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Polytheism and Society at Athens [Print Replica] Kindle Edition

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Review

`No other book takes such a holistic approach to Greek religious practice and experience, or deals with the acute historical and theoretical complexities in such a jargon-free and attractive manner.' Peter Jones, Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Robert Parker is Wykeham Professor of Ancient History in the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy.

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John F. Leamons on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This substantial tome by Robert Parker is a beautifully written and wonderfully detailed overview of what little is known about Athenian religion of the 5th and 4th centuries. The general reader who ignores the copious footnotes will miss some flashes of wit.

For the Athenians, religion was, as Parker rightly says, utterly pervasive, so woven into their life that they could not easily see it as a thing separable and optional. Yet their attitude towards it seems to have been at times almost ironical. If it was more to them than a poetic representation of their social arrangements and of the central concerns of their life, and more than just an excuse for taking time off from work for a cook-out, a show or a drinking party, it was less than a confidently held system of beliefs in which unseen powers were regarded as being susceptible to influence through begging or through the offer of food and drink.

Athenians embroiled in litigation might send messages to the underworld via the recently dead (those weird Fed Ex deliverymen), asking that their courtroom opponents be cursed, yet court cases were not referred to oracles for decision. Oracle-mongers were allowed to speak in the assembly, yet public policy was settled by the people, not the gods, and was settled on the basis of mundane considerations. Though Athenians were skeptical about the existence of an afterlife, and though the same lines of thought which warranted such skepticism would also have warranted skepticism about the existence of the gods, only a handful of intellectuals appears to have taken the obvious second step.

As Parker shows in detail, this most logical of peoples produced a polytheism that is "indescribable.
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