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Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

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Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby pster » Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:05 pm

Does anybody know of a good treatment of the relation between religion and politics in Greece, in particular, the relation between priest and political leader/general? Who called the shots and how? For example, I would like a treatment that explains if and how political pressure was brought to bear on Delphi or from Delphi. Perhaps we don't know, but if so I would like a treatment that explicitly says what we do and don't know. I have never studied the subject, but every time I see a book, I skim it for a discussion of this point and always seem to come up empty. Peter Brown would probably know, but most of his books are on late antiquity and the early Christians and he didn't take up the matter directly in the couple of books of his that I read. In Roman history, it is easier to get a handle on things as Numa has the state supporting the priests and priestesses from 700BC and so it seems your basic narrative is one of the state calling the shots. In Greece, however, you have rival city states sharing religious beliefs and rituals. Surely their rivalry must have spilled over into battles over who controls Delphi. Wouldn't it? And intrapolis also their must have been rivalry over temple control. Wouldn't there have been? How did that play out? And what is a good source?
Thanks in advance.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby rkday » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:50 am

What have you read? As you say, Peter Brown works on late antiquity, so he's probably not the most helpful author to look at - try Robert Parker's "Athenian Religion" to learn about the society we have the best evidence for, or chapters fourteen through eighteen of Blackwell's new A Companion to Greek Religion for a broader view.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby Scribo » Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:44 pm

This is somewhat of a research area for me, it's also something that suffers heavily from poor sources and even poorer scholarship. Anything comparing to the two is going to be somewhat derivitive tbh.

There's a book "Religion and the Ancient Greek City" or some such title, you'll find it if you search on those terms, it has a vomity greeny cover for starters.

EDIT: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Religion-Ancien ... 504&sr=8-1

there you go, good starting point, most of the stuff you're after only really becomes apparent once you've grasped the material and started thinking on how to apply it for analysis though. The short answer is...they're heavily, heavily, linked. In fact thinking of Religion as a seperate thing is a bad idea in context.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby Scribo » Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:50 pm

Also saying that all the Greek states had the same rites/gods is highly, highly, controversial. I'd go so far as to call it academic fantasy: What you do get is high levels of syncretionism across a variety of styles.

As for intra poleis - you get examples like the Athenian state having to come in take over the Eleusian mysteries because they're becoming more popular, or the politic behind setting up a new temple to a foreign deity (Plato and one or two of the orators touch on this actually) and such like.

Also you still have to bear in mind how Athenocentric our sources are in general.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby pster » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:33 pm

rkday wrote:What have you read? As you say, Peter Brown works on late antiquity, so he's probably not the most helpful author to look at - try Robert Parker's "Athenian Religion" to learn about the society we have the best evidence for, or chapters fourteen through eighteen of Blackwell's new A Companion to Greek Religion for a broader view.


I read about 6 books on late antiquity about 4 years ago, as I was interested in Rome's conversion. I have read very little about Greek society. I read all the tragedies and almost all of the philosophy. But very few secondary sources. I bought a few books randomly in used bookstores but whenever I looked at them, they didn't seem worth the time.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby pster » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:45 pm

Scribo wrote:it's also something that suffers heavily from poor sources and even poorer scholarship.


This is what I had come to assume

Scribo wrote:Anything comparing to the two is going to be somewhat derivitive tbh.



Sorry, can you rephrase?

Scribo wrote:
There's a book "Religion and the Ancient Greek City"

there you go, good starting point, most of the stuff you're after only really becomes apparent once you've grasped the material and started thinking on how to apply it for analysis though.


Thanks. That looks pretty good. However, just to judge a book by its table of contents, it looks like only the first half is relevant and even then I was looking for more red meat. But if that's all that's on the menu, I guess I'll have to order that!
Last edited by pster on Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby pster » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:46 pm

Scribo wrote:The short answer is...they're heavily, heavily, linked. In fact thinking of Religion as a seperate thing is a bad idea in context.


Sure, that I can believe.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby pster » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:54 pm

Scribo wrote:Also saying that all the Greek states had the same rites/gods is highly, highly, controversial. I'd go so far as to call it academic fantasy: What you do get is high levels of syncretionism across a variety of styles.

As for intra poleis - you get examples like the Athenian state having to come in take over the Eleusian mysteries because they're becoming more popular, or the politic behind setting up a new temple to a foreign deity (Plato and one or two of the orators touch on this actually) and such like.

Also you still have to bear in mind how Athenocentric our sources are in general.


Excellent. Thanks. That helps.

Would you agree with this kind of reasoning: The fact that we don't (=pster doesn't) know the names of any Greek priests implies that the priests did not have as much power as the leaders? Or at a minimum puts the burden of proof on those who would claim otherwise? I mean I know the names of Greek prostitutes but not Greek priests!

Here is the thing. I don't mind buying a book tonight, but I want to know it is the best available treatment of the question of power relations with respect to the temples, rites, etc.

Is there a Marxist treatment?! Never felt the need to ask that before. Hehe.

What does Max Weber say? I don't have my library with me! Are there any good articles? I have access to JSTOR.
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Re: Greek Religion vs. Greek Politics

Postby Scribo » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:05 pm

I'll try a quick fire round of answers. :)

When I said derivative, I meant a treatment that doesn't fully cover one or the other, essentially I meant that it would be best to read a book on either subject and compile notes in your head.

As for the Priests...well we probably know many names of Priests....we just don't know that they're priests! In fact it might be more accurate to examine "peoples with priestly functions" or something.

That book is good, it's a shame only about 50% of it seems relevant though, have you tried looking at the surveys in the Classics pamphlet on Greek Religion? It's by Bremmer I think.

As for Marxist views, probably, just can't think of anything right now.
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