Animal Sacrifice in Antiquity

Gunnel Ekroth

in The Oxford Handbook of Animals in Classical Thought and Life

Published in print August 2014 | ISBN: 9780199589425
Published online March 2014 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Animal Sacrifice in Antiquity

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  • Marriage and the Family


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In ancient Greece and Rome, animal sacrifice was performed as a ritual to communicate with the gods, heroes, and other divine beings. Such rituals were meant to ask the divine recipients for favours, protection, and help, or to appease them. Animal sacrifice, in which prayer was central, was also a way for human worshippers to know the will of the gods and often concluded with the distribution and consumption of the meat. Literary texts, inscriptions, images, and archaeological remains in the form of altars and other sacrificial installations, as well as animal bones, provide evidence of animal sacrifice during antiquity. In particular, the animal bones recovered from sanctuaries have yielded significant information about the handling of sacrificial animals, which ranged from dogs and horses to game, fish, and snakes. Aside from species, sex, age, and colour, an important factor for the choice of animal to be sacrificed was the economics involved.

Keywords: ancient Greece; Rome; animal sacrifice; gods; rituals; meat; altars; sanctuaries; sacrificial animals; economics

Article.  16948 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Marriage and the Family

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