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Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space

Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space: The Ancient Greek Experience

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space
    Book Description:

    The division of land and consolidation of territory that created the Greek polis also divided sacred from productive space, sharpened distinctions between purity and pollution, and created a ritual system premised on gender difference. Regional sanctuaries ameliorated competition between city-states, publicized the results of competitive rituals for males, and encouraged judicial alternatives to violence. Female ritual efforts, focused on reproduction and the health of the family, are less visible, but, as this provocative study shows, no less significant. Taking a fresh look at the epigraphical evidence for Greek ritual practice in the context of recent studies of landscape and political organization, Susan Guettel Cole illuminates the profoundly gendered nature of Greek cult practice and explains the connections between female rituals and the integrity of the community. In a rich integration of ancient sources and current theory, Cole brings together the complex evidence for Greek ritual practice. She discusses relevant medical and philosophical theories about the female body; considers Greek ideas about purity, pollution, and ritual purification; and examines the cult of Artemis in detail. Her nuanced study demonstrates the social contribution of women's rituals to the sustenance of the polis and the identity of its people.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92932-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Every individual is nested inside a protective cover of layered identities. Like a colorfully painted Russianmatriuschkadoll containing a whole series of dolls, one inside the other, each person is defined by a combination of relationships. Identities can be taken out, tried on, and displayed one by one to the outside world. Collective and corporate structures work the same way. At different times in the life span of a community, as in the lifetime of an individual, one or another of the layered markers will emerge as dominant, but other markers are never entirely hidden, nor are they effects...

  7. 1 Claiming a Homeland
    (pp. 7-29)

    Ancient Greek communities inhabited three landscapes: the natural, the human, and the imagined. The first was the landscape of the physical environment: the mountains, plains, flowing fresh water, and sea that nourished and sustained each community. For the Greeks, the natural world was a unity of land and water—the earth’s limits bounded by the streams of the primordial ocean, its surface refreshed by the rivers and springs rising from waters circulating underground.¹

    The human landscape was always segmented, shaped by the needs of agriculture and the conventions of political organization. Agriculture divided the land into fields, which, whether scattered...

  8. 2 Ritual Space
    (pp. 30-65)

    Everypolisinhabited the same landscape as its divinities. The land was full of gods, and any special feature of the landscape could be associated with a divinity: mountain tops with Zeus, springs with nymphs, caves with Pan, the wilderness with Artemis, the sea with Poseidon. Epithets and titles of the gods could stress ties to a specific place or to the type of space associated with a particular god. Plato exploits these conventions in thePhaedrus, where the philosophical argument depends on an extended analogy with religious experience, and susceptibility to the attractions of the site of the dialogue...

  9. 3 Inventing the Center
    (pp. 66-91)

    Any attempt to describe the religious practice of the ancient Greekpolismust take into account the contradictions between the tradition of political autonomy for the individual city and the broader context of a shared culture and shared traditions. It is difficult to understand how a landscape so fractured by geology, and a political system so resistant to political centralization, could produce a common culture of religious practice or a shared ideology of divinity. For consistency in religious practice we must look to traditions and institutions that transcended thepolis. From the archaeological evidence of ritual activity and of gifts...

  10. 4 The Ritual Body
    (pp. 92-145)

    TheHomeric Hymn to Apollocelebrates Delos as a major meeting place for Ionians, who traveled to the island “together with their children and modest wives” to take part in Apollo’s major festival.¹ There the visitors heard local maidens sing hymns to Artemis, Apollo, and Leto—hymns understood by all because the girls could imitate the sounds of “all the tribes of men.”² From the hymn we can infer that the festival had a tradition of open admission and that the audience could be male or female, old or young, local or foreign. Thucydides quotes the hymn and adds that...

  11. 5 The Plague of Infertility
    (pp. 146-177)

    The women at Aristophanes’ Thesmophoria suggest that those who produced sons for the city should receive public honors at the Stenia.¹ Their audience knew, however, that honors for women were not publicly proclaimed at festivals and that the Stenia, a festival that excluded males, would not provide the platform for celebrity that public proclamation at the Dionysia gave to men.

    Women did not deserve public honors for raising children because the maternal impulse was considered a fact of nature. Xenophon’s Sokrates makes that clear when he distinguishes the “desire for creating children,”eros teknopoiias,² from sexual passion,aphrodisia, and recognizes...

  12. 6 Landscapes of Artemis
    (pp. 178-197)

    In the southeastern quadrant of the Peloponnese, high on Mt. Parnon, there is a place where the ancient borders of Lakonia, Arkadia, and the Argolid came together.¹ The proximity of the fertile Thyreatic plain made this borderland much contested. As Pausanias climbed the narrow, steep path approaching the heights of the mountain, he passed the site where in 548 b.c.e. three hundred Argives were said to have fought with three hundred Lakedaimonians for control of that plain.² The site was still marked in his day by the graves of the 597 hoplites who had fallen in that battle.³

    When Pausanias...

  13. 7 Domesticating Artemis
    (pp. 198-230)

    The action of Euripides’Iphigeneia among the Tauriansis set far away from the Aegean, on the northern coast of the Black Sea.¹ When Orestes arrives on a mission to fetch from this place a portable image of Artemis, a crisis is generated by the local Taurian custom requiring any stranger arriving on these shores to be sacrificed to Artemis. Unknown to Orestes, his sister Iphigeneia (whom he believes is dead) is living here in service to Artemis, and she is expected to officiate at her own brother’s death. This is avoided when each learns the true identity of the...

  14. Glossary of Greek Terms
    (pp. 231-238)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-266)
  16. Index
    (pp. 267-292)