This chapter investigates how Athenian children were placed under the protection of the gods and what services they performed on the gods’ behalf. The successive rituals that adults conducted on their children’s behalf acknowledged their susceptibility to illness and injury throughout their journey to adulthood. Children’s prominence in state cults was apparently because they were highly valued for their ritual purity. Ritual activity also contributed to the socialization of the rising generation. It remains unclear, however, how many Athenian children underwent what scholars have identified as rites of passage. Nor do we know for certain what percentage of them served as officiates in a subsidiary priestly capacity, though the evidence suggests that this privilege was confined to a handful of the well-born.
The festivals of the Greek world demonstrate the power of Hellenism as a unifying ideal, together with the vitality and variety of local Hellenic practice. There is a vast array of complementary views of Greek festivals, which between them can help people to reconstruct the perspectives of spectator and competitor, citizen and foreign visitor, emperor and benefactor, cultural centres and cultural margins. That highly varied body of material makes the cultural history of Greek festivals a very rich one. This article focuses on two distinct areas. First, and at greater length, it looks at the variety of ways in which festivals were represented and experienced as manifestations of various types of community. Second, the article turns to the question of how people should read the experience and representation of athletic contest and the athletic body. Both areas raise vividly the question of links between experience and identity.
The classical period was a time of widespread travel throughout the Mediterranean, and Athens was but one city among many in which residents and visitors met and jostled up against one another in the streets, at festivals, and in the harbours. There are figures such as Ion of Chios and his contemporaries who regularly travelled in and out of Athens, and a very varied set of images emerges – the noisy harbour at Piraeus, the crowds at the Panathenaia, or the debut of an Aeschylean play in Syracuse. Rewriting classical Athens in terms of travel encounters reveals both sides of classical Athens – the enduring and the transient, the Parthenon and the port.
This article points out the problems of identifying ancient magic and outlines connections between medical, magical, and religious practices. The central problem for any student of Greek magic is that the term mageia, from which people ultimately derive ‘magic’, only emerges in the latter half of the fifth century BCE, whereas the evidence for practices and substances that were understood to be magical, as well as for individuals who were thought to be magicians, existed prior to the birth of the term. Mageia means on the one hand the ‘activity of a magos’ and, on the other, ‘magic’ in the looser sense defined by the Hippocratic author of On the Sacred Disease and Plato.
The shrines situated on mountains, called peak sanctuaries, are a distinctive feature of Minoan religion. The most common finds are clay figurines, which appear in the form of animals, human votaries, and parts of the human body, such as feet, eyes, and genitalia. These votives reflect the concerns of the worshippers—their own fertility and well-being and that of their animals. Richer peak sanctuaries have stone vessels, Linear A inscriptions, jewelry, seals, bronze blades, figurines, and double axes. The more costly finds were found at a limited number of sites and generally date to the Neopalatial period. The ritual focus of the shrine may consist of a flat rock, a cairn of stones, and/or concentrations of white pebbles. Actual architectural remains appear at only nine sites, eight of which were those that continued into the Neopalatial period.
The evidence for the Mycenaean period is different from that for the Minoan in two important respects. First, in general the Mycenaean evidence is not as abundant as it is for the Minoan culture. In light of this, scholars can be dismissive of the evidence presented in this article, thereby giving the impression that not much can be said about Mycenaean religion. However, the body of archaeological material is now not as scanty as is often portrayed and positive information can be gleaned from the sites that have been discovered. When the archaeological evidence is combined with the information provided by the Linear B tablets, a fairly informative picture of Mycenaean religion results. Evidence for communal sacrificial rites has been found on the Kynortion hilltop above Epidauros. The types of bones and the associated pottery indicate that the sacrifices were probably followed by communal feasts.
Jan N. Bremmer
This article examines traditions through which members of a society achieve or express identity via myth, mythology, and mythography. It is no exaggeration to state that myths are the best-known parts of Greek antiquity today. In a brief survey, it is impossible to treat the whole subject of myth. The discussion here instead focuses on some observations on the origin, production, and function of myth; its relation to ritual; its transformation and marginalization in the course of the archaic and classical periods; its fossilization and function in the Roman/Hellenistic period; and its study in modern times.
Against the background of the centrality of a text-oriented society and the crucial role of the Hebrew Bible in shaping Jewish childhood in antiquity, this chapter considers the role of visual literacy through an examination of synagogal paintings and mosaics. The article asks how images shaped the social experience and acculturation of children into a society governed by communal prayers, commemorative festivities, synagogal gatherings, and rules harking back to Scripture. Why do visuals, illustrating biblical scenes featuring children, suddenly emerge on walls and floors of synagogues, beginning (so far as we can tell) with mid-third century Dura Europos and continuing with synagogues in the Land of Israel?