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Michigan State University

Classical Studies: Mythology & Religion

Selected Resources

The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology / edited by Roger D. Woodard.  Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2007.  536pp.  Main Library BL783 .C36 2007 : A unique resource, 'The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology' is essential reading for understanding not only Greek myth, but also its enormous impact on art, architecture, literature, politics and philosophy across the ages. More than a compendium of isolated facts, 'The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology' is thoughtfully composed by a team of international experts who highlight important themes in three sections. The first part examines oral and written Greek mythology and the uses of these myths from the epic poetry of the eighth century BC to the mythographic catalogs of the early centuries AD. The second section looks at the relationship between ancient Greek myth and Greek culture and investigates the Roman appropriation of the Greek mythic tradition. Section three follows the reception of Greek myth from the Middle Ages to modernity, taking in such factors as feminist scholarship, cinema and literature. Important for its reach and breadth, its integrated approach and its up-to-date treatment, 'The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology' is fundamental for anyone seeking a broader understanding of the myths and their influence on western tradition.

The Cambridge history of religions in the ancient world : from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic era / [edited by] Marvin A. Sweeney, Michele Renee Salzman.  Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2013.  2 volumes.  Main Library BL96 .C363 2012 : Provides a comprehensive examination of the history of the religions of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world. The essays in these volumes have a broad reach, covering the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, and extending from the Bronze Age into the late Roman period. Its contributors, acknowledged experts in their fields, incorporate a wide spectrum of textual and material evidence into their analyses of their fields. The regional and historical orientations of the essays will enable readers to see how a religious tradition or movement assumed a distinctive local identity, as well as to understand how each tradition developed within its broader regional context. Supplemented with maps, illustrations, and detailed indexes, these volumes will be an excellent reference tool for scholars and students.

Classical Mythology  / Elizabeth Vandiver.  Chantilly, VA : Teaching Co., c2000.  4 DVD videodiscs (ca. 720 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in. + 2 course guidebooks (71 p. each ; 22 cm.)  BL782 .V36 2007 VideoDVD : In this set of 24 lectures, Professor Elizabeth Vandiver, University of Maryland, introduces the student to the primary characters and most important stories of classical Greek and Roman mythology. She also surveys some of the leading theoretical approaches to understanding myth in general and classical myth in particular....From Athena to Zeus, the characters and stories of classical mythology have been both unforgettable and profoundly influential. They have inspired and shaped everything from great art and literature, to our notions of sexuality and gender roles, to the themes of popular films and TV shows.....Classical Mythology is an introduction to the primary characters and most important stories of classical Greek and Roman mythology. Among those you will study are the accounts of the creation of the world in Hesiod's Theogony and Ovid's Metamorphoses; the gods Zeus, Apollo, Demeter, Persephone, Hermes, Dionysos, and Aphrodite; the Greek Heroes, Theseus and Heracles (Hercules in the Roman version); and the most famous of all classical myths, the Trojan War. 

A Companion to Greek Mythology  / edited by Ken Dowden and Niall Livingstone.  Chichester, West Sussex ; Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 643pp.  BL783 .C66 2011  Online : This collection of twenty eight articles on interpreting Greco-Roman culture presents a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to examining Greek mythology within the broader context of the intellectual and cultural development of the ancient world and provides an in depth discussion of the influence of traditional stories on the development of a shared historical culture. The work is divided into sections covering the establishment of the mythological canon, myth as communicated through cultural forms such as visual arts, history and philosophy, the impact of myth on specific ancient cultures and places, indo-European backgrounds to Greek mythology and the interpretation of myth through time. Contributors include academics in the fields of religious studies, history and classical studies from a variety of universities in the US and Europe. 

A Companion to Greek Religion / edited by Daniel Ogden. Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub., 2007.  497pp.  Main Library BL790 .C66 2007 : A Companion to Greek Religion covers all aspects of religion in the ancient Greek world from the archaic, through the classical, and into the hellenistic period. Each of the volume’s 27 essays is written by an international expert and provides a survey of a particular area that reflects contemporary scholarship. All the contributions place an emphasis on religious life as it was experienced by Greek men and women at different times and in different places. Myth is considered alongside religion throughout....The Companion opens with a review of the Near Eastern background to Greek religion. There follow major sections on the divine powers, communication with the divine, sacred space and time, local religious systems, social organisation and the family in religion, and mystery cults and magic. Further chapters consider the interaction between religion and art, literature, and philosophy. A closing chapter looks at the treatment of Greek religious themes in the cinema.

A Companion to Roman Religion / edited by Jörg Rüpke. Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub., 2007.  BL803 .C66 2007  Online (Also available in print) : A comprehensive treatment of the significant symbols and institutions of Roman religion, this Companion places the various religious symbols, discourses, and practices, including Judaism and Christianity, into a larger framework to reveal the sprawling landscape of the Roman religion.
(1) An innovative introduction to Roman religion
(2) Approaches the field with a focus on the human-figures instead of the gods
(3) Analyzes religious changes from the eighth century BC to the fourth century AD
(4) Offers the first history of religious motifs on coins and household/everyday utensils
(5) Presents Roman religion within its cultural, social, and historical contexts

Complete World of Greek Mythology  / Richard Buxton.  New York : Thames & Hudson, 2004.  256pp.  Main Library BL783 .B88 2004 : From the first millennium BC onwards, Greek myths have been repeated in an inexhaustible series of variations and reinterpretations. Nowadays they can be found in film, television and computer games. This book combines a retelling of Greek myths with a comprehensive account of the world in which they developed. Throughout, the author draws upon the latest research into ancient Greek story-telling, presenting the material in an attractive, accessible and authoritative style.

Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities / Charles Russell Coulter and Patricia Turner. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, c2000. 597pp. Main Library BL782 .C67 2000 : Though Coulter (a novelist and engineer) and Turner (a writer and researcher) never actually define the parameters of "ancient," the scope of this encyclopedia is broad enough to cover any expectations engendered by that term. Each entry identifies the deity's ethnic group, states his or her status (e.g., "hero," "woodland deity"), explains the deity's lineage, and tells his or her major story. Deities with the same name are distinguished by means of alphabetical tags following each entry. See references for alternate spellings of names are so numerous that some pages are little but that. Cross references are included in the majority of entries, and an index helps to identify deities easily by culture, subject, place, and spelling variant. Many little-known gods from obscure mythologies are included, but the longest entries are still devoted to better-known deities from traditional cultures. This is a valuable resource for quick reference and for beginning research on the topic.

A Handbook of Ancient Religions / edited by John R. Hinnells.  Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, c2007. 610pp.  Main Library BL41 .H325 2007  : Hinnells  has compiled a set of dryly factual articles by academics and researchers introducing the general reader to facets of ancient religion. Most chapters focus on a particular region or culture (e.g., Egypt, China, Aztec, and Incan civilization), with the exception of a more wide-ranging article on religion in the Paleolithic period. Some major geographical areas (e.g., Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa, North America) are not represented owing to a paucity of evidence surviving from ancient times. Common topics include rituals, magical practices, pantheons, conceptions of the afterlife, and the mutual implication of religion and politics. The contributors make a particular effort to highlight archaeological evidence as a way of overcoming the slanted perspective caused by a too-narrow attention to texts. Perhaps the most interesting feature is an overview of how presuppositions and biases influenced previous generations' interpretations of the religion in question—although the current volume may err in the opposite way by being merely informative.

The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion / edited by Simon Price and Emily Kearns. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2003.  599pp.  Main Library BL715 .O845 2003 : Drawn from the acclaimed Oxford Classical Dictionary, The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion offers a fully rounded guide to all aspects of religious life and thought in ancient Greece and Rome. Highly authoritative, this new book covers not only Greek mythologies and Roman festivals, but also devotes attention to topics such as Greek and Roman religious places, monuments, authors and texts, religious organization, imagery, divination, astrology, and magic. Unlike many other references on ancient Greece and Rome, the Dictionary also includes many entries on Judaism and Christianity in the classical world....The editors, area advisors for the third edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary, have selected, revised, edited, and in some instances completely recast a large number of entries from the OCD to create this handy and accessible reference. The main text is supplemented by an important introductory essay providing overviews of mythology, religious pluralism in the ancient world, and the reception of myths from antiquity to the present. In addition to a helpful thematic index and extensive cross-references, the text is further supported by three maps and six genealogies...Backed by the authority and scholarly rigor of the renowned Oxford Classical Dictionary, The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion is a valuable A-Z reference and is as ideal a tool for students and teachers of ancient history as it is for all classics lovers.

Religions of the Ancient World : a Guide /  Sarah Iles Johnston, general editor. Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press, 2004. 697pp. Main Library BL687 .R47 2004 : Religious beliefs and practices, which permeated all aspects of life in antiquity, traveled well-worn routes throughout the Mediterranean: itinerant charismatic practitioners journeying from place to place peddled their skills as healers, purifiers, cursers, and initiators; and vessels decorated with illustrations of myths traveled with them. New gods encountered in foreign lands by merchants and conquerors were sometimes taken home to be adapted and adopted. A full understanding of this complex spiritual world unfolds in Religions of the Ancient World, the first basic reference work that collects and organizes available information to offer an expansive, comparative perspective....At once sweeping in scope and groundbreaking in format, the Guide eschews the usual encyclopedic approach, instead presenting, side by side, materials from ten cultures and traditions. Thus specific beliefs, cults, gods, and ritual practices that arose and developed in Mediterranean religions--of Egypt, Anatolia and the Near East, Mesopotamia, Iran, Greece, and the Roman world, from the third millennium to the fourth century C.E.--are interpreted in comparison with one another, and with reference to aspects that crisscross cultural boundaries, such as Cosmology, Myth, Law and Ethics, and Magic. Written by leading scholars of ancient religion, the essays in this guide sketch the various religious histories, raise central theoretical issues, and examine individual topics such as Sacred Times and Spaces; Prayers, Hymns, Incantations, and Curses; Sin, Pollution, and Purity; Death, the Afterlife, and Other Last Things; Divination and Prophecy; Deities and Demons; and Sacred Texts and Canonicity.

