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An initial version of this paper was given at a conference in honour of Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood held at Reading in 2008; a second version at a conference on communities and networks in the ancient Greek world at University College Dublin a year later. The paper has been greatly improved by comments from attendees at both conferences, and in particular by the detailed reading of Claire Taylor, Kostas Vlassopoulos, Robin Osborne, Simon Hornblower, and the referees of Kernos.
Isokrates, 19 (Aiginetikos), 5-7 (trans. Norlin ).
See Flower (2008) for an excellent overview of the ancient Greek seer.
For example, Meyer – Mirecki (1995), esp. the summary on p. 2. On how scholars have used the term, see Smith (1995), p. 16 and 20, while Styers (2004) argues that definitions of magic espoused by academics were, and continue to be, inherent in the formation of the idea of modernity. The heuristic value of the term is supported by Versnel (1991a); its usefulness is dismissed by Gager (1992), p. 24-25.
A brief and very clear description of a network can be found in the introduction to Constantakopoulou, Malkin and Panagopoulou (2009). The idea of a network may be implicit in some of Sourvinou-Inwood’s own descriptions of polis religion: for example, her account of how individual poleis, and individuals or groups from within poleis, participated in rites in other cities or at a panhellenic level, see 2001a, 15-17; see further below.
Horden – Purcell (2000); Malkin (2003); for 2006 conference see above, n. 4.
Collar (2009), p. 151. She poses the question in terms of ‘“vulnerability” to a new faith’ and examines evolutionary and network approaches to answering this question, suggesting that the two should not be considered as mutually exclusive (p. 152).
For example, Guettel Cole (1995), with response by Burkert (1995).
A selection of examples of scholars reconsidering aspects of polis religion: in Kernos, Bremmer (2010) and Kindt (2009), both of whose papers originated, like this one, in a conference at the University of Reading exploring the idea of polis religion (see n. 1); see also Kearns (2010) for a systematic appreciation of what polis religion can and cannot account for; Scott (2010) for reflections on Delphi as Sourvinou-Inwood’s ‘litmus test case for the primacy of the polis in the organisation of the religious experience’ (p. 271, n. 94); Boedeker (2008) for consideration of domestic religion in the context of polis religion (describing polis cult and family cult as ‘an interlocking set of practices, asymmetrical though often complementary’ p. 244); Hansen (2004), p. 130-134, for a thorough discussion of the role of the polis as a religious organisation, and the development of that role; Morgan (1997) for exploration of religious development in ethne as opposed to poleis. Erskine (2010) persuasively explores the implications of the polis focus.
I will draw particularly on White (2008), see further below. In its focus on the interactions in a network, this approach may recall the Actor Network Theory (ANT) of Bruno Latour. However, ANT ascribes agency to both humans and nonhumans (Latour 1997 and 1999), which is not the case with White’s approach.
See above, n. 9.
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000a), p. 19; she does add that the comparison with Christianity is misleading.
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 51
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000a), p. 18: ‘Each person was a member of this Panhellenic group in virtue of being a member of a polis. It is not simply that being a citizen of a particular polis guarantees one’s Greekness; as we saw, the polis mediated participation in Panhellenic cult.’
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000a), p. 17: ‘Greek religion, then, consists of a network of religious systems interacting with each other and with the Panhellenic religious dimension.’ She also describes this participation in terms of ‘the openings and the closures of the polis towards outsiders’ where she allows some dynamism over time, noting that they vary according to city and time period (2000b, p. 47); a little later in the same description (p. 48), the ‘opening’ between a colony and mother city is described as ‘a link.’
For ethne, see, for example, Morgan (1997). Sourvinou-Inwood (2000a), n. 1: ‘I cannot consider ethnos religion here. The differences between ethnos and polis religion do not impinge on our investigation.’ Nevertheless, she does mention ethne in the rest of the paper, often in the formula polis/ethnos, as if the two were equivalent. (See n. 8, a discussion of permission needed to make dedications by the polis/ethnos which owned the sanctuary; and p. 16, in which she discusses ‘Amphictionies or Leagues, associations of poleis/ethne.’ The subsequent discussion however focuses on the ways in which a polis would mediate the activities of its members within these associations.)
