Savage Energies: Lessons of Myth and Rutual in Ancient Greece

Savage Energies: Lessons of Myth and Rutual in Ancient Greece

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By (author) Walter Burkert, Translated by Peter Bing, Foreword by Glenn W. Most

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  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Format: Hardback | 124 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 230mm x 16mm | 322g
  • Publication date: 10 August 2001
  • Publication City/Country: Chicago, IL
  • ISBN 10: 0226080854
  • ISBN 13: 9780226080857
  • Sales rank: 1,524,844

Product description

We often think of classical Greek society as a model of rationality and order. Yet as Walter Burkert demonstrates in these essays on the history of Greek religion, there were archaic, savage forces surging beneath the outwardly calm face of classical Greece, whose potentially violent and destructive energies, Burkert argues, were harnessed to constructive ends through the interlinked uses of myth and ritual. For example, in a much-cited essay on the Athenian religious festival of the Arrephoria, Burkert uncovers deep connections between this strange nocturnal ritual, in which two virgin girls carried sacred offerings into a cave and later returned with something given to them there, and tribal puberty initiations by linking the festival with the myth of the daughters of Kekrops. Other chapters explore the origins of tragedy in blood sacrifice; the role of myth in the ritual of the new fire on Lemnos; the ties between violence, the Athenian courts, and the annual purification of the divine image; and how failed political propaganda entered the realm of myth at the time of the Persian Wars.

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Author information

Walter Burkert is an emeritus professor of classics at the University of Zurich. He is the author of a number of books, most recently "The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age" and "Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early Religions." Peter Bing is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of the Classics at Emory University.

Review quote

"There can be no question that Walter Burkert is the preeminent historian of Greek religion of our time. In this book are five of his early essays . . . all of them dealing with aspects of the relationships between sacrificial ritual and myth in ancient Greece, in which brilliant new light is cast on obscure and enigmatic examples."--Birger A. Pearson "Religion "

Flap copy

We often think of classical Greek society as a model of rationality and order. Yet as Walter Burkert demonstrates in these influential essays on the history of Greek religion, there were archaic, savage forces surging beneath the outwardly calm face of classical Greece, whose potentially violent and destructive energies, Burkert argues, were harnessed to constructive ends through the interlinked uses of myth and ritual. For example, in a much-cited essay on the Athenian religious festival of the Arrhephoria, Burkert uncovers deep connections between this strange nocturnal ritual--in which two virgin girls carried sacred offerings into a cave and later returned with something given to them there--and tribal puberty initiations by linking the festival with the myth of the daughters of Kekrops. Other chapters explore the origins of tragedy in blood sacrifice; the role of myth and past crime in the ritual of the new fire on Lemnos; the ties among violence, the Athenian courts, and the annual purification of the divine image; several well-known myths, often retold in poetry, that refer to religious festivals; and how failed political propaganda about the miraculous birth of a king entered the realm of myth at the time of the Persian Wars. With "Savage Energies," Burkert convincingly shows how the lessons of myth and ritual interacted to construct--and reconstruct--classical Greek society. Classicists, historians of religion, and mythologists should all benefit from his insights.