In this book Walter Burkert, the most eminent living historian of ancient Greek religion, has produced the standard work for our time on that subject. First published in German in 1977, it has now been translated into English with the assistance of the author himself. A clearly structured and readable survey for students and scholars, it will be welcomed as the best modern account of any polytheistic religious system.
Burkert draws on archaeological discoveries, insights from other disciplines, and inscriptions in Linear B to reconstruct the practices and beliefs of the Minoan–Mycenaean age. The major part of his book is devoted to the archaic and classical epochs. He describes the various rituals of sacrifice and libation and explains Greek beliefs about purification. He investigates the inspiration behind the great temples at Olympia, Delphi, Delos, and the Acropolis—discussing the priesthood, sanctuary, and oracles. Considerable attention is given to the individual gods, the position of the heroes, and beliefs about the afterlife. The different festivals are used to illuminate the place of religion in the society of the city-state. The mystery cults, at Eleusis and among the followers of Bacchus and Orpheus, are also set in that context. The book concludes with an assessment of the great classical philosophers’ attitudes to religion.
Insofar as possible, Burkert lets the evidence—from literature and legend, vase paintings and archaeology—speak for itself; he elucidates the controversies surrounding its interpretation without glossing over the enigmas that remain. Throughout, the notes (updated for the English-language edition) afford a wealth of further references as the text builds up its coherent picture of what is known of the religion of ancient Greece.
This book has established itself as a masterpiece, packed with learning but also rich in ideas and connections of every sort. Its appearance in a good English translation is an event not only for Hellenists but for all those interested in the study of religion… Nobody else could have produced an account of the subject of comparable range and power. This will be the best history of Greek religion for this generation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 512 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.