Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space: The Ancient Greek Experience

Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space: The Ancient Greek Experience

Susan Guettel Cole

Language: English

Pages: 306

ISBN: 0520235444

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The division of land and consolidation of territory that created the Greek polis also divided sacred from productive space, sharpened distinctions between purity and pollution, and created a ritual system premised on gender difference. Regional sanctuaries ameliorated competition between city-states, publicized the results of competitive rituals for males, and encouraged judicial alternatives to violence. Female ritual efforts, focused on reproduction and the health of the family, are less visible, but, as this provocative study shows, no less significant. Taking a fresh look at the epigraphical evidence for Greek ritual practice in the context of recent studies of landscape and political organization, Susan Guettel Cole illuminates the profoundly gendered nature of Greek cult practice and explains the connections between female rituals and the integrity of the community.

In a rich integration of ancient sources and current theory, Cole brings together the complex evidence for Greek ritual practice. She discusses relevant medical and philosophical theories about the female body; considers Greek ideas about purity, pollution, and ritual purification; and examines the cult of Artemis in detail. Her nuanced study demonstrates the social contribution of women's rituals to the sustenance of the polis and the identity of its people.

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fifth chapters look at the meaning of the female body. Chapter 4 examines distinctions of gender in ritual practice and while demonstrating that women’s ritual efforts were focused on reproduction and the health of the family, argues that requirements of purity narrowed the range of female performance. The contradiction inherent in attributing a high category of pollution to childbirth—the only experience where female achievement really counted—reflects the anxieties of a male population concerned

fitting.” 84. LSS 115A.16 –20, translated by Parker (1983) 336. For the contagion, Eur. IT 381– 84; Porph. Abst. 4.16 (classifying recently parturient women and corpses together). 85. Hsch. s.v. stephanon ekpherein. Cf. schol. Theoc. 2.11; Ephipp. in Ath. 9.370c; and Phot. s.v. rhamnos. Theophrastos’s superstitious man “was not willing to visit a woman in childbed”: oÈk §p‹ lex∆ §lye›n §yel∞sai, 16.9; Wächter (1910) 27 –28. 86. The Greek expressions can all be translated as “from the female giving

childbirth therefore had important ritual consequences. body language and ritual gesture Although both mothers and fathers prayed to have children,133 and although entire families worshipped together,134 women were the most likely to be responsible for ritual activity centered on reproduction, children, and family maintenance. In those cases where the female ritual role differed from that of the male, concern for children and anxiety about the family were decisive elements. When Plato claims

had a priest. After 40 b.c.e., his wife was included in references to his euergetism; van Bremen (1996) 134 – 45. The Ritual Body / 127 served by males; 218 and others, namely Artemis, Demeter, and Hera, were more likely to be served by females.219 When a male and a female divinity were worshipped together, a single ritual specialist was almost always male.220 Male gods, on the other hand, rarely had a priestess or female attendant,221 and when they did— especially in the case of Apollo or

in a public ritual that lasted from dawn to dusk. The priestess, in addition to presiding at sacrifices, also represented the city by supervising the Dionysiac initiations in the countryside. She performed a special sacrifice “for the sake of the polis,” distributed sacred equipment, and received perquisites when any woman offered a sacrifice to Dionysos. She also collected biannual payments from other women who performed initiations in the countryside or throughout the island territories of the

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