Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space: The Ancient Greek Experience

Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space: The Ancient Greek Experience

Susan Guettel Cole

Language: English

Pages: 306

ISBN: 0520235444

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The division of land and consolidation of territory that created the Greek polis also divided sacred from productive space, sharpened distinctions between purity and pollution, and created a ritual system premised on gender difference. Regional sanctuaries ameliorated competition between city-states, publicized the results of competitive rituals for males, and encouraged judicial alternatives to violence. Female ritual efforts, focused on reproduction and the health of the family, are less visible, but, as this provocative study shows, no less significant. Taking a fresh look at the epigraphical evidence for Greek ritual practice in the context of recent studies of landscape and political organization, Susan Guettel Cole illuminates the profoundly gendered nature of Greek cult practice and explains the connections between female rituals and the integrity of the community.

In a rich integration of ancient sources and current theory, Cole brings together the complex evidence for Greek ritual practice. She discusses relevant medical and philosophical theories about the female body; considers Greek ideas about purity, pollution, and ritual purification; and examines the cult of Artemis in detail. Her nuanced study demonstrates the social contribution of women's rituals to the sustenance of the polis and the identity of its people.

Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World (Facts on File Library of World History)

Kinship Myth in Ancient Greece


















sworn guaranteed that the gods were involved in punishing a crime. A curse publicized the consequences of divine disapproval and emphasized the burden of heavy pollution (agos) attached to one who violated a standard considered endorsed by the gods.27 The pinax (plaque) that records the text of the rhetra of the Eleans was dedicated (declared sacred) at Olympia, and the fines were paid to Zeus, arbiter for all Eleans. As a direct participant in the judicial process, the god protected the words of

Olympia needed two thunderbolts because he presided over the altar in the bouleuterion where, in the presence of their fathers, brothers, and the umpires who judged the events, athletes swore a special oath to compete fairly and to avoid cheating.36 Apollo was another divinity with important legal functions, and his judicial authority extended beyond regional borders. At Delphi, he was recognized as a major divinity, consulted by cities on questions of pollution, correct performance of ritual,

Delphi.” 71 The myth of Delphic centrality conveyed a message of security, in sharp opposition to the challenges faced by cities protecting a local landscape. A city’s neighbors could be its fiercest enemies. Representations of the larger world replicated the experience of the individual polis, imagined as a secure center surrounded by its agricultural territory (crops planted on the plains and lower hillsides), and the whole bounded by fringe areas, eschatiai, or edge zones—the mountains shared

connects the procedures of the prytaneion with the most hallowed ritual site in the city and suggests that the segment at the prytaneion was the original reason for the entire sequence. The trial scene at the prytaneion, like the trial scene in Aischylos’s Oresteia, represents judicial process as the solution to the problem of assessing responsibility for violence.146 The ritual that celebrated the first plowing of Attic soil, a first occasion, becomes the template for the ritual trial, also a first

offerings cluster in specific sanctuaries. Eyes were often offered to Demeter, and breasts and vulvae to Artemis and Aphrodite. Occasionally the offerings in a specific sanctuary seem limited to a female clientele, but the more typical deposits, especially those associated with Asklepios, reflect a diverse clientele—male and female, young and old—with concerns for a variety of diseases and disabilities. Body parts carved in stone were offered for the most part to divinities associated with

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