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Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (Harvard University Press Reference Library) Hardcover – December 30, 2004


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Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (Harvard University Press Reference Library) + The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard University Press Reference Library (Book 18)
  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (December 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674015177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674015173
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Comparative study of ancient cultures--especially ancient religious conceptions--has evolved in recent decades, and this volume meets an important desideratum in light of scholarly advances... 'Key Topics' is the most distinctive feature of the book, and one that will make this reference tool valuable for many years to come, especially when used together with the first two parts for comparative purposes...This volume contains a wealth of information. (Bill T. Arnold Review of Biblical Literature 2005-07-01)

Every once in a long while, a reference work comes along that is certain from the outset to become a well-used standard. Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide is such a work, which is unsurprising given that approximately one hundred forty top scholars contributed to the articles inside. Not quite an encyclopedia, not quite a collection of essays, this unique volume is the first comprehensive and comparative reference guide to a wide array of topics in ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern religions. (Frances Flannery Journal of the American Oriental Society)

About the Author

Sarah Iles Johnston is Professor of Greek and Latin at Ohio State University.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Wyote VINE VOICE on November 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The purpose of this book is to provide a student or layperson with a background to the religions of the ancient Mediterranean, emphasizing their influences on each other. It does a very good job, and is the only book of its kind that I know of. I recommend it--despite its considerable cost--to any student in this field, and very strongly to any interested layperson.

Imagine that for some reason one day you wonder about libation in Mesopotamian religion, or Hittite rites of passage, or Greek curses. If you want a brief summary of the known evidence and scholarly interpretation, this is the book you would go to. If you think you might someday find yourself wondering about the god Dagan, this book is yours.

The book is over 600 pages long, and although there is no reason for anyone to read it cover to cover, that would be possible and the organization favors it. (I'm trying to do that now.) The writing level is appropriate for college students or graduates, but jargon is rarely used, and well-explained. Each topic is covered briefly but thoroughly, hitting all the background points and giving a student a solid background for further study.

In the third part of the book are numerous black and white photos, their subjects consistently well chosen for their fame among scholars. I was pleased to find a picture of a Canaanite cult stand from Taanach that I'd only read about previously. There are perhaps 100 illustrations in all; with about 20 illustrations in color in the center of the book.

The first part of the book is a series of essays on various topics, each by well-known and highly respected scholars. At this time shoppers are unable to look inside the book to see the table of contents, so I will list the essays.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian Smith on May 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
An outstanding and erudite work that presents detailed information on ancient religions in the Mediterranean region. It's a good idea to read it together with surviving primary texts such as The Life of Apollonius of Tyana and The Syrian Goddess: De Dea Syria.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I stumbled onto a reference to the book when doing some research online. Was very pleased to have the information on death and burial customs. But the entire book is academically sound with credible data, top quality writing, and it's a real gem.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a textbook rather than a popularized (dumbed-down) review.
If you have more than a passing interest in the subject, it's the book for you.
Reasonably as up to date as one would expect for a textbook.
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38 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Christine on February 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is NOT about religions of the ancient world. Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, Confuscianism, Shinto, Bon etc are not covered. If you are looking for a thorough examination of western religions from 3rd millineum BCE to 5 century CE then this is quite a book; however, as there is no treatment of half of the "civilized" world in this time frame then the book hardly can claim to treat religions of the ancient world. Apparently either India, China and environs had no ancient religions or they are not of this world -;)
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