Selected Books

A.D. 381 : Heretics, Pagans and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State / Charles Freeman.  Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, 2009.  252pp.  Main Library BR217 .F744 2009 : In AD 381, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman empire, issued a decree in which all his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict defined Christian orthodoxy and brought to an end a lively and wide-ranging debate about the nature of God; all other interpretations were now declared heretical. It was the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization free thought was unambiguously suppressed. Yet surprisingly, the popular histories claim that the Christian Church reached a consensus on the Trinity at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. Why has Theodosius's revolution been airbrushed from the historical record?  In this groundbreaking new book, acclaimed historian Charles Freeman shows that the council was in fact a sham, only taking place after Theodosius's decree had become law. The Church was acquiescing in the overwhelming power of the emperor. Freeman argues that Theodosius's edict and the subsequent suppression of paganism not only brought an end to the diversity of religious and philosophical beliefs throughout the empire, but created numerous theological problems for the Church, which have remained unsolved. The year AD 381, as Freeman puts it, was "a turning point which time forgot."

Ancient Greek Religion / Jon D. Mikalson.  Chichester, West Sussex, U.K. ; Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.  2nd edition, 236pp. Main Library BL783 .M55 2010 :  Mikalson offers a first introduction to ancient Greek religion, which encompasses hundreds of deities of several different types, and varied widely over nearly two thousand years and thousands of large and small Greek city-states. His topics include sanctuaries and worship; gods, heroes, and polytheism; seven cult myths; five major cults; religion in the family and village and the city-state; the individual; and the Hellenistic period. 

Ancient Greek Religion : A Sourcebook / [edited by] Emily Kearns. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K. ; Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.  370pp.  Main Library  BL783 .A53 2010 : Presents a wide range of documents relating to the religious world of the ancient Greeks. Drawn from literary texts and inscriptions from the earliest surviving literature of the Archaic Period to the age of Alexander and his successors, the carefully chosen passages shed light on the beliefs, rituals, and hierarchy of deities that formed the religious framework of life in ancient Greece. The extant documents – including many lesser known fragmentary texts – serve to illustrate the importance and diversity of religious ritual, as well as the many ways in which Greeks conceptualized the gods and related stories about them. Further insights are gained through section introductions that set the documents in context, detailed commentary that clarifies and illuminates individual passages, and copious cross-references that reveal the interconnectedness of varied aspects of religious practice and thought.

Aphrodite / Monica S. Cyrino.  Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon [England] ; New York : Routledge, 2010.  155pp.  BL820.V5 C97 2010 : Aphrodite explores the many myths and meanings of the Greek goddess of love, sex and beauty. One of the most widely worshipped and popular deities in Greek antiquity, Aphrodite emerges from the imaginations of the ancient Greek writers and artists as a multifaceted, powerful and charismatic figure. This volume explores the importance of Aphrodite for the ancient Greeks, as well as her enduring influence as a symbol of beauty, adornment, love and sexuality in contemporary culture. In a wide-ranging investigation of the universality of Aphrodite's power and significance, this volume illuminates the numerous intricate levels of divinity embodied by the alluring figure of Aphrodite.

Apollo / Fritz Graf.  London ; New York : Routledge, 2009.  190pp.  Main Library BL820.A7 G73 2009 : Fritz Graf here presents a survey of a god once thought of as the most powerful of gods, and capable of great wrath should he be crossed: Apollo the sun god....From his first attestations in Homer, through the complex question of pre-Homeric Apollo, to the opposition between Apollo and Dionysos in nineteenth and twentieth-century thinking, Graf examines Greek religion and myth to provide a full account of Apollo in the ancient world....For students of Greek religion and culture, of myth and legend, and in the fields of art and literature, Apollo will provide an informative and enlightening introduction to this powerful figure from the past.

Christianity in ancient Rome : the first three centuries / Bernard Green.  London ; New York : T & T Clark, c2010.  258pp.  Main Library BR165 .G74 2010 : The reader is taken on a journey from the earliest roots of Christianity to its near acceptance as religion of the Roman Empire. The reader is taken from the very first generation of Christians in Rome, a tiny group of Jews who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, down to the point when Christianity had triumphed over savage persecution and was on the verge of becoming the religion of the Roman Empire. Rome was by far the biggest city in the Roman world and this had a profound effect on the way Christianity developed there. It became separate from Judaism at a very early date. The Roman Christians were the first to suffer savage persecution at the hands of Nero. Rome saw the greatest theological movements of the second century thrashing out the core doctrines of the Christian faith. The emergence of the papacy and the building of the catacombs gave the Roman Church extraordinary influence and prestige in the third century, another time of cruel persecution. And it was in Rome that Constantine's patronage of the Christian faith was most evident as he built great basilicas and elevated the personal status of the Pope.

Earth's Daughters : Stories of Women in Classical Mythology / Betty Bonham Lies.  Golden, Colo. : Fulcrum Resources, 1999.  192pp.  BL795.W65 L54 1999eb  Online : From Atalanta to Helen to Scylla, this lyrical collection of more than sixty stories provides a rich resource for teachers, storytellers, librarians, students, college classes, and anyone interested in mythology.

