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H. S. Versnel

Amulets were magically potent objects worn (hence the Greek names: περίαμμα, περίαπτον) for protection against witchcraft, illness, the evil eye, accidents, robbery, etc. (hence the Greek name: φυλακτήριον); also to enhance love, wealth, power, or victory. Houses, walls, and towns could be protected in the same way. Any kind of material might be employed: stones and metals as well as (parts of) animals and plants, since to every sort of material could be attributed an inherent ‘magical’ virtue (see magic); parts of human bodies (especially of people who had suffered a violent death: *gladiators, executed criminals, victims of *shipwreck etc. ) were also used as amulets. Their efficacy might be enhanced by engraved figures, e.g. deities or symbols, especially on stones and gems in rings. Powerful names taken from exotic (especially Egyptian and Hebrew) myth and cult were popular: Abraxas, Solomon (e.g. in the formula: ‘sickness be off, Solomon persecutes you’), magical words (e.g. abracadabra) and formulae (e.



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.The term “androgyne” comes from the Greek andrógunos,1 a compound formed from the terms an.



J. T. Vallance

It is probably misleading, though not entirely inappropriate, to use this word to describe the ancient study of man and society. Misleading, because anthropology did not really exist as the kind of discrete discipline it is today (see anthropology and the classics). What follows here is a very brief summary of some central anthropological themes from antiquity, gathered from a variety of sources and contexts, ethical, scientific, and literary.The Greeks and Romans developed a range of ideas about their own identity and the identity of others; about the nature of human societies, their history, and organization. It is well known that many Greeks designated non-Greek speakers ‘*barbarian’,—after the Greek verb for ‘babble’—and language of course remained an important index of racial and cultural difference. (*Herodotus (1)'s History introduced many Greeks to foreigners and their customs for the first time: Hdt. 4. 183 notes that the Egyptian *Trogodytae ‘squeak like bats’; elsewhere, e.


belief, ancient religious  

Charles Stewart and John North

Currently ‘belief’ has at least three different meanings in the context of religion: (1) an inner psychological state of pious commitment; (2) the acceptance of received ideas; and (3) the doctrines held by others, contrasted with ‘our’ knowledge. Granted this polysemy, the use of the term ‘belief’ in the study of other societies has often introduced confusion. Furthermore, a particular western history beginning with the rise of Christianity (see below) has fundamentally shaped contemporary understandings of ‘belief’, rendering it inapplicable to pre-Christian antiquity. This history includes the advent of Protestant sects emphasizing the individualistic interiority of faith, and the Enlightenment propagation of a scientific rationality that displaced belief in God amongst a significant portion of the population. Belief has today become, implicitly, if not always explicitly, an affirmation of religious conviction in the face of surrounding scepticism. The peculiarity of modern belief is this propositional and assertive quality.The embrace of the gods throughout Greek and Roman antiquity was, by contrast, dispositional—a fact of socialization only infrequently subjected to sceptical reflection. Belief in the gods was normally a matter of unchallenged acceptance, not of debate: the jurisdiction of the Olympian gods is so pervasively assumed in *Homer's Iliad that even the Trojans perform rituals for the Olympians and enjoy their protection.



Alan H. Griffiths, Christopher Burden-Strevens, and Aedan Weston

In Classical mythology, centaurs were half-man, half-equine beasts whose representation in art and literature changed significantly throughout antiquity.Centaurs (Κένταυροι; for the etymology, and their ancestry, see Ixion), a tribe of “beasts” (φῆρες, Aeol. for θῆρες, Il. 1.268, 2.743), human above and horse below, the wild and dangerous counterpart of the more skittish satyrs, who are constructed of the same components but conceived of as amusing rather than threatening creatures. In both cases it is the very closeness of the horse to humanity that points up the need to remember that a firm line between nature and culture must be drawn. Pirithous, the king of the Lapiths, a Thessalian clan, paid for his failure to absorb this lesson when he invited the Centaurs to his wedding-feast: the party broke up in violence once the guests had tasted wine, that quintessential product of human culture (Pind., fr. 166 Snell–Maehler), and made a drunken assault on the bride (see the west pediment of the temple of Zeus at .


