The Cuisine of Sacrifice Among the Greeks

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University of Chicago Press, 1989 - Religion - 276 pages
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For the Greeks, the sharing of cooked meats was the fundamental communal act, so that to become vegetarian was a way of refusing society. It follows that the roasting or cooking of meat was a political act, as the division of portions asserted a social order. And the only proper manner of preparing meat for consumption, according to the Greeks, was blood sacrifice.

The fundamental myth is that of Prometheus, who introduced sacrifice and, in the process, both joined us to and separated us from the gods—and ambiguous relation that recurs in marriage and in the growing of grain. Thus we can understand why the ascetic man refuses both women and meat, and why Greek women celebrated the festival of grain-giving Demeter with instruments of butchery.

The ambiguity coded in the consumption of meat generated a mythology of the "other"—werewolves, Scythians, Ethiopians, and other "monsters." The study of the sacrificial consumption of meat thus leads into exotic territory and to unexpected findings.

In The Cuisine of Sacrifice, the contributors—all scholars affiliated with the Center for Comparative Studies of Ancient Societies in Paris—apply methods from structural anthropology, comparative religion, and philology to a diversity of topics: the relation of political power to sacrificial practice; the Promethean myth as the foundation story of sacrificial practice; representations of sacrifice found on Greek vases; the technique and anatomy of sacrifice; the interaction of image, language, and ritual; the position of women in sacrificial custom and the female ritual of the Thesmophoria; the mythical status of wolves in Greece and their relation to the sacrifice of domesticated animals; the role and significance of food-related ritual in Homer and Hesiod; ancient Greek perceptions of Scythian sacrificial rites; and remnants of sacrificial ritual in modern Greek practices.
  

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Contents

Culinary Practices and the Spirit of Sacrifice
3
At Mans Table Hesiods Foundation Myth of Sacrifice
23
Greek Animals Toward a Topology of Edible Bodies
89
Ritual As Instrumentality
121
The Violence of Wellborn Ladies Women in the Thesmophoria
131
The Feast of the Wolves or the Impossible City
150
Food in the Countries of the Sun
166
Selfcooking Beef and the Drinks of Ares
172
Sanctified Slaughter in Modern Greece The Kourbania of the Saints
185
A Bibliography of Greek Sacrifice
206
Abbreviations
221
Notes
223
Index
271
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About the author (1989)

Marcel Detienne is the Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor of Classics at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of L'Invention de la mythologie, Dionysos a ciel ouvert, Les Jardins d'Adonis, and many other books and articles, and editor of Transcrire les mythologies.

Jean-Pierre Vernant is a leading French scholar of ancient Greece who attempts to elucidate Greek religions, especially mythology, through the development of a historical anthropology. In 1984 he retired from his position as professor of the comparative study of ancient religion at the College de France. Among his earlier accomplishments, Vernant received the Croix de Guerre and the Croix de la Liberation for his service in the French army in World War II; he was also made an officer in the French Legion of Honor. Vernant is a writer of essays more than of books. As anthropologist James Redfield (see Vol. 3) puts it, "His forte . . . has been the informal, slightly rambling essay. . .; he does not collect evidence in order to make a case but rather cites the material in order to illustrate his ideas."Vernant's career has been distinguished by his collaboration with other scholars, most notably with Marcel Detienne and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. His interest in applying anthropological study to ancient Greece derives from his teacher, Louis Gernet, a member of Emile Durkheim's (see Vol. 3) school of L'Annee Sociologique. Vernant also adapts ideas from structuralist anthropology, without, however, surrendering a historical perspective. He works most often on materials from Greece of the fifth century b.c. Classicists often resist Vernant's approach because it is so heavily informed by theory. Nevertheless, it provides a wonderfully rich and complex vision of the ancient world and is worth serious and prolonged consideration.

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