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International symposium, 7-9 July, 2015

The gods of the Greeks liked things. Greek religion is inseparable from its temples, altars, statues, and votive offerings; the last of a dazzling variety, ranging from gleaming bronze tripods or elaborate gold jewellery, to simple terracotta figurines, used shoes and dirty pieces of clothing. As a corollary, to understand Greek religion one has to integrate into any study of its theology and rituals, its distinctive materiality. This conference examines this “distinctive materiality” on two levels: firstly, by examining the role of religious objects in human society and secondly, by looking at the significance that objects were thought to have for the gods themselves. The discussions will aim specifically at exploring the ancient Greek ideas on objects and their materiality, a perspective that has hitherto been given little attention.

Programme: The Stuff of the Gods

Poster: The Stuff of the Gods

The Athens Greek Religion Seminar

J.-M. Carbon & E. Harris

Double Greek Religion Seminar, by Jan-Mathieu Carbon and Edward Harris,

Tuesday 19 May 2015 (Μitseon 9, Acropolis Metro station).


The Athens Greek Religion Seminar

P. Strolonga, ˮShaping Religious Beliefs: The Case of the Major Homeric Hymnsˮ

12 May 2015, 15:00
Swedish Institute at Athens (Mitseon 9, Akropolis metro station)

Polyxeni Strolonga, ASCSA
“Shaping Religious Beliefs: The Case of the Major Homeric Hymns”


Scholars often link the Homeric Hymns with certain rituals and festivals in order to assign an aetiological function to them or to locate them in a religious performative context. In this line of interpretation the Homeric Hymn to Demeter reflects the Eleusinian Mysteries (Foley 1993; contra Clinton 1992:28-37 who links it with the Thesmophoria), the Homeric Hymn to Apollo provides an aetiology for Apollo’s three cults and a foundation myth for the Delphic oracle (see Chappell 2006), and the Homeric Hymn to Hermes was performed at the Hermaia, an athletic festival in the god’s honor (Johnston 2002; contra Vergados 2012: 150-153). Even the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, which lacks any obvious cultic dimensions, has been linked to rituals of the adoration and the cleansing of cult images (Breitenberger 2007; cf. Faulkner 2008 who views the hymn purely as secular court poetry). My paper by treating the Hymns as religious poetry dissociates them from specific ritual contexts and relocates them in a panhellenic belief system. A structuralistic and anthropological approach to the Hymns indicates that these poems, which express a theological speculation (Clay 2012) even if they are not cult hymns (Clay 1989), portray gods in such a way so as they display a consistent behavior with respect to their reciprocal relationships with humans. In the narrative of the Homeric Hymns the gods employ quid pro quo and do ut des exchanges in place of punishment (e.g. Aphrodite and Anchises) and they present rituals and priesthood as the ideal reciprocal communication between gods and humans (e.g. Apollo and his priests). The consistency in which gods reciprocate with humans in a religious context and the positive nature of the gods’ offerings constitute a rationalization for the practice of reciprocity and reflect religious beliefs with a panhellenic appeal as the Homeric Hymns shape the mortals’ perception of the Greek Pantheon beyond local cults.


Clay, Jenny Strauss. The Politics of Olympus : Form and Meaning in the Major Homeric Hymns. Princeton, 1989.
—. “Theology and Religion in the Homeric Hymns”, in Richard Bouchon, Pascale Brillet-Dubois, Nadine Le Meur-Weissman (eds.), Hymnes de la Grèce antique. Approches littéraires et historiques : actes du colloque international de Lyon, 19-21 juin 2008 (Lyon), 2012 : 315-322.
Chappell, Michael. 2006. Delphi and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. CQ 56.2: 331-48.
Clinton, Kevin. Myth and Cult: The Iconography of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Stockholm, 1992 .
Faulkner, Andrew. “The Legacy of Aphrodite: Anchises’ Offspring in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.” American Journal of Philology 129.1 (2008): 1-18.
Foley, Helene P. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter : Translation, Commentary, and Interpretive Essays. Princeton, 1994.
Johnston, Sarah Iles. “Myth, Festival, and Poet: The Homeric Hymn to Hermes and Its Performative Context.” Classical Philology 97.2 (2002): 109.
Vergados, Athanassios. A Commentary on the “Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Berlin, 2012.

The Athens Greek Religion Seminar

E. Balomenou, ˮWere Gods Meant to Entertain? Exploring Performativity, Theatricality and Entertainment in the Aegean Bronze Age Religionˮ

21 April 2015, 15:00
Swedish Institute at Athens (Mitseon 9, Akropolis metro station)

Elene Balomenou (University of Athens)
“Were Gods Meant to Entertain? Exploring Performativity, Theatricality and Entertainment in the Aegean Bronze Age Religion.’’

The religious cult in the Aegean Bronze Age has been thoroughly explored by the study of the available iconographical and architectural data of the Minoan and the Mycenaean material culture, by its extensive comparison with other contemporary prehistoric cultures and evidently by its relation to the posterior ancient Greek religion. Subsequently, in light of the various theoretical patterns and of the recent disciplines emerging in the past century, the Aegean Bronze Age religion was developed as a component of socioeconomic investigation while the remaining evidence of its ritual practice was observed at some length in the field of anthropological interpretation. Since this religious ritual practice has been highlighted as religious ritual action, the foundations have been laid in order to extend our notion of the Aegean Bronze Age religion and situate it as center of live experience, demonstration activity and subsequently as the scenery of a staged spectacle and display. The aim of this paper will be to point out the dialectic infusion among these dimensions, which seems to source as religious symbolic action but could as well flow as a vivid entertaining performance.

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