Greek Festivals and the Ritual Process

Synnøve des Bouvrie

in Greek and Roman Festivals

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199696093
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745744 | DOI:
Greek Festivals and the Ritual Process

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Our knowledge of ancient festivals is rather extensive, the evidence telling much about what people were doing, but not why they were doing it, for example, in some cases the ritual process can be captured. Greek festivals can be defined as facts of culture. By including theories about the neurophysiological bases of cultural phenomena, anthropological understanding of festive social action are applied, and liminality, symbolism, cultural performances, prescribed sentiments, and power aspects are discussed. Departing from these theoretical viewpoints, the festivals of the Olympia and the Heraia at Olympia are analysed as manifestations of elaborating symbols, establishing the ‘nature’ of male and female, while the Olympia generated the summarising symbol of Hellenic ethnicity. In contrast, the Dionysia at Athens gathered the community in an atmosphere of Dionysiac disorder. Its programme manifested a liminal phase, including expressions arousing comic and tragic fascinations — sentiments aimed at provoking the audience’s cultural sense of normality.

Keywords: anthropology; athens; comic and tragic fascinations; cultural performances; dionysia; female; heraia; liminality; male; neurophysiology; Olympia; power; ritual process; prescribed sentiments; symbolism

Chapter.  15551 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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