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date: 25 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Drawing on visual, literary, and epigraphic evidence, this chapter argues that epiphany raises questions about the nature and agency of the gods, the limits of human perception, the significance of ritual, and the relationship between religious practice and subjectivity. The modalities of divine appearance found within Greek iconography and poetry are characterized by ambiguity, for although epiphany suggests direct encounter with the gods, it is inevitably culturally mediated. Greek religious artefacts deal with the complexities of divine revelation and concealment with a sophistication which intensifies with the increasing appropriation of epiphany for political ends during the late Classical and Hellenistic periods. The relationship between epiphany, ritual, and politics is explored in two case studies: a passage from Plutarch’s Life of Timoleon concerning battle epiphanies, and the Epidaurian ‘Hymn of Isyllos’, in which the political and military implications of divine manifestation are mobilized in the context of healing cult.

Keywords: epiphany, hymn, gods, poetry, iconography, ritual

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