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date: 20 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Important in Greek religion for over a century, ‘sacrifice’ became a central, decisive concept: animal sacrifices followed by a meal, holocausts, and hepatoscopy, plus accompanying festivals, on the one hand, and accompanying aparchai and libations, on the other. This chapter gives a critique of this broad sense of ‘sacrifice’ and recommends a narrow sense, in which animal sacrifice followed by a meal is not predominant or essential, and in which two features attributed to animal sacrifice—guilt for the slaughter of animals and solidarity among worshippers—are rejected or qualified. Besides being a social occasion, sacrifice was a performance with moral and aesthetic elements, a ceremony with a divine judge and spectator. With its Christian overtones, the term ‘sacrifice’ is ill-suited for this practice, which included various offerings but not a master ritual to be interpreted according to particular anthropological or sociological ideas.

Keywords: sacrifice, meal, hepatoscopy, libations, ritual

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