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Greek Religion Paperback – July 26, 1985
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From Library Journal
Chapter titles suggest Burkert's scope and treatment of the multiple facets of Greek religion, focusing upon the period 800-300 B.C.: Prehistory and the Minoan-Mycenaean Age; Ritual and Sanctuary; The Gods; The Dead, Heroes, and Chthonic Gods; Polis and Polytheism; Mysteries and Asceticism; Philosophical Religion. References to publications since the German edition of 1977 are included. Generally, this is a praiseworthy overview of a difficult subject. However, an unidiomatic English translation makes for added difficulties in coping with Burkert's relentless scholarshipreplete with dogmatic hypotheses and often unconvincing conclusions. Greater judicious clarity would have made this important work less frustrating for the scholar and more accessible to the student of religion. Robert J. Lenardon, Classics Dept., Siena Coll. & SUNY at Albany
Copyright 1985 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Greek Religion...already has the standing of a classic, and the publication of an English version, which incorporates new material and is in effect a second edition, demands a toast...Anyone who pretends to survey Greek religion must be phenomenally learned. Burkert is. His book is a marvel of professional scholarship...Anyone with an interest in the ancient world can follow the book with pleasure and advantage. No one whose interest has been caught by the Parthenon or by Homer's stories should miss it. (Jonathan Barnes London Review of Books)
In this new book by Walter Burkert, professor of Greek at the University of Zurich and possibly the most eminent living student of ancient Greek religion, we are given the opportunity to enter into this strange world [of ancient Greece]...Mr. Burkert has told his fascinating story not only with immense learning but in a way that captures the interest and sympathy of the reader. (John Macquarrie New York Times Book Review)
The subject of Greek religion has recently received a masterly and elegant treatment in Walter Burkert's Greek Religion...beautifully translated by John Raffan. Like the Decalogue in the old saw, it arouses feelings of reverence not unmixed with awe at the author's grasp of his material and the acuity with which he uses the insights of psychology and sociology to show how the forms of Greek religion were able to satisfy many of the deepest needs of men...One will not often read a book that illuminates so profoundly what it was like to live in ancient Greece. (Richard Stoneman History Today)
The German edition of this book was published in 1977, and the author has added references to important new publications since that date. The introduction has a survey of previous scholarship, a discussion of the sources, and an explanation of the scope of the volume. What this book seeks to do is to indicate the manifold variety of the evidence and the problems of its interpretation, always with an awareness of the provisional nature of the undertaking. This new paperback edition makes an important work available at an economic price. (Manuscripta)
The many fine qualities of this book's original German version (Griechische Religion der archaischen and klassichen Epoche, 1977) have been noted in a veritable forest of reviews...The present English translation, with updated references and an inexpensive paperback edition, offers the prospect of use by American teachers and/or students...It is comprehensive in subject, rich in evidence of many types...and current...It is a peculiar excellence of this book that its usefulness to scholars does not make it less appropriate for students. Its length, in fact, is not at all excessive for a college text, and its many subdivisions make it easy to excerpt. (Robert M. Simms New England Classical Newsletter)
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It is important to note that Walter Burkert's basic credential as a scholar was being a professor of Ancient Greek, that is language, culture and civilization.
Too bad that so much of his writings has remained untranslated. Nonetheless his essential ideas strongly figure in this masterpiece of erudition and intellectual comprehension, as well as in the few others of his books translated into English.
Reading this book demands intense concentration, a few pages, nay a few paragraphs or sections at a time. It is best to overcome laziness and make it a point to go and peruse the torrent of notes at the back. The text is 337 pages long, and the notes 134 pages. Burkert's information is simply colossal. You need two bookmarks for efficient reading: one for the current page of the text itself, and one for the page of notes related to the page of text you're in.
For those readers who haven't learnt Ancient Greek, it will pay huge returns to gain a quick familiarization with the Greek alphabet and then be willing to use, for instance, the "Pocket Oxford's Classical Greek Dictionary" (2002). Although Burkert is most of the time cautious to give an English equivalent next to the Greek word presented in his text. But not always.
This book gives us a magnificent overview of the immensity of the details at Burkert's fingertips. Most of the works cited in this book's notes are in German. And this fact is a good indication that, at the level of extreme erudition prized by top specialists, once again, it is readers of German who will have access to the immense details referred to by Burkert's encyclopedic and advanced scholarship about Ancient Greek culture and religion.
Reading this book can only make you feel very humble at being confronted with this kind of extraordinary achievement. "Echte deutsche Gründlichkeit!" (Authentic German thoroughness).
Jan. 23, 2018