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Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences$
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John Davies and John Wilkes

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265062

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265062.001.0001

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Epigraphy and Greek Religion1

Epigraphy and Greek Religion1

(p.17) 2 Epigraphy and Greek Religion1
Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences

Robert Parker

British Academy

The main part of this chapter reviews the role of texts and writing within the practice of ancient Greek religion, and seeks to modify the common view that oral tradition provided most Greek ritual knowledge. True, most information from inscribed ‘sacred laws’ is administrative and financial: written information — which exists in quantity, especially with the so-called ‘calendars of sacrifices’ — tends to specify exceptions and innovations or to provide precise detail in response to unusual needs. Documentation from the Aegean (Kos) and Asia Minor (Miletos) is cited to illustrate the former, while inscriptions from Sicily (Selinous) and N. Africa (Kyrene) are quoted to show that rituals of purification could occasionally require ‘how to’ instructions.

Keywords:   Greek ritual, sacred laws, calendars of sacrifices, purification, oral tradition, Greek religion

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