Quotation from Knoke – Yang (2008), p. 4.
Breiger (2004), p. 505.
Breiger (2004), p. 519.
White (2008): I hope that this very brief overview of some of White’s key ideas does not do them too much harm, and might, at least, provide an illustration of how they might be deployed to help describe the physical, social and emotional ties that made up ancient Greek religion.
White et al. (2007), p. 553.
Personhood as a distinct technical meaning within White’s theory; fundamentally, ‘persons are formed from compounds of identities,’ White (2008), p. 129 (see further n. 25 below).
White (2008), p. 17.
White (2008), p. 5, 9-10: for example (p. 5), ‘when the clothes that classmates insist upon as their badge of belonging, are disdained by a parent at home who resists purchasing them.’
White (2008), p. 17-18.
Godart – White (2010), p. 570-571.
White (2008), p. 6.
White (2008), p. 7-9.
White (2008), p. 7-10.
Examples from Steiny (2007), p. 612-614, and White (2008), p. 63-109.
The overlap of identities is what creates ‘persons’ in the ordinary sense, who manifest what White (2008), p. 112-170 calls ‘style’ across and between their identities. Style presents as ‘sensibility’ in experience: White observes that it is ‘rather like Bourdieu’s habitus, but where Bourdieu proposes habitus as the signature of a person… [White argues] for person as style’ (p. 114). ‘Styles can be thought of as a fundamental specification of how individual agents live their lives through an ongoing process of combining understandings of situations with sets of practices arrayed across lives embedded within social networks (netdoms)’ (Mohr – White , p. 491). As well as descriptors of patterns of enactment, White (2008), p. 115 also argues that styles can be understood to provide ‘envelopes’ that limit and funnel attempts at control by identities.
Mohr – White (2008), p. 493. We may make up stories alone (e.g., in diary entries), or in conversation with others (e.g., in gossip), or we may learn them from other sources (e.g., onlookers, the media). For these and other examples see Steiny (2007), p. 611-612, and White (2008), p. 30.
White (2008), p. 31.
White (2008), p. 37.
‘Story-telling sets human interaction apart’, as Podolny (2001), quoted by White (1992), p. 20: relationship ties between people are ‘prisms for meaning as much as they are pipes for connectivity.’ The role of discourse in linking culture and networks is discussed in Mische (2003) and Mische – White (1998). The need to consider the ‘mesh of interrelations’ is discussed in White et al. (2007), p. 546, as part of an analysis of Niklas Luhman’s work and its relation to White’s social network theory. Godart – White (2010) describes the ways in which stories and meaning are related.
Godart – White (2010), p. 572.
White (1992), p. 40.
Godart – White (2010), p. 572. Mische – White (1998), p. 702: These so-called ‘network domains’ may also include other forms of discourse, including symbols, idioms, registers, grammatical patternings.
The difficulty of defining institutions is discussed by Mohr – White (2008), p. 488.
It comprises a series of dualities: at the individual level, between mind and body; at the group level, between story and network; at the institutional level, between rhetoric and systems of social organisation: see Mohr – White (2008), p. 496, and the Indian caste system, p. 496-500.
Mohr – White (2008), p. 508-509.
Plato, Republic, 364c-e. Carastro (2006), ch. 6 argues that Plato is intent on associating the practice of writing binding spells with magoi—itinerant specialists from the East who arrived in Greece during the fifth century—and therefore developing a foreign notion of mageia. This, in turn (he argues), has given rise to modern theories that this practice was Near Eastern in origin and introduced by the magoi (he gives Gager , preface and p. 10, and Graf , p. 194-198 as references), whereas, in fact, curse tablets were ‘des produits de la culture grecque qui préexistent à l’arrivée de ces personnages venus de Perse’ (p. 187). Carastro’s stimulating argument and conclusions raise some questions: first, although he is surely right to observe that Plato evokes hostility towards travelling ritual specialists (apparent in other ancient Greek sources), the argument that by the fifth century the term magoi would have indicated a specialist of Near Eastern origin is disputable (see Dickie ). Second, Plato notes only that curse tablets were sold by these individuals (along with other products which had long existed, such as healing incantations and oracles from oracle books), he does not say they introduced them. Neither Graf nor Gager argue for this idea: Graf (1994), p. 194 argues against the idea that these spells were simply spread from the Near East by travelling magoi; while Gager (1992), p. 4 suggests that professionals may not have been much involved in writing the majority of the early Greek curse tablets. Both (see Gager , p. 26-27 and Graf , p. 194-198) give Near Eastern parallels or influences for the practice that date to much earlier than the fifth century. Carastro agrees with the scholarly consensus that binding spells seem to have spread from west to east, and (p. 183) suggests that fear may account for this (for an alternative view, see Eidinow [2007b]). He does not offer an explanation for the similarities between Greek and early Near Eastern spells.