Eleusis; Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter  / C. Kerényi. Translated from the German by Ralph Manheim. [New York, Bollingen Foundation; distributed by] Pantheon Books [1967]  257pp.  Main Library BL795.E5 K413 : The Sanctuary of Eleusis, near Athens, was the center of a religious cult that endured for nearly two thousand years and whose initiates came from all parts of the civilized world. Looking at the tendency to "see visions," C. Kerenyi examines the Mysteries of Eleusis from the standpoint not only of Greek myth but also of human nature. Kerenyi holds that the yearly autumnal "mysteries" were based on the ancient myth of Demeter's search for her ravished daughter Persephone—a search that he equates not only with woman's quest for completion but also with every person's pursuit of identity. As he explores what the content of the mysteries may have been for those who experienced them, he draws on the study of archaeology, objects of art, and religious history, and suggests rich parallels from other mythologies.

Forms of Astonishment : Greek Myths of Metamorphosis / Richard Buxton. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009. 281pp. Main Library BL795 .M47 B88 2009 : Forms of Astonishment sets out to interpret a number of Greek myths about the transformations of humans and gods. Such tales have become familiar in their Ovidian dress, as in the best-selling translation by Ted Hughes; Richard Buxton explores their Greek antecedents. One pressing question which often occurs to the reader of these tales is: Did the Greeks take them seriously? Buxton repeatedly engages with this topic, and attempts to answer it context by context and author by author. His book raises issues relevant to an understanding of broad aspects of Greek culture (e.g. how 'strange' were Greek beliefs?'); in so doing, it also illuminates issues explored by anthropologists and students of religion. 

Girls and Women in Classical Greek Religion / Matthew Dillon.  London ; New York : Routledge, 2002, c2001.  436pp.  Main Library BL795.W65 D55 2002 : In this careful and detailed study, Dillon (Univ. of New England, Australia) surveys the literary and archaeological evidence of the role that girls and women played in the religious cults of classical Greece. He examines female participation in a wide range of cults, including public, gender-specific, and domestic, along with the responsibilities within those cults, such as those of priestesses, prophetesses (belly-talkers), and prostitutes. He carefully uses the limited number of literary and inscriptional references, combining them with rich physical evidence to reconstruct a vivid portrait of the significant role women and young girls played in Greek religious life. The discussion is often technical and detailed, suggesting that the target audiences are specialists and graduate students. Nevertheless, much of his discussion is fully illustrated with 56 black-and-white photographs, supplemented with a glossary of technical terms. Consequently, the work contains a wealth of information for the specialist yet remains accessible for advanced undergraduate students. 

Gods, Demigods and Demons: A Handbook of Greek Mythology / Bernard Evslin.  2007  224pp. Main Library BL783 .E97 2006 : A concise, yet wide-ranging handbook of Greek mythology that promises a vivid introduction to the great myths of ancient Greece. Here are the gods of the Olympian pantheon. Here too are the demigods, demons, heroes, and many of the best-loved (as well as lesser-known) cycles, fables and nature myths. The entries, always readable and informative, convey the significance of Greek mythology and its place at the core of Western culture. They evoke the majesty, as well as the all-too-human foibles, of the Greek deities and their acolytes. Whether they find themselves caught up by the single combat of Hector and Achilles before the looming walls of Troy; or find themselves transported, like Odysseus, by the haunting song of the Sirens; or are thrilled by the quest of Jason and his Argonauts for the fabled Golden Fleece - enthusiasts of myth and ancient history will discover many richnesses to enjoy here. Gods, Demigods and Demons is both a helpful guide and a one-stop resource that can be consulted again and again. It will prove an indispensable companion to the world of the ancient Greeks and the gods they worshipped.

Greek Mythology : Poetics, Pragmatics and Fiction / Claude Calame ; translated by Janet Lloyd. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2009. 275pp. Main Library PA3055 .C3513 2009 : Myths are not simple narrative plots. In ancient Greece, as in other traditional societies, these tales existed only in the poetic or artistic forms in which they were set down. To read them from an anthropological point of view means to study their meaning according to their forms of expression - epic recitation, ritual celebration of the victory of an athlete, tragic performance, erudite Alexandrian poetry, antiquarian prose text; in other words, to study the functions of Greek myths in their permanent retelling and reshaping. Falling between social reality and cultural fiction, Greek myths were evolving creations, constantly adapting themselves to new conditions of performance. Using myths such as those of Persephone, Bellerophon, Helen and Teiresias, Claude Calame presents an overview of Greek mythology as a category inseparable from the literature in which so much of it is found.

Greek Personal Religion : A Reader / Stephen Instone.  Oxford : Aris and Phillips, c2009.  117pp.  Main Library BL785 .I537 2009 : Instone  has collected texts from classical Greece that portray a personal collection of some sort or another between an individual human and an individual god. Among them are a divine intervention in Homer's Iliad, superstition in Characters by Theophrastus, divine forms in Plato's Symposium, epilepsy in the Hippocratic Sacred Disease, Orphism all over the place, and curse tablets. Introductions, explanations, and sources are provided, along with the Greek texts.

Greek Resurrection Beliefs and The Success of Christianity / Dag Øistein Endsjø. New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 274pp. Main Library BL505 .E53 2009 : This book examines the relationship between the breakthrough of Christianity in antiquity and the belief in the resurrection of the flesh. Traditionally, Greek religion entailed a strong and enduring conviction that immortality always had to include both a body of flesh and a soul. Both mythical and historical persons were also believed to have been resurrected from the dead and become physically immortal. The Christian belief in the resurrection of the flesh evolved only gradually, beginning with Paul, who simply denied it. But the more popular Christianity became among the Greeks, the stronger the emphasis became on the resurrection of the flesh; and the more Christianity stressed physical incorruptibility, the more Greeks left their ancient beliefs for this new religion. As such, the traditional Greek longing for immortal flesh can be seen as an important catalyst for the success of Christianity.

