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Article

Emma Cole

Ancient drama has had a vast influence upon the literary, performance, and intellectual culture of modernity. From ancient Greece thirty-two tragedies, eleven comedies, and one satyr play survive, and from ancient Rome ten tragedies and twenty-seven comedies remain, alongside countless fragments from all genres. Many of the surviving plays are staged in contemporary theatre in both literal translation and more liberal adaptation, and today more ancient drama is seen in professional theatres than at any point since antiquity. Although all ancient dramatic genres have a rich reception history, Greek tragedy dominates the field, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Productions of Greek tragedy today range from masked performances in the original language through to radical, avant-garde, immersive, and postdramatic reinventions. Greek tragedy is also frequently used as a touchstone within literary theory and broader intellectual discourse, from the theorisation of the ideal form of performance (Wagner’s Gesamtkuntswerk) to the development of psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s Oedipus complex) and structuralism (Lévi-Strauss). Ancient drama has also provided inspiration for entirely new dramatic forms; the influence of Roman tragedy, for example, can be felt within the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, while traces of Roman comedy can be felt in slapstick comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte. Current growth areas within both artistic practice, and academic research into the reception of ancient drama, include the performance reception of dramatic fragments, an increased interest in forms such as burlesque and pantomime, and the use of ancient drama as a tool of resistance against oppressive political regimes.

Article

Valeria Piano

As one of the most ancient Greek papyri ever found (it dates back to the second half of the 4th century bce), and given the length of its extant part, the Derveni papyrus effectively represents the oldest “book” of Europe. It was found at Derveni, near Thessaloniki, in 1962, close to the rich tomb of a knight belonging to the army of Philip II or Alexander the Great. The volumen had been placed on the funeral pyre along with other offerings, and thanks to the process of semi-carbonisation it underwent, the upper half of the roll was preserved, maintaining a good degree of readability. The papyrus contains a philosophical-religious text, mostly in the form of an allegorical commentary on a theo-cosmogonical poem attributed to Orpheus. The first columns expound a religious and ritual discourse that deals with issues related to sacrifices, souls, daimones, retribution, cosmic justice, and divination. In the commentary (cols. VII–XXVI), the Orphic hexameters are systematically quoted and interpreted in terms of natural philosophy of a Presocratic brand. The mythical narrative of the succession of the gods, as well as of the origin of the cosmos, is thus matched by a cosmological and physical account, which is equally related to the origin and the functioning of the universe, and is sustained by a theologised conception of nature.

Article

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Greek magic is the discourse of magic within the ancient Greek world. Greek magic includes a range of practices, from malevolent curses to benevolent protections, from divinatory practices to alchemical procedures, but what is labelled magic depends on who is doing the labelling and the circumstances in which the label is applied. The discourse of magic pertains to non-normative ritualized activity, in which the deviation from the norm is most often marked in terms of the perceived efficacy of the act, the familiarity of the performance within the cultural tradition, the ends for which the act is performed, or the social location of the performer. Magic is thus a construct of subjective labelling, rather than an objectively existing category. Rituals whose efficacy is perceived as extraordinary (in either a positive or negative sense) or that are performed in unfamiliar ways, for questionable ends, or by performers whose status is out of the ordinary might be labelled (by others or by oneself) as magic in antiquity.

Article

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Depictions of the underworld, in ancient Greek and Roman textual and visual sources, differ significantly from source to source, but they all draw on a common pool of traditional mythic motifs. These motifs, such as the realm of Hades and its denizens, the rivers of the underworld, the paradise of the blessed dead, and the places of punishment for the wicked, are developed and transformed through all their uses throughout the ages, depending upon the aims of the author or artist depicting the underworld. Some sources explore the relation of the world of the living to that of the dead through descriptions of the location of the underworld and the difficulties of entering it. By contrast, discussions of the regions within the underworld and existence therein often relate to ideas of afterlife as a continuation of or compensation for life in the world above. All of these depictions made use of the same basic set of elements, adapting them in their own ways to describe the location of, the entering into, and the regions within the underworld.

Article

Fritz Graf

Mystery cults of Dionysos are attested to in Greece from the late Archaic epoch and expanded to Rome in Hellenistic times. They appear in two forms, the group (thíasos) of ecstatic women (mainádes) who celebrate their rituals in the wilderness outside the city and in opposition to the restrictive female city life; and the thíasos of both men and women that constitutes itself as a cultic association and celebrates inside the cities but preserves the ideology of a performance outside the city. The main goal in both types of cult groups was the extraordinary experience of loss of self through drinking wine and dancing; the mixed-gender groups often added eschatological hopes. The purely female thiasoi were led by a priestess of Dionysos, whereas the mixed-gender groups were often led by a male professional initiator. The most conspicuous trace of these initiations are the so-called Orphic gold tablets that attest to the expectations for a better afterlife.