These salesmen apparently also provided sacrifices and incantations that can expiate and cure misdeeds by an ancestor; oracles from oracle collections of Musaios and Orpheus; and initiations for delivering individuals and cities, from ills in the next world. There is some debate about the overlap between travelling sellers of oracles (chresmologoi), and those who sold other supernatural services (manteis): Dillery (2005), p. 170, argues that they were thought of as being separate terms, although he admits that they could overlap and ‘even be used to describe the same man.’ He argues that by the fourth century, the chresmologue has almost totally disappeared, leaving the mantis to absorb any popular hostility directed at these independent diviners (p. 219-221). For a similar view on the separate sense of these terms see Flower (2008), esp. p. 58-65, and, in contrast, Bowden (2003); while Parker (2007) offers a carefully balanced view.
Plato, Laws, 933a.
Plato, Meno, 80b. Meno tells Socrates that he fears he has been bewitched by him, and that Socrates would be well advised not to travel out of Athens, since, if he behaved like this in another city where he was a stranger, he would probably be taken away to prison as a goes (‘magician’).
Carastro (2006) and Flower (2008).
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 42.
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 44.
Ozolian Lokris: IG IX, 1²3:609 (Meiggs and Lewis, no. 13); treaty with curse for anyone who destroyed the text: Argos, IG IV 506; public curse of the city of Teos (c. 470 BC), see Meiggs and Lewis, no. 30 (also repeated at the Teian colony of Abdera, see Herrmann ); foundation decree of Kyrene, see Meiggs and Lewis, no. 5. Rubinstein (2007) argues that the threat of divine punishment continued to be taken seriously into the Hellenistic period.
See discussion and examples in Eidinow (2007), p. 165-191.
See Faraone (1992), p. 74-85, and App. 4; and Graf (1985), p. 81-98. Olympiodoros of Thebes: FHG IV, 63, 27; oracle to Syedra at Claros: Parke (1985), p. 157-158; Inscription from Thrace: Palatine Anthology IX, 805. Bound gods: Artemis Eurynome at Phigalia (Pausanias, VIII, 41, 6); Artemis Ortheia (‘Lygodesma’) at Sparta (Pausanias, III, 16, 7-11); Aphrodite Morpho at Sparta (Pausanias, III, 15, 10-11). Shut in a box rather than bound: Dionysos Aisymnetes (Pausanias, VII, 19, 6-9).
Graf (1997), p. 27; Flower (2008), p. 68 also follows this definition.
Parker (2007), p. 122 questions the evidence, but does seem to imply that it is an object of social disapproval.
Parker is drawing on modern analyses of the term ‘magic’ to evoke ancient attitudes: (p. 122) ‘it is generally agreed today … magic differs from religion … merely by negative social evaluation.’ See also Versnel (1991b), p. 62 who argues that the use of curse tablets was not socially condoned.
In particular, such approaches bring to mind the distinction of Frazer (1911), p. 11 between magic and religion, which states that these practices can be distinguished not only by the number of practitioners, but by the nature of their intentions, and the approach used to attain their ends. Thus, magic is described broadly as a private ritual act (often coercive in approach) designed to foster individual ends, as opposed to the public and sacred practice of religion, which aims to persuade the gods in order to render assistance. Similarly, the idea that ‘magic’ is a private practice similarly draws on early anthropological reflections on the magician as ‘a being set apart’, as described by Mauss – Hubert (1972 ), p. 29.