colours, sacred  

Herbert Jennings Rose and Simon Hornblower

Three colours are especially important for sacral purposes in antiquity; they are white, black, and red, the last being understood in the widest possible sense, to include purple, crimson, even violet (cf. E. Wunderlich, ‘Die Bedeutung der roten Farbe im Kultus der Griechen und Römer’, 1925 (RGVV 20. 1), 1 ff.).White is in general a festal colour, associated with things of good omen, such as sacrifices to the celestial gods (white victims are regular for this purpose in both Greece and Rome). See for instance Il. 3. 103, where a white lamb is brought for sacrifice to *Helios; the scholiast rightly says that as the Sun is bright and male, a white male lamb is brought for him, while Earth, being dark and female, gets a black ewe-lamb (cf. Verg. G. 2. 146 for the white bulls pastured along Clitumnus for sacrificial purposes). It is the colour of the clothing generally worn on happy occasions (e.g. Eur. Alc.


drama, reception of  

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.


Egyptian deities  

Richard Gordon

The Graeco-Roman view of Egyptian religion is sharply fissured. Despite Herodotus 2. 50. 1 (comm. A. B. Lloyd, 1975–88), many writers of all periods, and probably most individuals, found in the Egyptians' worship of animals a polemical contrast to their own norms (though cf. Cic. Nat. D. 1. 29. 81 f.), just as, conversely, the Egyptians turned animal-worship into a symbol of national identity (cf. Diod. Sic. 1. 86–90). The first Egyptian divinity to be recognized by the Greek world was the oracular *Ammon of the *SiwaOasis (Hdt. 2. 54–7); but *oracles have a special status. The only form of Late-period Egyptian religion to be assimilated into the Graeco-Roman world was to a degree untypical, centred on anthropomorphic deities—*Isis, *Sarapis, and Harpocrates—and grounded in Egyptian vernacular enthusiasm quite as much as in temple ritual. The other gods which became known in the Graeco-Roman world, *Osiris, *Anubis, *Apis, *Horus, *Bubastis, Agathodaemon (see agathos daimon), Bes, etc.


eunuchs, religious  

Richard Gordon

In the Classical period, religious eunuchs are a feature of several Anatolian cults of female deities, extending across to Scythia (Hdt. 4. 67: not shamans) and to the southern foothills of the Taurus mountains, but independent of Babylonian and Phoenician (Euseb. Vit. Const. 3. 55. 2 f.) practices (see anatolian deities). As a whole the institution created a class of pure servants of a god (Matt. 19: 12). Its significance derives from a double contrast, with the involuntary castration of children for court use and the normal obligation to marry. The adult self-castrate expressed in his body both world-rejection and -superiority.Two forms may be distinguished. (1) A senior, or even high, priest in a temple, e.g. the eunuchs of *Hecate at Lagina in *Caria (Sokolowski, LSAM no. 69. 19, etc.); the Megabyz(x)us of *Artemis at *Ephesus (Strabo 14. 1. 23; Vett. Val., 2. 21. 47); the *Attis and Battaces, the high priests of Cybele at *Pessinus.



William Hansen

Folktales are traditional fictional stories. Unlike works of original literary fiction, they are normally anonymous narratives that have been transmitted from one teller to another over an uncertain period of time, and have been shaped by multiple narrators into the form and style that are characteristic of oral narratives. The transmission of traditional tales is predominantly oral, but in literate societies such as Greece and Rome, transmission also takes place via written works.

“Folktale” is an umbrella term for a number of subgenres: the wonder tale (commonly known as the fairytale), the religious tale, the novella, the humorous tale (with its subforms the joke and the tall tale), the animal tale, and the fable. Since there was no ancient notion of folktales as such, no compilation of folktales exists from antiquity—only compilations of particular genres of folktales such as the fable and the joke.

Unlike myths and legends, folktales are narrative fictions, make no serious claim to historicity, and are not ordinarily accorded credence. They differ from myths and especially from legends in their handling of the supernatural.