Mystery Cults of the Ancient World / Hugh Bowden.  Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2010. 256pp.  Main Library BL610 .B69 2010 : This is the first book to describe and explain all of the ancient world's major mystery cults--one of the most intriguing but least understood aspects of Greek and Roman religion. In the nocturnal Mysteries at Eleusis, participants dramatically re-enacted the story of Demeter's loss and recovery of her daughter Persephone; in the Bacchic cult, bands of women ran wild in the Greek countryside to honor Dionysus; and in the mysteries of Mithras, men came to understand the nature of the universe and their place within it through frightening initiation ceremonies and astrological teachings. These cults were an important part of life in the ancient Mediterranean world, but their actual practices were shrouded in secrecy, and many of their features have remained unclear until now. By richly illustrating the evidence from ancient art and archaeology, and drawing on enlightening new work in the anthropology and cognitive science of religion, Mystery Cults of the Ancient World allows readers to imagine as never before what it was like to take part in these ecstatic and life-changing religious rituals--and what they meant to those who participated in them. Stunning images of Greek painted pottery, Roman frescoes, inscribed gold tablets from Greek and South Italian tombs, and excavated remains of religious sanctuaries help show what participants in these initiatory cults actually did and experienced. A fresh and accessible introduction to a fascinating subject, this is a book that will interest general readers, as well as students and scholars of classics and religion.

Mystic Cults in Magna Graecia / edited by Giovanni Casadio and Patricia A. Johnston. Austin : University of Texas Press, 2009. 372pp. Main Library BL793.M34 M97 2009 : In Vergil's Aeneid, the poet implies that those who have been initiated into mystery cults enjoy a blessed situation both in life and after death. This collection of essays brings new insight to the study of mystic cults in the ancient world, particularly those that flourished in Magna Graecia (essentially the area of present-day Southern Italy and Sicily)....Implementing a variety of methodologies, the contributors to Mystic Cults in Magna Graecia examine an array of features associated with such "mystery religions" that were concerned with individual salvation through initiation and hidden knowledge rather than civic cults directed toward Olympian deities usually associated with Greek religion. Contributors present contemporary theories of ancient religion, field reports from recent archaeological work, and other frameworks for exploring mystic cults in general and individual deities specifically, with observations about cultural interactions throughout. Topics include Dionysos and Orpheus, the Goddess Cults, Isis in Italy, and Roman Mithras, explored by an international array of scholars including Giulia Sfameni Gasparro ("Aspects of the Cult of Demeter in Magna Graecia") and Alberto Bernabé ("Imago Inferorum Orphica"). The resulting volume illuminates this often misunderstood range of religious phenomena.

Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities : the Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene / Noel Robertson. New York : Oxford University Press, 2009 [c.2010].  414pp.  Main Library BL793.S46 R63 2009 : Two Greek cities which in their time were leading states in the Mediterranean world, Selinus in Sicily and Cyrene in Libya, set up inscriptions of the kind called sacred laws, but regulating worship on a larger scale than elsewhere - Selinus in the mid fifth century B.C., Cyrene in the late fourth. In different ways, the content and the format of both inscriptions are so unusual that they have baffled understanding.  At Selinus, a large lead tablet with two columns of writing upside down to each other is thought to be a remedy for homicide pollution arising from civil strife, but most of it remains obscure and intractable. The gods who are named and the ritual that is prescribed have been misinterpreted in the light of literary works that dwell on the sensational. Instead, they belong to agrarian religion and follow a regular sequence of devotions, the upside-down columns being reversed midway through the year with magical effect. Gods and ritual were selected because of their appeal to ordinary persons. Selinus was governed by a long enduring oligarchy which made an effort, appearing also in the economic details of sacrifice, to reconcile rich and poor. At Cyrene, a long series of rules were displayed on a marble block in the premier shrine of Apollo. They are extremely diverse - both costly and trivial, customary and novel - and eighty years of disputation have brought no agreement as to the individual meaning or general significance. In fact this mixture of things is carefully arranged to suit a variety of needs, of rich and poor, of citizens of long standing and of new-comers probably of Libyan origin. In one instance the same agrarian deities appear as at Selinus. It is the work once more of a moderate oligarchy, which on other evidence proved its worth during the turbulent events of this period. Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities provides a revised text and a secure meaning for both documents, and interprets the gods, the ritual, and the social background in the light of much comparative material from other Greek cities. Noel Robertson's approach rejects the usual assumptions based on moralizing literary works and in doing so restores to us an ancient nature religion which Greek communities adapted to their own practical purposes.

Religion in the Roman Empire / James B. Rives.  Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub., 2007.  237pp.  Main Library BL803 .R58 2007 : This book provides a systematic introduction to religion in the Roman Empire. It explores mainstream Graeco-Roman religion, as well as the diverse regional religions within the empire, from the millennia-old traditions of Egypt to the Celtic....Offers an introduction to religion in the Roman empire. This title covers both mainstream Graeco-Roman religion and regional religious traditions, from Egypt to Western Europe. It examines the shared assumptions and underlying dynamics that characterized.

