Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece

Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece

Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece

Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece

Synopsis

In this, the first book length study of the subject for 75 years, the author provides a fascinating examination of archaeological and written evidence for the ritual killing of human beings in ancient Greece.

Excerpt

Three quarters of a century have now passed since the appearance of Friedrich Schwenn’s Die Menschenopfer bei den Griechen und Römern, which has remained since its publication the standard work on the ritual killing of humans in ancient Greece and Italy. But much has happened in seventy-five years: the majority of the archaeological material was discovered after 1915; several relevant papyri have been published, including a fragment of a commentary on Callimachus which shows that the ‘scapegoats’ at Abdera were not killed and another which restores the divine recipient of a human sacrifice allegedly performed in Attica to his proper home in Lesbos; and Schwenn overlooked quite a few ancient texts available to him. Also, since 1915 numerous scholarly books and articles have appeared which have a bearing on nearly every aspect of this broad topic. Indeed in recent years there has been quite a renaissance in the study of Greek myth and ritual, on both sides of the Atlantic. An up-to-date, comprehensive study of the evidence has long been overdue.

But just as a comprehensive study is long overdue, so too is it now, I believe, beyond the capabilities of any one individual, unless that person be not only a philologist (with expertise in a wide range of literature, from Homer to the Byzantine period) and historian of Greek religion, but also a physical anthropologist; a social anthropologist, perhaps; an archaeologist certainly (with specialities in Minoan religion and Mycenaean burial customs); and a scholar of the early Greek language preserved in the Linear B script. Non omnia possumus omnes. My aims, therefore, have been limited: to collect, organize, and present the evidence in order to make it available to classicists, archaeologists, students of Greek religion, and other interested readers; and then to evaluate, in so

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