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The Strangeness of GodsHistorical Perspectives on the Interpretation of Athenian Religion$
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S.C. Humphreys

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269235

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269235.001.0001

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Metamorphoses of Tradition: the Athenian Anthesteri

Metamorphoses of Tradition: the Athenian Anthesteri

(p.223) 6 Metamorphoses of Tradition: the Athenian Anthesteria
The Strangeness of Gods

S. C. Humphreys

Oxford University Press

This chapter gives a radically new account of the history of this festival. It is usually represented as a traditional ritual with origins in celebrations of new wine and an ancient All Souls’ Day. Here it is suggested that rites symbolizing renewal and new beginnings were constantly reinterpreted and modified as Athenian culture became more urban, attitudes to drunkenness changed, and Dionysus became more closely associated with the theatre. Because Athenians themselves saw the Anthesteria as ‘traditional’, the festival attracted learned speculation about culture history, the origins of drama, and the Flood as the beginning of human history. Some elements taken by modern scholars as part of age-old tradition may be late (return and expulsion of souls of the dead) or purely textual (the Aiora as a rite of swinging). The aim of this narrative is to startle readers into re-examining unquestioned assumptions.

Keywords:   Aiora, Anthesteria, Dionysos, Flood, historicism, rites of renewal, souls, theatre history

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