Prayer, Sacrifice, Festivals, Dedications, and Priests in ‘Service to the Gods’

Jon D. Mikalson

in Greek Popular Religion in Greek Philosophy

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577835
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723063 | DOI:
Prayer, Sacrifice, Festivals, Dedications, and Priests in ‘Service to the Gods’

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Most Greek philosophers accepted and even promoted prayer, sacrifice, festivals, and dedications, but with modifications and restrictions. The Socratic argument that prayers should be made only for what is good, not for specific things, and that this required philosophical knowledge of what is good was widely accepted in the philosophic tradition. Sacrifices are to be made to honour the gods, establish a relationship of reciprocal favours (charis) with them, and to acquire good things. Humble and regular sacrifices by good people are better received than expensive sacrifices by evil people. Pythagoras, Empedocles, and Theophrastus opposed both the popular and philosophical traditions by excluding animal sacrifice. Festivals honour the gods and provide opportunities for relaxation and education. Dedications also honour the gods but are subject to restrictions of objects and expense. Priests are given a relatively low political status and have a limited role in prayer and sacrifice. The chapter concludes with a survey of other religious officials.

Keywords: prayer; sacrifice; festivals; dedications; charis; priest; Theophrastus; Socrates

Chapter.  28270 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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