Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Secret Cults

Routledge
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Written by an international team of acknowledged experts, this excellent book studies a wide range of contributions and showcases new research on the archaeology, ritual and history of Greek mystery cults.

With a lack of written evidence that exists for the mysteries, archaeology has proved central to explaining their significance and this volume is key to understanding a phenomenon central to Greek religion and society.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Routledge
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Published on
Aug 18, 2005
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781134536160
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / General
History / Ancient / Greece
Religion / History
Social Science / Archaeology
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This content is DRM protected.
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Nilsson's seminal work on Minoan-Myceanaean religion had its second edition in 1950 prior to the decipherment of Linear B; yet he found much in the archaeological record of the Bronze Age which he associated with later Greek religion. In that respect his insights were vindicated by the reading of those tablets which bore the names of classical Greek divinities, though at tme time new conclusions were needed about Indo-European arrival in Greek lands. Dietrich, with Nilsson very much in mind, starts from the premises that beliefs and their associated rites are inherently conservative; that, even where populations change, they tend to do so gradually, creating fusions rather than wholesale disruptions in ritual practice. An understanding of classical Greek religion thus, necessarily, depends on appreciation of its forerunners in the Bronze Age; and they, in turn, on evidence from the better documented religions of the Middle East. Dietrich's four main chapters deal first with those eastern links; then with the old traditions of Minoan Crete; next with the interplay of pre-Greek Minoan and Greek Mycenaean cultures; and finally he attempts to bridge the commonly assumed divide between bronze age and archaic Greece. Appendixes deal with Minoan peak-sanctuaries, with Apollo at Delphi, and (sympathetically) with Nilsson's pervasive view that Greek mythology was first formulated in the Mycenaean age. In these areas a great deal more work has been done since 1974. Dietrich's thoroughly researched work was at once trend-setting and provocative. It is here made available for the first time in paperback; for it still contains much of importance for the student of Greek religion.
The Greek myths are characteristically fabulous; they are full of monsters, metamorphoses, and the supernatural. However, they could be told in other ways as well. This volume charts ancient dissatisfaction with the excesses of myth, and the various attempts to cut these stories down to size by explaining them as misunderstood accounts of actual events. In the hands of ancient rationalizers, the hybrid forms of the Centaurs become early horse-riders, seen from a distance; the Minotaur the result of an illicit liaison, not an inter-species love affair; and Cerberus, nothing more than a notorious snake with a lethal bite. Such approaches form an indigenous mode of ancient myth criticism, and show Greeks grappling with the value and utility of their own narrative traditions. Rationalizing interpretations offer an insight into the practical difficulties inherent in distinguishing myth from history in ancient Greece, and indeed the fragmented nature of myth itself as a conceptual entity. By focusing on six Greek authors (Palaephatus, Heraclitus, Excerpta Vaticana, Conon, Plutarch, and Pausanias) and tracing the development of rationalistic interpretation from the fourth century BC to the Second Sophistic (first to second centuries AD) and beyond, Rationalizing Myth in Antiquity shows that, far from being marginalized as it has been in the past, rationalization should be understood as a fundamental component of the pluralistic and shifting network of Greek myth as it was experienced in antiquity.
In the first authoritative biography of Alexander the Great written for a general audience in a generation, classicist and historian Philip Freeman tells the remarkable life of the great conqueror.

The celebrated Macedonian king has been one of the most enduring figures in history. He was a general of such skill and renown that for two thousand years other great leaders studied his strategy and tactics, from Hannibal to Napoleon, with countless more in between. He flashed across the sky of history like a comet, glowing brightly and burning out quickly: crowned at age nineteen, dead by thirty-two. He established the greatest empire of the ancient world; Greek coins and statues are found as far east as Afghanistan. Our interest in him has never faded.

Alexander was born into the royal family of Macedonia, the kingdom that would soon rule over Greece. Tutored as a boy by Aristotle, Alexander had an inquisitive mind that would serve him well when he faced formidable obstacles during his military campaigns. Shortly after taking command of the army, he launched an invasion of the Persian empire, and continued his conquests as far south as the deserts of Egypt and as far east as the mountains of present-day Pakistan and the plains of India. Alexander spent nearly all his adult life away from his homeland, and he and his men helped spread the Greek language throughout western Asia, where it would become the lingua franca of the ancient world. Within a short time after Alexander’s death in Baghdad, his empire began to fracture. Best known among his successors are the Ptolemies of Egypt, whose empire lasted until Cleopatra.

In his lively and authoritative biography of Alexander, classical scholar and historian Philip Freeman describes Alexander’s astonishing achievements and provides insight into the mercurial character of the great conqueror. Alexander could be petty and magnanimous, cruel and merciful, impulsive and farsighted. Above all, he was ferociously, intensely competitive and could not tolerate losing—which he rarely did. As Freeman explains, without Alexander, the influence of Greece on the ancient world would surely not have been as great as it was, even if his motivation was not to spread Greek culture for beneficial purposes but instead to unify his empire. Only a handful of people have influenced history as Alexander did, which is why he continues to fascinate us.
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