Esther Eidinow

Identifying a ghost in Greek literature and distinguishing it from what we might call a delusion or a supernatural entity can sometimes pose difficulties: *Homer tends to use the term psyche to describe his spirits, but we also find skia. In later writers, eidolon is used (Hdt. 5.92.η and Pl. Leg. 959b of the corpse), which can also mean a phantom of the mind, or even just a likeness. Later still, *daimōn, alone, or combined with other words to evoke particular forms of demon (see below) appears. Other terms (which will appear throughout the entry) evoked the particular ways in which individuals died and became ghosts. This entry will focus on appearances in the mortal realm of spirits connected to a death, indicating where there are any ambiguities of spectral terminology. As the move from psyche to daimōn might suggest, there seems to be a gradual development in the strength, substance and presence of ghosts in the ancient world; while living mortals seem, in turn, to find increasingly sophisticated ways to manipulate their spectral visitors and their needs for their own ends.


music in worship  

Herbert Jennings Rose

Both in Greece and Italy *music, vocal and instrumental, formed an important part of worship at all periods. To begin with *Homer, the embassy sent to Chryse in Iliad 1. 472–4 spend the whole day after their arrival singing a hymn (παιήων) to *Apollo, who is pleased with it. This *Paean remained typical of his worship, and the quintuple rhythm characteristic of it was named after it. In like manner the *dithyramb was appropriated to *Dionysus. Neither of these, however, was exclusively the property of Apollo or Dionysus; e.g. paeans were composed to *Asclepius (see Powell, Coll. Alex. 133 ff.). The singing of some kind of *hymn appears regularly to have accompanied any formal act of worship, and instrumental music (strings and wind) also is commonly mentioned: see sacrifice, Greek.Much the same is true for Italy. Hymns are continually met with, some traditional, as those of the *Salii (see Mars) and arval brothers (W.



Richard Gordon

For much of the 20th cent. the term ‘mystery religions’ has been current, denoting a special form of personal religion linking the fate of a god of Frazer's ‘dying-rising’ type with the individual believer. The two scholars whose authority made soteriology the central issue were Fr. Cumont (1906) and R. Reitzenstein (1910). The concealed agendum was the question of the uniqueness, and by implication, validity, of Christianity; at the same time, it was the model of that religion which provided the agreed terms of discussion. In this perspective, the earliest and most influential Greek mystery cult, of *Demeter and Kore (see Persephone) at *Eleusis, appeared a crude forerunner of more developed mystery religions from the near east, which in the Hellenistic period filled a spiritual vacuum left by the etiolation of Archaic and Classical civic cult. ‘Mystery’ was taken to be the essence of oriental religiosity.


mysteries, Bacchic  

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.



J. N. Bremmer

Mythology is the field of scholarship dealing with myth but also a particular body of myths. Myth goes back to the Greek word mythos, which originally meant ‘word, speech, message’ but in the 5th cent. bce started to acquire the meaning ‘entertaining, if not necessarily trustworthy, tale’. The Romans used the word fabula, which was also used in modern discussions until c.1760, when the Göttingen classicist C. G. Heyne (1729–1812) coined the word mythus in order to stress the inner veracity of myth. No universally accepted definition of myth exists, but Walter Burkert's statement that ‘myth is a traditional tale with secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance’ gives a good idea of the main characteristics of myth.Let us start with the problem of tradition. *Homer already mentions the *Argonauts, the Theban Cycle, and the deeds of *Heracles. The presence in Linear B texts (see Mycenaean language) of the formulae ‘Mother of the Gods’ and ‘Drimius, son of *Zeus’ suggests a divine genealogy, and the myths of *Achilles, *Helen, and the cattle-raiding Heracles all seem to go back to *Indo-European times (and Heracles maybe further back than that).


Narcissus(1), figure of Greek mythology  

Herbert Jennings Rose and Antony Spawforth

Narcissus (1), in mythology, a beautiful youth, son of *Cephissus (the *Boeotian river) and Liriope, a *nymph. He loved no one till he saw his own reflection in water and fell in love with that; finally he pined away, died, and was turned into the flower of like name. *Ovid offers the fullest version, probably recast for a Roman audience, and gives a philosophical sub-text. He claims that Narcissus was punished for his cruelty to *Echo: he repulsed her and she so wasted away with grief that there was nothing left of her but her voice (Ov.Met. 3. 342 ff.). Other ancient explanations, Paus. 9. 31. 7–8; *Conon (3), 24. The story appealed to Roman taste: it is depicted in nearly 50 paintings from *Pompeii alone; it was also the subject of a rhetorical description (*ekphrasis) by one of the *Philostrati (Philostr.


