How were the Greeks of the sixth century BC able to invent philosophy and tragedy? In this book Richard Seaford argues that a large part of the answer can be found in another momentous development, the invention and rapid spread of coinage which produced the first ever thoroughly monetised society. By transforming social relations, monetisation contributed to the ideas of the universe as an impersonal system and of the individual alienated from his own kin and from the gods. Seaford argues (...) that an important precondition for this monetisation was the Greek practice of animal sacrifice, as represented in Homeric Epic, which describes a premonetary world on the point of producing money. This book combines social history, economic anthropology, numismatics and the close reading of literary, inscriptional, and philosophical texts. Questioning the origins and shaping force of Greek philosophy, this is a major book with wide appeal. (shrink)
In Euripides' Bacchae Dionysos visits Thebes in disguise to establish his mysteries there. And so, given normal Euripidean practice, it is almost certain that in the lost part of his final speech Dionysos actually prescribed the establishment of his mysteries in Thebes. In the same way the Homeric Hymn to Demeter tells how the goddess came in disguise to Eleusis and finally established her mysteries there. After coming to Eleusis she performs certain actions in the house of king Celeus, for (...) example the drinking of the κυκεν, which have long been recognized as corresponding to ritual undergone by the initiands in the Eleusinian mysteries. It is the main thesis of this paper that just as elements of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter seem to derive from a ερς λγος of the Eleusinian mysteries, so certain elements of the Bacchae derive from a ερς λγος of the mysteries of Dionysos, and that furthermore Euripides consciously alludes to the Dionysiac mysteries for a dramatic effect dependent on the religiosity of his audience, rather as Aeschylus alludes in the Oresteia, on the principle μαθοσιν αδ, to the mysteries of Eleusis. This case will suffer from two drawbacks. Firstly there is the general scepticism about ritual patterns in drama arising as a reaction to the excesses of, for example, Murray and Cornford. This means that a far greater degree of probability seems to be required from suggestions of this kind than from the more traditional mode of speculation of, say, textual criticism. And secondly, it must be immediately and frankly admitted both that we do not know much about the mysteries of Dionysos and that most of what we do know is from the Hellenistic and Roman period. In the argument that follows recourse will sometimes be had to two assumptions. The first is to suppose a degree of continuity between the Dionysiac mysteries of the classical and later periods. This assumption is based firstly on the observable continuity of the mysteries: for example the antiquity of the Eleusinian ritual described by Plutarch, which will form an important part of my argument, is attested by Aristophanes and Plato. And it is based secondly on general considerations: conservatism is of the essence of those rituals in which a community such as a thiasos perpetuates itself by the transmission of a ritual treasured as originally taught by their god. The second assumption is to suppose, on the basis of numerous observable similarities, an essential similarity between the Dionysiac mysteries and the Eleusinian, about which we are well informed even for the classical period. (shrink)
Most of the work done on tracing persistent themes and images in the Oresteia has failed to take account of the associations of the theme or image for the original audience. Some of these associations are with certain highly emotional rituals. In evoking the ritual the poet evokes also some at least of the emotion which generally accompanies its performance. I will take here as an example the association of the manner of Agamemnon's death, the fatal bath and the fatal (...) robe, with the ritual of the funeral. This will I hope help to enrich our own emotional reaction to Aeschylus' presentation of this event, as well as to shed light on certain problematic passages. (shrink)
These lines are the first reaction to the false news of the death of Orestes. Their attribution has been much discussed. What prompts my intervention is the recent development, on this important problem, of a confident unanimity which seems to me certainly mistaken. I have been unable to find a single translator, editor, or commentator in recent years who gives the lines to Electra. The case for Electra was best made by Headlam–Thomson in 1938, and a few extra points were (...) added very hesitantly by Winnington-Ingram in 1946. From the wealth of detailed argument in Headlam–Thomson, which has been ignored rather than refuted, I will mention and briefly develop just two points, before going on to add some of my own. (shrink)
In an earlier contribution to this journal I argued that many details in the experience of Pentheus in the Bacchae derive from the ritual of mystic initiation. One of these details was his vision of two suns, two cities of Thebes, and Dionysos as a bull. I would like to add here a further point of the same kind about this vision.
Odysseus describes Polyphemus preparing his meal. One expects an indication of the terrifying size of the ; and so , lonely though it is in L, should not be abandoned: compare Ar. Pax.73 . must mean bowls for blood. But the blood of the Greeks flows into the cauldron . It seems probable therefore that is a comic periphrasis for the cauldron. Hermann read 395 after 399 as.