Religion of the Gods : Ritual, Paradox, and Reflexivity / Kimberley Christine Patton.  Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.  490pp.  Main Library BL41 .P38 2009 : In many of the world's religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, a seemingly enigmatic and paradoxical image is found--that of the god who worships. Various interpretations of this seeming paradox have been advanced. Some suggest that it represents sacrifice to a higher deity. Proponents of anthropomorphic projection say that the gods are just "big people" and that images of human religious action are simply projected onto the deities. However, such explanations do not do justice to the complexity and diversity of this phenomenon....In Religion of the Gods, Kimberley C. Patton uses a comparative approach to take up anew a longstanding challenge in ancient Greek religious iconography: why are the Olympian gods depicted on classical pottery making libations? The sacrificing gods in ancient Greece are compared to gods who perform rituals in six other religious traditions: the Vedic gods, the heterodox god Zurvan of early Zoroastrianism, the Old Norse god Odin, the Christian God and Christ, the God of Judaism, and Islam's Allah. Patton examines the comparative evidence from a cultural and historical perspective, uncovering deep structural resonances while also revealing crucial differences....Instead of looking for invisible recipients or lost myths, Patton proposes the new category of "divine reflexivity." Divinely performed ritual is a self-reflexive, self-expressive action that signals the origin of ritual in the divine and not the human realm. Above all, divine ritual is generative, both instigating and inspiring human religious activity. The religion practiced by the gods is both like and unlike human religious action. Seen from within the religious tradition, gods are not "big people," but other than human. Human ritual is directed outward to a divine being, but the gods practice ritual on their own behalf. "Cultic time," the symbiotic performance of ritual both in heaven and on earth, collapses the distinction between cult and theology each time ritual is performed. Offering the first comprehensive study and a new theory of this fascinating phenomenon, Religion of the Gods is a significant contribution to the fields of classics and comparative religion. Patton shows that the god who performs religious action is not an anomaly, but holds a meaningful place in the category of ritual and points to a phenomenologically universal structure within religion itself.

The Religious Context of Early Christianity : A Guide to Graeco-Roman Religions / Hans-Josef Klauck ; translated by Brian McNeil.  Edinburgh : T & T Clark, 2000.  516pp.  Main Library BL96 .K5313 2000 : Klauck’s is a uniquely well-informed and comprehensive guide to the world of religion in the Graeco-Roman environment of early Christianity. Drawing on the most up-to-date scholarship, his volume paints a carefully nuanced portrait of the Christians’ religious context. Besides describing ordinary domestic and civic religion and popular belief (including astrology, divination and "magic"), there is extended discussion of mystery cults, ruler and emperor cults, the religious dimensions of philosophy, and Gnosticism. An authoritative work, Klauck’s will become a new standard for reference and teaching.

Rethinking Greek religion / Julia Kindt.  Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2012.  235p.  Main Library BL783 .K565 2012 : Who marched in religious processions and why? How were blood sacrifice and communal feasting related to identities in the ancient Greek city? With questions such as these, current scholarship aims to demonstrate the ways in which religion maps on to thesocio-political structures of the Greek polis ('polis religion'). In this book Dr Kindt explores a more comprehensive conception of ancient Greek religion beyond this traditional paradigm. Comparative in method and outlook, the book invites its readers to embark on an interdisciplinary journey touching upon such diverse topics as religious belief, personal religion, magic and theology. Specific examples include the transformation of tyrant property into ritual objects, the cultural practice of setting updedications at Olympia, and a man attempting to make love to Praxiteles' famous statue of Aphrodite. The book will be valuable for all students and scholars seeking to understand the complex phenomenon of ancient Greek religion"

Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia / C.M.C. Green. Cambridge [U.K.] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2007. 347pp.  Main Library BL820.D5 G74 2007 : The sanctuary dedicated to Diana at Aricia flourished from the Bronze age to the second century CE. From its archaic beginnings in the wooded crater beside the lake known as the 'mirror of Dianea' it grew into a grand Hellenistic-style complex that attracted crowds of pilgrims and the sick. Diana was also believed to confer power on leaders. This book examines the history of Diana's cult and healing sanctuary, which remained a significant and wealthy religious center for more than a thousand years. It sheds new light on Diana herself, on the use of rational as well as ritual healing in the sanctuary, on the subtle distinctions between Latin religious sensibility and the more austere Roman practice, and on the interpenetration of cult and politics in Latin and Roman history.