Consider two of the earliest ethnographic works on magic: among Malinowski’s Trobriand islanders, garden magicians practice their rites for the benefit of, and along with, the community (Malinowski , p. 62-68) and (p. 153) ‘There seems also to be a general feeling … that it is not the right thing to carry out private magic’—an aspect of Trobriand life that Malinowski attributes to the importance of gardening, and the potential for competition to cause dangerous envies and jealousies; among the Azande, as described by Evans-Pritchard, although magic was importantly usually performed in private by individuals, its use was widespread (, p. 388-544 passim; for example, p. 432, ‘every Zande, except small children, whether old or young … is to some extent a magician’), and it was practiced by associations. Of course, good magic in these cases is different from witchcraft (which uses psycho-social powers, rather than medicines) and sorcery (bad magic), but good magic can have destructive functions (p. 389) and Evans-Pritchard observes that opinions vary when categorising magic as good or bad (p. 406); all this complexity is part of the point.
Compare for example, the binding spell by Phila from Pella in Macedonia (Voutiras 1988), an oracle tablet from Dodona (SGDI 1597) and the prayer of Chryses (Homer, Iliad I, 43-49), all of which beseech the gods for a personal advantage, while both spell and prayer also ask the god to act against particular individuals. As Graf (1997), p. 222-229, has demonstrated, we need to bear in mind the ways and places in which coercion appears in ritual texts, and consider its development in the context of wider social and political changes.
On magic-workers see the discussion in Frankfurter (2002). Graf (1997), p. 229, although arguing for the magician’s isolation as a deliberate reversal of traditional (religious) ritual, nevertheless provides a balanced interrogation of this image of the magician, by exploring his role as a healer (p. 229-32).
See n. 30.
See Faraone (1991), p. 5 and Eidinow (2007), p. 145-147. Gordon (1999) has argued that the presentation of victims in Athenian curses as lists of names is an allusion to that city state’s lists of atimoi, the public debtors, deserters, orthose condemned for homicide, which were set up on tablets for public view (Lysias, 26 [Euandros], 10).
DTA 24 and 103, DT 60, SGD 9, 14 and 48; see Eidinow (2007a), p. 168-173.
Godart – White (2010), p. 570-71.
Bremmer (2010), p. 21-22.
NGCT 14 (later fourth century; sanctuary of Pankrates, Athens) is a text found in the sanctuary of Pankrates, Attica, includes a plea made to Palaimon (who had a presence in the sanctuary); the group of binding spell texts found in the temple of (and dedicated to) Demeter in Knidos (DT 1-14). These particular texts seem to have engaged with a specific cult within the polis.
Godart – White (2010), p. 575.
Jordan (2000), no. 24; very early fourth century BC.
Olive – Myers (2003), p. 183-184. This would be in contrast to a broadcast network where a large number of people get information from a single source, a model that might better fit some aspects of group religious practice. As Olive – Myers (2003), p. 185 points out, the two models may also work simultaneously (for example, a node-to-node network may multiply and deepen broadcast information flows, and information received via node-to-node connections tends to much more influential) and may affect each other.
As Olive – Myers (2003), p. 191 notes, ‘people’s attitudes are shaped by those of the people to whom they have network ties, and in particular that the degree of influence will be affected by the homogeneity/heterogeneity of the opinions in the networks to which one is tied.’
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 55.
A structuralist approach like that noted by Burkert (1983), p. 2.
Col. 20, l. 4 in Betegh (2004), p. 43; for the translation see Parker (2007), p. 116. The word translated as ‘profession’ is techne—a term that, as Parker observes, carries the sense of a craft or an expertise, which is (as the author of the papyrus observes) used as a profession or trade.
Hippocrates, On The Sacred Disease, 2, 12-13 and 4, 36 ff. Versnel (1991a), p. 197, n. 40. This passage is seen by some as providing an example of an ancient view of the opposition between ‘magical’ spells or charms vs. pious supplicatory prayer.
Graf – Johnston (2007), p. 178-181 also suggests that the ritual activities of the Orphics should be viewed as ‘supplemental’ rather than alternative.
Euripides, Hippolytos, 952-954. However, Burkert (1983), p. 11, does draw attention to the presumed isolation of Hippolytos.
