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Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice$
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Jennifer Wright Knust and Zsuzsanna Varhelyi

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738960

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738960.001.0001

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The Religion of Plant and Animal Offerings Versus the Religion of Meanings, Essences, and Textual Mysteries

The Religion of Plant and Animal Offerings Versus the Religion of Meanings, Essences, and Textual Mysteries

Chapter:
(p.35) 1 The Religion of Plant and Animal Offerings Versus the Religion of Meanings, Essences, and Textual Mysteries
Source:
Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice
Author(s):

Stanley Stowers

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738960.003.0001

Focusing on a distinction between two modes of ancient Mediterranean religion, the religion of everyday social exchange, in which the main focus was on plant and animal offerings, and the religion of literate cultural producers, which relies upon the former but re-defines practice as a product of the mind, Stanley Stowers argues that ancient cultural producers textualized sacrificial practice, turning sacrifice into a matter of truths and meanings and overlooking the function of sacrifice as a strategic, practical system of reciprocity between gods and human beings. Modern studies of sacrifice too often depend upon these ancient textual performances, privileging theologies of sacrifice over the underlying and un-theorized practical system of sacrificial exchange in their own attempts to extract meaning. Stowers encourages a renewed focus on sacrifice as a strategy of daily living that avoids the obfuscating fascination with beliefs and discursive rationales common to ancient and modern discourses alike.

Keywords:   plant and animal offerings, sacrificial practice, civic religion, Greek religion, reciprocity

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