Synopses & Reviews
We often think of classical Greek society as a model of rationality and order. Yet as Walter Burkert demonstrates in these influential essays on the history of Greek religion, there were archaic, savage forces surging beneath the outwardly calm face of classical Greece, whose potentially violent and destructive energies, Burkert argues, were harnessed to constructive ends through the interlinked uses of myth and ritual.
For example, in a much-cited essay on the Athenian religious festival of the Arrhephoria, Burkert uncovers deep connections between this strange nocturnal ritual—in which two virgin girls carried sacred offerings into a cave and later returned with something given to them there—and tribal puberty initiations by linking the festival with the myth of the daughters of Kekrops. Other chapters explore the origins of tragedy in blood sacrifice; the role of myth and past crime in the ritual of the new fire on Lemnos; the ties among violence, the Athenian courts, and the annual purification of the divine image; several well-known myths, often retold in poetry, that refer to religious festivals; and how failed political propaganda about the miraculous birth of a king entered the realm of myth at the time of the Persian Wars.
With Savage Energies, Burkert convincingly shows how the lessons of myth and ritual interacted to construct—and reconstruct—classical Greek society. Classicists, historians of religion, and mythologists should all benefit from his insights.
"What is Dionysiac about Greek tragedy, Vernant suggests, and specific to the genre, is the 'otherness' of the hero, his belonging to an absent world that no longer exists, and the blurring and shifting of the boundaries between illusion and reality that result for the audience.... Myth and Tragedy is a book to be unreservedly welcome for its progressive unfolding of ideas which have proved consistently fertile in new perceptions." Times Literary Supplement Zone Books
"Myth and Tragedy is a book to be unreservedly welcome for its progressive unfolding of ideas which have proved consistently fertile in new perceptions and for thinking that is in the best sense individual as well as collective." Times Literary Supplement Zone Books
“The English-speaking world is now being invited, forty years after the original date of publication . . . to read or reread some of the seminal insights that Walter Burkert introduced to the austere tribunal of classical philology. These insights were the basis for an anthropological . . . hermeneutics that advanced an exemplary and resolutely bold thesis.”
“The author of this study is the foremost living interpreter of Greek religious ritual, whose theoretical influence extends well beyond the world of classical studies. . . . It is very good to have these essays, three of them oft-cited classics, published together.”
“There can be no question that Walter Burkert is the preeminent historian of Greek religion of our time. In this book are five of his early essays . . . all of them dealing with aspects of the relationships between sacrificial ritual and myth in ancient Greece, in which brilliant new light is cast on obscure and enigmatic examples.”
Jean-Pierre Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Naquet are leaders in a contemporary French classical scholarship that has produced a stunning reconfiguration of Greek thought and literature.
Jean-Pierre Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Naquet are leaders in a contemporary French classical scholarship that has produced a stunning reconfiguration of Greek thought and literature. Here they provide a disturbing and decidedly nonclassical reading of Greek myth and tragedy and the relationship between them.
Jean-Pierre Vernant is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Study of Ancient Religions at the College de France in Paris. Pierre Vidal-Naquet is Director of Studies and Professor of Sociology at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris.
Jean Pierre-Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Naquet are leaders in a contemporary French classical scholarship that has produced a a stunning reconfiguration of Greek thought and literature. In this work, published here as a single volume, the authors present a disturbing and decidedly non-classical reading of Greek tragedy that insists on its radical discontinuity with our own outlook and with our social, aesthetic, and psychological categories. Originally published in French in two volumes, this new single-volume edition includes revised essays from volume one and is the first English translation of both volumes.Pierre Vidal-Naquet is Director of Studies and Professor of Sociology at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. Jean Pierre-Vernant is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Study of Ancient Religions at the Collège de France. Janet Lloyd is a translator and writer living in England. Distributed for Zone Books.
About the Author
Walter Burkert is an emeritus professor of classics at the University of Zürich. He is the author of a number of books, most recently The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age and Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early Religions. Peter Bing is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of the Classics at Emory University.
Table of Contents
Glenn W. Most
1. Greek Tragedy and Sacrificial Ritual
2. The Legend of Kekrops's Daughters and the Arrhephoria: From Initiation Ritual to Panathenaic Festival
3. Jason, Hypsipyle, and New Fire at Lemnos: A Study in Myth and Ritual
4. Buzyges and Palladion: Violence and the Courts in Ancient Greek Ritual
5. Demaratos, Astrabakos, and Herakles: Kingship, Myth, and Politics at the Time of the Persian Wars