Theophrastus, 16, 11; Plutarch, Saying of the Spartans (Mor., 224e-f): for example, in a retort given by Leotychidas to ‘Philip, priest of the Orphic mysteries’, who had, apparently, something of a reputation not only for his poverty, but also for his habit of complaining about it. In the Phaedrus, 244d-e, Plato’s discussion of curing madness through purifications and sacred rites at least suggests that the suppliers of these services may not always have been so resented and reviled as they appear in the description given above from the Republic, discussed by Burkert (1983), p. 5. The Phaedrus passage mentions Dionysos rather than Orpheus (implied in the description of the Republic). The evidence often creates an association between followers of Orpheus and followers of Dionysos, and it is not apparent that a clear distinction can be made; see discussion in Graf – Johnston (2007), p. 142-143.
Ansell (2003), p. 126-7.
Possibility of communities of initiated: Graf – Johnston (2007), p. 163-164. The term ‘orphikoi’ read on one of the bone plates from Olbia may also suggest this, see discussion Burkert (1983), p. 4. Private cults: see Henrichs (1983), p. 147, with p. 225, n. 99, who accepts Herodotus, IV, 78-80 as evidence for private and ecstatic cults of Dionysos at Olbia in the fifth century. For women, see Aristophanes, Lysistrata, 1, with the scholium; further discussion in Versnel (1990), p. 149. For the co-existence of a private male cult with a female ecstatic cult, see Euripides, Bacchae, 465-490, with Henrichs (1983), p. 147, although it is difficult to know to what extent this can be treated as evidence for actual practice.
Public and private cults somehow linked, see Henrichs (1969) and Seaford (1981), discussed Graf – Johnston (2007), p. 141. Plato, Phaedo, 69c contains a verse of Orpheus which differentiates between those who are worshippers of Dionysos and those who are Bacchoi—perhaps suggesting a similar smaller private cult within a larger public one, a view supported by Graf – Johnston (2007), p. 143.
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 55.
If it means the foundation, then there is, indeed, evidence that this was sometimes the case, at least in the Hellenistic period, as suggested by an inscription from Magnesia, I Magnesia 215 (Parke – Wormell II , no. 338), an oracle from Magnesia that describes the establishment of a sanctuary of Dionysos, and involves the fetching of maenads from Thebes: part of the ‘official religious apparatus of the city,’ see Versnel (1990), p. 142 for quotation and further discussion. Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 55, n. 60, gives as evidence LSAM 48, a decree from Miletos, discussed below—it does seem to suggest that not all Dionysiac ritual was polis organised.
See Versnel (1990), p. 149.
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 54 states that both Dionysiac rites and Eleusinian Mysteries were encompassed within polis religion.
Pausanias, X, 4, 3 (Athenian) and X, 32, 7 (in Parnassos); Pausanias, VI, 26, 1 (a feast outside Elis); see also Plutarch, Mulierum Virtutes, 13 (Mor., 249e), discussed further below and see Versnel (1990), p. 138. Maenadic activity seems to be referred to at Sophocles, Antigone, 1149-1151; Euripides, Ion, 550-552; Aristophanes, Clouds, 603-606; Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, 498 and 836. Supernatural revels that evoke the cult of Dionysos referred to at Euripides, Bacchae, 306-309 and Sophocles, Antigone, 1126-1130; see for discussion and references Holzhausen (2008).
In contrast, there does seem to have been a polis-instituted cult of Dionysos: goat sacrifices to Semele and Dionysus are recorded in a fourth-century sacrificial calendar from the deme of Erchia, see Sokolowski LSCG no. 18, A 44-51, ∆33-40; see discussion in Henrichs (1983), p. 144.
A peace-making role has been evoked for the Sixteen Women at Elis, who seem to have had a reputation as peacemakers, according to the stories recorded by Plutarch and Pausanias. On the origins of the sixteen, chosen from sixteen cities in Elis, in order to help promote harmony between them see Pausanias, V, 16, 4-6. Plutarch (Mulierum Virtutes, 15 [Mor.,251e]) relates a story, dating to the third century BC, which does identify the women with the welfare of the people (specifically the women) of Elis, but also raises questions about allegiance to political authority. See discussion by Goff (2004), p. 191-193. Henrichs (1983), p. 220, n. 57 suggests that these congregations and the Delphic and Attic Thyiads ‘reflect ancient clan structures’. See Henrichs (1983), p. 150 for a discussion of the ways in which cults of Dionysos seem to have encouraged a sense of intra-group identity among worshippers.
