of the ancient Near East on archaic Greek civilization.

Preface to the English Edition Introduction
A Survey of Scholarship
The Sources
The Scope of the Study
Prehistory and the Minoan-Mycenaean Age
The Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion
A Historical Survey
The State of the Sources
The Cult Places Caves Peak Sanctuaries Tree Sanctuaries House Sanctuaries Temples Graves
Rituals and Symbols
The Minoan Deities
The Mycenaean Gods and Linear B
The 'Dark Age' and the Problem of Continuity
Ritual and Sanctuary
'Working Sacred Things': Animal Sacrifice
Description and Interpretation
Blood Rituals
Fire Rituals
Animal and God
Gift Offerings and Libation
First Fruit Offerings
Votive Offerings
Function and Methods
The Sacred and the Pure
Death, Illness, and Madness
Purification by Blood
The Sanctuary
Temple and Cult Image
The Festival
Dancing and Hymns
Masks, Phalloi, Aischrologia
The Banquet of the Gods
Sacred Marriage
Ecstasy and Divination
The Art of the Seer
The Gods
The Spell of Homer
Individual Gods
The Remainder of the Pantheon
Lesser Gods
Societies of Gods
Nature Deities
Foreign Gods
The Special Character of Greek Anthropomorphism
The Dead, Heroes, and Chthonic Gods
Burial and the Cult of the Dead
Afterlife Mythology
Olympian and Chthonic
The Heroes
Figures who cross the Chthonic-Olympian Boundary
The Dioskouroi
Polis and Polytheism
Thought Patterns in Greek Polytheism General Considerations The Family of the Gods Pairs of Gods Old and Young Dionysos
The Rhythm of the Festivals
Festival Calendars
Year Ending and New Year
Social Functions of Cult
Gods between Amorality and Law
The Oath
The Creation of Solidarity in the Playing and the Interplay of Roles
Crisis Management
Piety in the Mirror of Greek Language
Mysteries and Asceticism
Mystery Sanctuaries
General Considerations
Clan and Family Mysteries
The Kabeiroi and Samothrace
Bacchica and Orphica
Bacchic Mysteries
Bacchic Hopes for an
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