Customer Review

119 of 122 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book, but one side of an argument, May 10, 2000
This review is from: Ancient Mystery Cults (Carl Newell Jackson Lectures) (Paperback)
Walter Burkert is one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century in the field of ancient Greek religion, and this contribution is an excellent book which, for the most part, lives up to such a standard. I recommend it to any and all students of Greek religion who are looking to expand their knowledge of the particulars of mystery cults and what they were all about. I do, however, have reservations about recommending it as an overview or introductory work for laymen or students just getting interested in the subject. Burkert's methodology, while a great improvement over the "myth and ritual" debates which dominated earlier scholarship, is very much oriented in a psychological viewpoint which sees ancient mystery religion as somehow fundamentally less psychologically satisfying than religions like Christianity ("confessional" religions). In every chapter he tries to make the point that these cults were nothing like early confessional religions like Christianity because he is responding to another faction of scholars who tried to assimilate the two, but, unfortunately, in doing so Burkert makes a number of misleading (and, some would say, wrong) arguments about the nature of mystery religion and the mentality of its devotees. It is for these reasons that I recommend this book highly to someone who already knows enough to recognize when Burkert is making controversial statements and would not take him at face value.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 12, 2011 9:10:36 PM PDT
rain cloud says:
maybe you could suggest a better book.

Posted on Oct 20, 2013 9:04:34 PM PDT
I completely believe your review.

I am currently reading through Burket's "Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical", and it is very well written and a highly enjoyable read. At the same time, for a good span of the book he is using everything to prove one point or another, and sometimes seems to really stretch the idea and induces a snort. It seems one of the ideas he is very fond of in said book is trying to prove that everything in Greek religion was non-Greek and all was borrowed over (with overly-frequent references to "Near East" this and Near East that).

But some people may enjoy that type of idea, just as some people might enjoy his working to disprove similarities and cognates in this Book. Yet I personally get slightly annoying when he seems to be constantly trying to deny the "Greek" in all the Greek Religion's book/study.
Even after that I can STILL say the GR book is enjoyable and I would, as well, recommend it while suggesting certain things to keep in mind. Thank you for the review here!
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