See Aristophanes, Birds, 874-875; Wasps, 9; Lysistrata, 387 f., (where the rites of Adonis are likened to those of Sabazios); Kratinos, Horai, fr. 566 (ed. Kock), with scholia.
Demosthenes, 18 (De Corona), 129 and 259-260, and 19 (On the False Embassy), 249 and 281.
Inscription of Miletus: LSAM 48 (see n. 82 above and discussion in Henrichs ); Versnel (1990), p. 145 suggests this document demonstrates ‘a drastic routinization of maenadism in the context of the official cult practice.’
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 48.
Deme-level activities discussed in Humphreys (2004), who suggests, for example, that the state became increasingly involved in managing cults because of its role in sanctuary loans to the state (p. 139), and discusses the apparent autonomy of the deme festival calendar. Aleshire (1994) argues that state control of cult was primarily focused on financial affairs. See also Faraone (2008) and Boedeker (2008) for discussion of the interaction between polis and smaller units of society, including gene and oikoi.
Aleshire (1994) provides a thorough and convincing analysis of the difficulties of describing ‘state cult’, and/or identifying the ways in which a polis exerted control over religious life.
The difficulties of describing variations in the details of ritual activity within the schema of polis religion are indicated in some of the language used by Sourvinou-Inwood herself: for example, she describes metic religious as being ‘“encompassed”, in the diluted sense of being sanctioned, by the polis’ (2000b, p. 49).
This idea of multiple connections is also conveyed by Sourvinou-Inwood (2000b), p. 46, who describes the ‘manifold identity elements, not all of which were dependent on the others’ of each individual. The ‘network or web’ pattern of cult connections for an individual within Athens is also described by Aleshire (1994), p. 10: ‘the cult associations of a given individual were multiple … cult associations could and usually did cut directly across the political hierarchy.’
A point also made by Aleshire (1994), p. 13.
Using the network theory language of Barabási – Albert (‘Statistical mechanics of Complex Networks,’ Reviews of Modern Physics 74 , p. 47-97, cited by Collar , p. 147), we might call Athens a ‘hub’, that is, a node that is massively well connected.
Mohr – White (2008).
The process by which the polis consolidated its power through absorption of social and political social formations is vividly described by Gabrielsen (2007) and Ismard (2007).
Josephus (Against Apion II, 267) offers a list of men ‘put to death by the Athenians because they uttered a word against their gods.’ How many of these men were actually prosecuted is famously debated, see, in particular Dover (1976). The women are Phryne, Theoris of Lemnos, and Ninon: see Eidinow (2010).
In the trial of Socrates, for example, we learn about his connections to politically dangerous individuals and his association with young men: see Hansen (1995). On Ninon, Theoris and Phryne, see Eidinow (2010).
Graf (1997), p. 59: Cicero, Laws II, 21; Paulus Sententiae V, 23, 15; FIRA II, 410; and Codex Theodosianus IX, 16, 7. The Peiraeus decree IG II2 1177 = LSCG 36 (mid-fourth century) constrains possible religious/ritual behaviour during the Thesmophoria, including forbidding anyone to assemble thiasoi; an Athenian decree (IG I3 78a, 55-59 = LSCG 5, c. 422 BC / 418 BC) dictates that no one should place an altar in the sacred territory of the Pelargikon without official consent. See also a lex sacra from the cult of Asklepios at Erythrai (380-60 BC), LSAM 24, I. Erythrai 205.
Sourvinou-Inwood (2000a), p. 37.
There is not room to consider this in depth here, but some specific examples for which network theory might provide a particularly useful approach, range from the conceptual questions involved in the figure of Herakles as both god and hero (Shapiro 1983); or to the specifics of cult practice (for example, such as Pausanias describes [V, 13, 3] in which a cult complex contains a hero and a god, where some types of participation in the cult of the hero renders the worshipper unfit to come before the god, see Kearns  p. 86 and 87). Also, to explore the variety of ways in which communities represented their gods as being involved in the life of the polis (this varied, as Guettel Cole  has demonstrated).Haut de page