Reciprocity and Ritual

Reciprocity and Ritual : Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-state

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This is an exciting and entirely new synthesis, combining anthropology, political and social history, and the close reading of central Greek texts, to account for two the most significant hallmarks in Homeric epic and Athenian tragedy: the representation of ritual and codes of reciprocity. Both genres are pervaded by these features, yet each treats them in entirely different ways. In this book, Dr Seaford shows that these differences cannot be accounted for in merely literary terms, but require a historical explanation. Homer in its final form is a product of the city state at an earlier historical stage than is tragedy. It is the growth of the city-state and its concomitant developments - in particular of law and of money, as well as in the practice of ritual - that provide a key to the crystallization of the Homeric narrative tradition, to the specificity of tragedy, and to certain features of the thought of the period. In the case of reciprocity, again - whether the positive reciprocity associated with gift-giving or the hostile reciprocity of revenge - the systematic distinctions between Homer and tragedy can be explained only from a historical perspective. In its characteristic movement tradegy reflects and confirms the transition from one kind of society towards another: from a network of reciprocial relations, characteristic of societies where the state is weak or absent, to the organization of citizens around a single centre or series of centres, the institutions and cults of the city-state. Challenging, thoroughly lucid, and at times controversial, this lively and original work is the first to attempt to understand the development of early Greek literature from the perspective of state-formation. It should interest all serious students and scholars of both the literature and the history of classical more

Product details

  • Hardback | 480 pages
  • 147 x 225 x 33mm | 744g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Clarendon Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0198149492
  • 9780198149491

Table of contents

Polis, household and reciprocity in Homer; reciprocity, marriage and sacrifice in Homer; death ritual and reciprocal violence in the polis; collective death ritual; death ritual in the "Iliad"; the transformation of reciprocity; Dionysos and the polis; transformation of the Dionysiac sacrifice; the Dionysiac in Homer and in tragedy; reciprocity and ritual in more

About Richard Seaford

Formerly at the National Humanities Center, North Carolinashow more

Review quote

Richard Seaford's magisterial study, Reciprocity and Rituals: ... must now ensure that commentators on Homer, tragedy and the emergent city-state will in future neglect ritual at their peril ... Seaford's theory is an impressive intellectual, subsuming every dimension of Greek society ... it will undoubtedly prove to be one of the most important woks on Greek religion and society to have appeared in the last quarter of this century. The Times Literary Supplement There is so much here and about so many things that it's not easy to decide what to say in a brief assessment except to urge all to join their libraries waiting list for loan ... this book is certainly no depressing read ... stimulates rather than disturbs ... and it is full of neat little points. Greece and Rome This is a passionately and lucidly argued book that brings together S.'s work over many years in a bold synthetic vision ... here is a book not afraid of broad scope or of extended argumentation ... This is an important book that will provoke strong disagreement as well as admiration - but even in disagreement, the effort is well worth it. Simon Goldhill, King's College, Cambridge. The Classical Review, XLV, 2, '95show more