Bonds of Flesh and Blood

Philippa Townsend

in Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738960
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918676 | DOI:
Bonds of Flesh and Blood

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Philippa Townsend places the theories of sacrifice put forward by the Neo-Platonic philosopher Porphyry within a complex of ethnic tradition, sacrificial ritual and imperial rule developed during the consolidation of the Roman Empire. Porphyry’s own critique of sacrifice, which included an extension of shared kinship to all of humanity and to non-human animals as well, attenuated boundaries based on birth or race even as conventional distinctions remained. To Porphyry, blood ties were at best insignificant, and at worst detrimental, because they bound one more securely to the material order. As such, his writings are marked by an anxiety about the disjunction between one’s true self and one’s contingent identity, an anxiety that can be securely linked to the social transformations brought on by the universalizing impetus of third-century imperial rule.

Keywords: sacrificial theology; Neo-Platonism; Porphyry; Roman empire; ethnicity

Chapter.  9258 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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