Jasper Griffin's polemic, in this journal, against what he calls the ‘collectivist school’ of interpretation of Athenian tragedy is welcome, as it encourages clarification of fundamental differences. I do not have the space here to tackle him wherever I think he is wrong, still less construct an argument to the effect that Athenian tragedy was a ‘collective’ phenomenon. Rather I want to do two things. Firstly, the casual reader may have formed the impression that whereas the ‘collectivists’ operate with vague (...) and unsubstantiated notions, Griffin's view has the advantage of being firmly grounded in the ancient texts. This impression I intend to dispel. In doing so I will confine myself to some of G.'s general remarks and to his attack on my own views, as a sample of the quality of his argument. Secondly, I also adduce new material in the hope of advancing the debate on this important issue. (shrink)
The idea of the 'unity of opposites' allows one to see important connections between phenomena normally treated separately: verbal style, ritual, tragic action and cosmology. The stylistic figure of Satzparallelismus in lamentation and mystic ritual expresses the unity of opposites (particularly of life and death) as oxymora. Both rituals were factors in the genesis of tragedy, and continued to influence the style and action of mature tragedy. The author advances new readings of various passages of the Oresteia, which is seen (...) to advocate the replacement of a Herakleitean model of the unity of opposites with a Pythagorean model of their reconciliation. (shrink)
Greek tragedy is full of rituals perverted by intra-familial conflict. To mention some examples from the house of Atreus: the funeral bath and the funeral covering, normally administered to a man's corpse by his wife as an expression of ιλία, have in Aeschylus' Oresteia become instruments in the killing of Agamemnon; the pouring of libations at the tomb, normally a θελκτήριον for the dead, becomes in the Choephoroi an occasion for his arousal; Euripides has Klytaimnestra ‘sacrificed’ while performing the sacrifice (...) for her newly born grandchild. On the important question of why it is that tragedians pervert ritual I hope to shed some light in future publications. The purpose of this paper is to examine the radical form taken by the perversion of mourning in Sophokles' Elektra. In the first decade of this century the comparative anthropologists Hertz and van Gennep discovered as a widespread feature of the period of mourning its character as participation in the transitional state of the recently dead, to be ended by the incorporation of the dead person into his or her proper destination and the reincorporation of the mourners into the flow of everyday social life. The mourning relatives in a sense share the condition of the dead. (shrink)
L has …, P … Paley wanted to delete Subsequent editors did not take up the suggestion. J. Diggle on the other hand has proposed that was originally a gloss on ‘It would be no cause for surprise that a scribe who had never seen the like of Homer's should fuse the two versions by distributing the two in what he thought a fair and impartial manner.’ Diggle arrives at The metre is tidied up, the corruption explained. But would be (...) unique in Euripides. is the Euripidean Greek for ‘O dear one’. For ‘O dear Hector’ he writes . If he did want to create here by repetition a sense of there is no reason why he should not have written what is in L; compare Tro. 1081 , Su. 278 and Andr. 530. (shrink)
The papyrus fragments that belong almost certainly to Sophocles' Inacbos have been admirably discussed by Pfeiffer andCarden.1 But one remarkable feature that has never been explained adequatelyis the apparent reference to a black Zeus. P. Oxy. 2369 contains a fragmentarydescription of a stranger turning Io into a cow with a touch of his hand and thenleaving the palace.
This book further develops Professor Seaford's innovative work on the study of ritual and money in the developing Greek polis. It employs the concept of the chronotope, which refers to the phenomenon whereby the spatial and temporal frameworks explicit or implicit in a text have the same structure, and uncovers various such chronotopes in Homer, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Presocratic philosophy and in particular the tragedies of Aeschylus. Mikhail Bakhtin's pioneering use of the chronotope was in literary analysis. This (...) study by contrast derives the variety of chronotopes manifest in Greek texts from the variety of socially integrative practices in the developing polis - notably reciprocity, collective ritual and monetised exchange. In particular, the Oresteia of Aeschylus embodies the reassuring absorption of the new and threatening monetised chronotope into the traditional chronotope that arises from collective ritual with its aetiological myth. This argument includes the first ever demonstration of the profound affinities between Aeschylus and the philosophy of his time. (shrink)
Selfhood and the Soul is a collection of new and original essays in honour of Christopher Gill, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter. Although they all share the same concern - the experience of being a person and the question of how best to live - as in the work of the honorand himself they are distinguished by a diversity of approach and subject matter, taking the reader on a journey from ancient philosophy to medical writing (...) via discussions of topics as varied as money, love, free will, and cookery. (shrink)