Smoke Signals for the Gods

Smoke Signals for the Gods : Ancient Greek Sacrifice from the Archaic Through Roman Periods

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Animal sacrifice has been critical to the study of ancient Mediterranean religions since the eighteenth century. More recently, two leading views on sacrifice have dominated the subject: the psychological approach of Walter Burkert and the sociological one by Jean-Pierre Vernant and Marcel Detienne. These two perspectives have argued that the main feature of sacrifice is allaying feelings of guilt at the slaughter of sacrificial animals. However, both approaches leave little room for the role of the priests and the gods they hope to communicate with. Nor do they allow for comparison between animal sacrifice and other oblations offered to the gods. F. S. Naiden redresses the omission of these salient features to show that, far from being an attempt to assuage guilt or achieve solidarity, animal sacrifice is an attempt to make contact with a divine being, and that it is so important for-and perceived to be so risky for-the worshippers that it becomes subject to regulations of unequaled extent and complexity. Sacrificial priests are the most closely regulated of all Greek officials, and sacrifice itself is the most closely regulated public business. All this anxiety and effort invites some explanation, yet to date scholars have paid little attention to these regulations. Smoke Signals for the Gods addresses these, while drawing on recent work on Greek sacred law and Greek religious terminology. Furthermore, it seek to explain how mistaken views of sacrifice and animals arose, and traces them farther into the past, often back to early Christianity. Drawing on a wealth of sources, this book provides a complete picture of ancient animal sacrifice.

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  • Hardback | 448 pages
  • 165.1 x 236.22 x 40.64mm | 748.42g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • 17 illus.
  • 0199916403
  • 9780199916405
  • 1,353,642

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Naiden is the first scholar to pull together so many accounts of sacrifice in such a sophisticated fashion, and he exhibits a masterful range. His collection of anecdotes and testimonia will benefit generations of scholars, who could only look to the abbreviated entries in lexica or handbooks like ThesCRA, which do not aim to be comprehensive. Naiden embraces the full spectrum and is able to collapse it all into an accessible paradigm based on human desire for divine approval and assistance. It's brilliantly simple and the narrative he creates renders a dizzying variety of ancient testimony and criticism into a bite-sized format. He has effectively dismantled the 20th century theories, creating a new point of reference for Classical studies on this topic. Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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About F. S. Naiden

F. S. Naiden is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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