Understanding Greek religion : a cognitive approach / Jennifer Larson.  Abingdon, Oxon ; New York : Routledge, 2016.  410pp.  Main Library BL783 .L38 2016 : Understanding Greek Religion is one of the first attempts to fully examine any religion from a cognitivist perspective, applying methods and findings from the cognitive science of religion to the ancient Greek world. In this book, Jennifer Larson shows that many of the fundamentals of Greek religion, such as anthropomorphic gods, divinatory procedures, purity beliefs, reciprocity, and sympathetic magic arise naturally as by-products of normal human cognition. Drawing on evidence from across the ancient Greek world, Larson provides detailed coverage of Greek theology and local pantheons, rituals including processions, animal sacrifice and choral dance, and afterlife beliefs as they were expressed through hero worship and mystery cults. Eighteen in-depth essays illustrate the theoretical discussion with primary sources and include case studies of key cult inscriptions from Kyrene, Kos, and Miletos. This volume features maps, tables, and over twenty images to support and expand on the text, and will provide conceptual tools for understanding the actions and beliefs that constitute a religion. Additionally, Larson offers the first detailed discussion of cognition and memory in the transmission of Greek religious beliefs and rituals, as well as a glossary of terms and a bibliographical essay on the cognitive science of religion. Understanding Greek Religion is an essential resource for both undergraduate and postgraduate students of Greek culture and ancient Mediterranean religions.

Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity / Marguerite Rigoglioso.  New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.  267pp.  Main Library  BL325.M6 R54 2010   : Various goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean world were once understood to be Virgin Mothers––creators who birthed the entire cosmos without need of a male consort. This is the first book to explore evidence of the original parthenogenetic power of deities such as Athena, Hera, Artemis, Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, and the Gnostic Sophia. It provides stunning feminist insights about the deeper meaning of related stories, such as the judgment of Paris, the labors of Heracles, and the exploits of the Amazons. It also roots the Thesmophoria and Eleusinian Mysteries in female parthenogenetic power, thereby providing what is at long last a coherent understanding of these mysterious rites. 

Women of Classical Mythology : A Biographical Dictionary / Robert E. Bell.  Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c1991. 462pp.  Main Library BL715 .B445 1991 :  Bell, a retired librarian formerly with the University of California, has gathered an impressive array of information on the female divinities, surnames, monsters, wives, animals, mothers, lovers, heroines, and villains of classical Greek and Roman mythology. The coverage is extensive, including both the obscure and well known. Entries are in dictionary format and range in length from a brief paragraph to several pages. The various myths are retold well in nontechnical language with occasional character insights. The book is quite browsable and could easily spark deeper interest. A name index, called ``The Men in Their Lives,'' will lead from the better-known male character to his less recognizable female acolyte. The restriction to only women of mythology, however, limits the usefulness of the work.

Women in Greek Myth / Mary R. Lefkowitz.  Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.  2nd edition, 238pp.  Main Library BL795.W65 L44 2007 : In the first edition of Women in Greek Myth, Mary R. Lefkowitz convincingly challenged narrow, ideological interpretations of the roles of female characters in Greek mythology. Where some scholars saw the Amazons as the last remnant of a forgotten matriarchy, Clytemnestra as a frustrated individualist, and Antigone as an oppressed revolutionary, Lefkowitz argued that such views were justified neither by the myths themselves nor by the relevant documentary evidence. Concentrating on those aspects of women's experience most often misunderstood -- life apart from men, marriage, influence in politics, self-sacrifice and martyrdom, and misogyny -- she presented a far less negative account of the role of Greek women, both ordinary and extraordinary, as manifested in the central works of Greek literature....This updated and expanded edition includes six new chapters on such topics as heroic women in Greek epic, seduction and rape in Greek myth, and the parts played by women in ancient rites and festivals. Revisiting the original chapters as well to incorporate two decades of more recent scholarship, Lefkowitz again shows that what Greek men both feared and valued in women was not their sexuality but their intelligence.

Women's Religious Activity in the Roman Republic / Celia E. Schultz.  Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press ; London : Eurospan [distributor], 2006.  234pp.  Main Library BL625.7 .S385 2006 : Expanding the discussion of religious participation of women in ancient Rome, Celia E. Schultz demonstrates that in addition to observances of marriage, fertility, and childbirth, there were more--and more important--religious opportunities available to Roman women than are commonly considered.  Based on research in ancient literature, inscriptions, and archaeological remains from the fifth to the first century B.C.E., Schultz's study shows that women honored gods unaffiliated with domestic matters, including Hercules and Jupiter; they took part in commercial, military, and political rites; they often worshipped alongside men; and they were not confined to the private sphere, the traditional domain of women. The Vestal Virgins did not stand alone but were instead the most prominent members of a group of women who held high-profile religious positions: priestesses of Ceres, Liber, and Venus; the flaminica Dialis and the regina sacrorum; other cult officials; and aristocratic matrons who often took leading roles in religious observances even though they were not priestesses. Schultz argues that women were vital participants--both professional and nonprofessional--in the religion of the Roman Republic and that social and marital status, in addition to gender, were important factors in determining their opportunities for religious participation in the public sphere.

Selected Web Pages

Encyclopedia Mythica : A free web reference resource that contains much information on most world religion history and folklore, as well as the histories of most wold mythologies. Entries all contain bibliographies to lead researchers to further materials. Check out the Greek and Roman mythology areas.

15 ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses you should know about

Aesopica : Aesop's Fables in English, Latin, and Greek - courtesy of Laura Gibbs, an online instructor at the University of Oklahoma

Ancient Greece: Gods and Goddesses  - Read all about Greek mythological figures, including symbols and celebrations associated with them, on this site from The British Museum.

Ancient Greek Myths and Legends - The BBC provides audio dramatizations of stories from Greek mythology on this page. Each resource also includes text of the story and a transcript of the audio file.

