Get Civic Rites: Democracy and Religion in Ancient Athens PDF

By Nancy Evans

ISBN-10: 0520262026

ISBN-13: 9780520262027

ISBN-10: 0520262034

ISBN-13: 9780520262034

Civic Rites explores the non secular origins of Western democracy by way of analyzing the govt. of fifth-century BCE Athens within the higher context of historic Greece and the japanese Mediterranean. Deftly combining historical past, politics, and faith to weave jointly tales of democracy's first leaders and critics, Nancy Evans offers readers a contemporary's viewpoint on Athenian society. She vividly depicts the actual atmosphere and the ancestral rituals that nourished the folks of the earliest democratic kingdom, demonstrating how spiritual issues have been embedded in Athenian governmental methods. The book's lucid portrayals of the best-known Athenian festivals--honoring Athena, Demeter, and Dionysus--offer a balanced view of Athenian ritual and illustrate the diversity of such customs in fifth-century Athens.

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Example text

There were also lesser deities like Pan, who oversaw the work of shepherds, and the innumerable nymphs who imbued the springs that streamed from the hills and snowy mountaintops. While the gods that the Greeks worshipped can reveal to us the resources that they valued, at the same time we can today discern a good deal about human social relations in ancient Greece by analyzing the interactions among these gods. A whole panoply of deities was arranged into an elaborate and interconnected family headed by the supreme patriarch Zeus, “father of gods and men” as he was called by the traditional poets Homer and Hesiod.

Violating the sanctity of an altar of the gods was deadly serious business. Murder was a capital crime, but spilling human blood on ground holy to the deathless gods was doubly intolerable and could taint a family and a whole city for generations to come. For this crime Megacles and his entire family were found guilty of impiety and expelled from Attica. But it was not only Megacles and his sons who were forced into exile. The Athenians were so offended by Megacles’ impious actions against the polis and its religious traditions that at a later time they expelled even the bones of Megacles’ ancestors, and cursed all of Megacles’ descendants.

The Athenians were faced with constant pressure to import grain, and to export residents to colonies around the Mediterranean basin. The need to colonize and expand had been a factor in the larger Greek world since at least the tenth century. At that time Greeks began to settle other lands 18 cleisthenes around the Mediterranean, founding cities such as Corcyra (modern Corfu), Cyrene on the North Africa coast (today’s Libya), Syracuse in Sicily, and Naples in Italy. Even a city as far west as Marseilles on the coast of France started out as a Greek colony.

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Civic Rites: Democracy and Religion in Ancient Athens by Nancy Evans


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