pagan, paganism  

Michele Renee Salzman

The Latin word paganus (pagan), which originally meant “a country district or community,” could take on a more general sense as “a place with fixed boundaries.” From this early meaning, paganus evolved to mean civilian as opposed to military. Its application by Christians to those who were not of their faith has been explained variously. Some scholars derive its Christian usage based on the association of pagans with the countryside, while others see Christians using the term for the civilians as opposed to “soldiers of Christ.” Only in the 4th century do the words pagan and paganism (paganismus) emerge with the general meaning of “non-Christian.” Some scholars dispute the pejorative nature of the term at this date, but non-Christians were increasingly attacked by hostile 4th-century Christian writers. Because of this enmity and due to the misleading denigration of non-Christians as pagans, some modern scholars have refused to use the term pagan or paganism in their works. Others, however, view its usage as justified, especially given the hostility of late Roman Christians to non-believers.



Richard Seaford

Phallus, an image of the penis, often as erect, to be found in various contexts, in particular (a) in certain rituals associated with fertility, notably Dionysiac *processions (see dionysus): see e.g. Ar. Ach.243 on the Attic rural Dionysia (see attic cults and myths), *Semos in Ath. 622b-c on groups of ‘ithyphallics’ and ‘phallus-bearers’, *Varro in Aug. Civ. 7. 21 ‘for the success of seeds’ at the Liberalia (see liber pater);(b) as a sacred object revealed in the Dionysiac *mysteries, as in the Villa of the Mysteries fresco at *Pompeii; *Iamblichus (2) (Myst. 1. 11) mentions it as a symbol of secret doctrine;(c) in the costume of comedy (see comedy (greek), old), *satyric drama, and various low theatrical genres; *Aristotle (Poet. 1449a11) says that comedy originated in phallic songs;(d) on permanent display, often as part of a statue such as those of *Priapus or the *herms identified with *Hermes;(e) as apotropaic: e.


possession, religious  

Corinne Ondine Pache

That a human being might become possessed by a supernatural power was a fairly common ancient belief. The effect might be a sudden change in behavior, the altered state of consciousness associated with Dionysiac ritual, or a prophetic frenzy as in the case of a divinely inspired trance (see Delphic oracle). Plato (Phaedr. 244a ff., esp. 265a-c) distinguishes between prophetic (mantikê, inspired by Apollo), mystical (telestikê, inspired by Dionysus), poetic (inspired by the Muses), and erotic (inspired by Aphrodite and Eros) possession. Sources also differentiate between unprompted possession and possession sought through ritual, as in the case of the Pythia at Delphi who became ἔνθεος (“inspired” or “filled with a god”) and whose body became a medium for the god’s voice.Words such as θεόληπτος, θεοφόρητος, or κάτοχος (expressing the notion “possessed by (a) god”), carried an ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, they referred to terrifying pathological experiences, such as epileptic strokes or various types of insanity. On the other hand, possession involved direct contact with a god and thus could effect a kind of sacralization. Socrates mentions the possibility of becoming “seized by the nymphs” (νυμφόληπτος) while conversing in a sanctuary dedicated to nymphs (Phaedr.



H. S. Versnel

Prayer was the most common form of expression in ancient religion. It could be formal or informal and was often accompanied by other acts of worship, e.g. *sacrifice or vow (the Greek word euchē meant both prayer and vow). The earliest instance of an independent formal prayer, namely the prayer of the priest Chryses to *Apollo in Il. 1. 37 ff., presents a complete set of the fixed constitutive elements of ancient prayer. These are: (1) invocation. The god is addressed with his (cult) nam (s), patronymic, habitual residence, functions, and qualities. This part serves both to identify and to glorify the god. (2) The argument (in older literature called pars epica), consisting of considerations that might persuade a god to help, e.g. a reminder of the praying person's acts of piety, or a reference to the god's earlier benefactions or his natural inclination to help people. This part often expanded into a eulogy with narrative aspects, especially in *hymns.