Ancient Religions by Ms. Sarah Iles Johnston

By Ms. Sarah Iles Johnston

Non secular ideals and practices, which permeated all elements of lifestyles in antiquity, traveled well-worn routes through the Mediterranean: itinerant charismatic practitioners visiting from position to put peddled their abilities as healers, purifiers, cursers, and initiators; and vessels adorned with illustrations of myths traveled with them. New gods encountered in international lands via retailers and conquerors have been occasionally taken domestic to be tailored and followed. This choice of essays through a distinctive foreign team of students, drawn from the groundbreaking reference paintings faith within the old global, bargains an expansive, comparative viewpoint in this advanced non secular global.

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Cultural systems, furthermore, can retain (and sometimes resemanticize) elements that belong to former sociopolitical systems—the pastoralist’s reed hut remains prominent in Mesopotamian rituals well into the Iron Age, and the Greek pantheon remains organized as a royal court even under Athenian democracy. No theory up to now convincingly correlates social and religious systems, and most attempts by sociologists such as Max Weber or Niklaus Luhmann have concentrated on Christianity and sometimes naively generalized Christian conceptions of religion.

Lines of transmission can be guessed at, but they are complex: while the correspondence of Hebrew bÀmâ (high place of cult) and Greek bÃmos (altar) seems to point to a derivation of the western rite from the West Semitic world—with perhaps Cyprus as an interface—the most conspicuous form of altar in Greece, the ever-growing heap of ashes and remains of burnt animals, has parallels in central Europe already in the Late Bronze Age. The practice of burning animals could have arrived in Greece from several sides and is perhaps an Indo-European heritage reinforced from the West Semitic east.

And, as a possible consequence of this: is the process of osmosis and assimilation that is visible with regard to the divine world also visible in the forms of rituals and their physical surroundings? The basic forms of cult seem to have been recognizable enough. 325–30). In other words, this foreigner recognizes the altar as a marker of sacred space and a focus of the rituals connected with it, but he is unable to name the recipient of the cult. Similarly, Herodotus had no problem identifying processions, sacrifices, festivals, temples, images, and altars when traveling in Egypt—to the extent that he derived Greek religion from Egyptian, as some centuries later Dionysius of Halicarnassus derived Roman religion from Greek.

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