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Polytheism and Society at Athens$
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Robert Parker

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199216116

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216116.001.0001

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Festivals, Rituals, Myths: Reprise

Festivals, Rituals, Myths: Reprise

(p.369) 16 Festivals, Rituals, Myths: Reprise
Polytheism and Society at Athens

Robert Parker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the festivals, rituals, and myths associated with ancient Athens. A central dilemma in the analysis of ritual has been that of giving it an effective definition, and, although the difficulty is compounded once so-called secular rituals are taken into account, it quickly emerges even within the confines of religious activity. Not all Greek rituals are festivals, obviously; an oath sworn, a vow contracted, a sacrifice performed by an individual is not a festival. But are festivals rituals, and in what sense? Whether one favours the language of ritual or of ritualisation, the difficulty is in fact, in relation to festivals, the same. A central issue is the way in which the festivals defined and prescribed the social roles of those who participated in them. What is clear, though, is that whatever intensity there was in Greek religious experience was a product of ritual, and of festivals above all.

Keywords:   rituals, festivals, myths, ancient Athens, ritualisation, social roles, religious experience, cults

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