The Ancient Greeks Created Golden Passports to Paradise.  Carly Silver, Atlas Obscura, December 18, 2017. Engraved pieces of foil aimed to ensure the spirits of worthy dead people made it safely to Elysium.

Classic Greek Mythology: Stories from Ovid's Metamorphoses. N.S. Gill, ThoughtCo, June 23, 2017.

Family Tree of the Greek Gods - Here is an interactive exhibit about the Greek gods and their families.  Courtesy of theInstitute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA).

Greek Gods and Religious Practices - Greek artwork features themes found in the mythology of ancient Greece.  Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Greek Myths - Learn about the Pegasus and other mythological creatures on this page from the American Museum of Natural History.

Greek Mythology and Art - Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has put together a virtual museum of works based on Greek mythology.

Greek Mythology - The Ohio State University Museum of Classical Archaeology presents a nice overview of what mythology is and some of the major Greek mythological figures on this page.

Greek Mythology - Learn more about the history of Greek myths and watch a video on this page.  Courtesy of

Greek Mythology - An entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica explores the origins of Greek myths and the works they have inspired.

Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome by E. M. Berens. Courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

MythNet, a site dedicated to Greek Mythology.

MythWeb : Gods, Heroes, Today Encyclopedia - courtesy of Joel Skidmore.

Religion in the Ancient World courtesy of the Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Theoi Greek Mythology : Also known as the Theoi Project, a site exploring Greek mythology and the gods in classical literature and art. The aim of the project is to provide a comprehensive, free reference guide to the gods (theoi), spirits (daimones), fabulous creatures (theres) and heroes of ancient Greek mythology and religion.  Created and edited by Aaron J. Atsma, Auckland, New Zealand.

ThoughtCo. Gods and Goddesses of World Mythology : An Index - courtesy of N.S. Gill, a Latinist and freelance writer with a longtime focus on the classical world.  June 30, 2017.

ThoughtCo Greek Gods, Myths and Legends : An Introduction to Greek Mythology - courtesy of N.S. Gill, a Latinist and freelance writer with a longtime focus on the classical worldOctober 7, 2017.

Who is Who in Greek Legend.  Article by N.S. Gill,, June 17, 2017.  A Who's Who List of Greek Heroes from Greek Legend, Myth, and the Trojan War.

Atlantis: Fact or Fiction - One of the most famous and enduring myths of ancient Greece is that there was a city swallowed by the sea. Learn more here.

The Myth of Atalanta - The Smithsonian presents this page about Atalanta, including her story and a piece of art that depicts her.

Apollo and Artemis: The Twin Gods (Apollo vs Python) Greek Mythology Ep.11

Artemis and Actaeon: The Hunter and the Goddess (Diana) - Greek Mythology Ep.22

Demeter and Erysichthon: The Hunger Myth - Greek Mythology

Hades and Persephone - The Story Of The Seasons (Greek Mythology Explained)

The Harpy - (Greek Mythology Explained)

The Marriage of Hera and Zeus - The Myth of Chelone - Greek Mythology

The Labors of Hercules - In the myth of Hercules, this well-known figure has to perform 12 seemingly impossible tasks. This story was adapted into a play by Euripides.  Courtesy of the Perseus Project.

The Life and Times of Hercules.  Courtesy of the Perseus Project.

The Story Of Medusa - Greek Mythology Explained

Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld - Greek Mythology Ep.24

The Myth Of Pandora's Box - Greek Mythology Explained

Pegasus: The Winged Stallion - Greek Mythology Explained

Poseidon and Amphitrite: The King and the Queen of the Sea - Greek Mythology Explained

Pygmalion and Galatea Ep.17 -Greek Mythology

Zeus and the Abduction of Europe - Greek Mythology Ep.26

The Ancient Roman Cult That Continues to Vex Scholars : Article by Kerry Wolfe, Atlas Obscura, November 13, 2017.  The Mithraic Mysteries worshipped a pagan god from subterranean temples buried throughout the empire.

Nine Places To See the Ruins of Ancient Religious Cults. Edmund Richardson, Atlas Obscura, September 6, 2013.  Ancient religion was strange and fierce.

London Mithraeum.  Sandra Alvarez, Ancient History Blog Post, February 28, 2018.

The Roman Cult of Mithras.

"This Roman 'Gate to Hell' Killed Its Victims With a Cloud of Deadly Carbon Dioxide".  Article by Colin Barras, Science, February 16, 2018.  Is it possible to walk through the gates of hell and live? The Romans thought so, and they staged elaborate sacrifices at what they believed were entrances to the underworld scattered across the ancient Mediterranean. The sacrifices—healthy bulls led down to the gates of hell—died quickly without human intervention, but the castrated priests who accompanied them returned unharmed. Now, a new study of one ancient site suggests that these “miracles” may have a simple geological explanation.

Who were the Vestal Virgins, and what was their job? - Peta Greenfield.  In ancient Rome, Vestal Virgins were tasked with keeping vigil over the flame of Vesta, the virgin goddess of the hearth. The flame represented two things: the continuation of Rome as a power in the world and the continuing virginity of Vesta’s priestesses. But what was life really like for these Vestal Virgins? Peta Greenfield goes back in time to find out.

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