Article

A mythic king of the Trojans, son of Dardanus and Batea, and father of Troos. Little is known about the Trojan Erichthonius, apart from what is related in Homer—he was the grandson of Zeus, son of Dardanus and the father of Troos, the progenitor of the Trojans (Iliad20.215-234).1Later elaborations add that his wife is named either Callirrhoe (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 1.62.2) Astyoche, and that his siblings alternatively include Ilus (Apollod. 3.12.2) or Zacynthus (Dionys. Ant. Rom. 1.50.3), along with a sister named Idaea (Diod. Sic. 4.43).Fabulously wealthy, he had a beautiful herd of horses with which Boreas mated, producing a line of supernatural horses that could run on the water (Iliad20.215-234, possibly Hesiod, fr. 177, lin. 14 =P. Oxy. 1359 fr. 2, ed. Grenfell–Hun, Oppian Cynegetica 1.225)—and are probably a mythic variant for the supernatural horses that Troos receives from Zeus in exchange for Ganymedes (Apollod.

Article

Fritz Graf

The mystery cult of the Eleusinian goddesses Demeter and Persephone was the most important Greek mystery cult. During its very long existence, the Eleusinian Mysteries influenced other cults and attracted and inspired countless ancient humans and gave them better hopes for their afterlife.The Eleusinian Mysteries was an annual Athenian festival celebrated in the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore outside the small city of Eleusis, about twenty-two kilometres northwest of Athens (see figure 1).Its local name, Mystēria, conforms to many other festival names in the Attic-Ionian calendar, such as Plyn-tēria (“Washing Festival”) or Anthes-tēria (“Flower Festival”) (thus the distinction between the festival name with a capital M and the generic noun). The underlying root is visible in the term mýs-tēs, the “initiate,” a noun derived from the verb mýō (that is a sigmatic stem*mýs-o whose /s/ remained preserved before the dental /t/), “to close” (one’s eyes), to which .

Article

Fritz Graf

Gold Tablets is the collective name for a more or less coherent group of about thirty Greek texts, written on very thin and small gold foil and placed on the body of a deceased; they come from all over the Greek world and date between the late 5th century BCE and the 2nd century CE, with a peak in Hellenistic times. Originally, they were connected with Orphism, then with Pythagoreanism or, more convincingly, with the mystery cult of Dionysus; recent finds however have demonstrated the problematic nature of a narrow definition of their religious affiliation. The article discusses the various forms of these texts, their religious function and the history of scholarship about them.The term “Gold Tablets” refers to a group of about thirty Greek texts, inscribed on very small pieces of gold foil and found in a number of graves from all over the Greek world; the extant examples date from the late .

Article

The classical world witnessed many forms of landscape change in its physical geography, mostly due to longer-term geological and climatological processes, whilst only a minority were due purely to human action. The physical environment of Greek and Roman societies saw alterations through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, sea-level fluctuations, erosion, and alluviation.

Already in Greek antiquity, Plato (Critias iii) observed how the Aegean physical landscape was being worn down over time as erosion from the uplands filled the lowland plains. Indeed, the Mediterranean region is amongst the most highly erodible in the world.1 However, scientific research in the field known as geoarchaeology has revealed a more complex picture than a continuous degradation of the ancient countryside.2

To uncover a more realistic picture of Mediterranean landscape change, the element of timescales proves to be central, and here the framework developed by the French historian Fernand Braudel3 provides the appropriate methodology. Braudel envisaged the Mediterranean past as created through the interaction of dynamic forces operating in parallel but on different “wavelengths” of time: the Short Term (observable within a human lifetime or less), the Medium Term (centuries or more, not clearly cognisant to contemporaries), and the Long Term (up to as much as thousands or millions of years, not at all in the awareness of past human agents).

Article

Luc Brisson

In the modern use, “bisexuality” refers to sexual object choice, whereas “androgyny” refers to sexual identity. In ancient Greece and Rome, however, these terms sometimes refer to human beings born with characteristics of both sexes, and more frequently to an adult male who plays the role of a woman, or to a woman who has the appearance of a man, both physically and morally. In mythology, having both sexes simultaneously or successively characterises, on the one hand, the first human beings, animals, or even plants from which arose male and female, and on the other, mediators between human beings and gods, the living and the dead, men and women, past and future, and human generations. Thus androgyny and bisexuality were used as a tools to cope with one’s biological, social, and even fictitious environment.