Professor: L. Gawlinski
Crown Center 563, 8-3657
Office Hours: MW 10:00-11 am;
other times by appointment
Religions of Ancient Greece
This course will examine the rituals and beliefs of the ancient Greeks through the
literary, historical, epigraphical, archaeological, and art historical records. The
critical interpretation of both textual and visual sources will play a large role in
the course, and emphasis will be placed on the benefits and limitations of the
sources for Greek religion. In addition to the reading of ancient texts, images of
myth and cult on vases, dedications, and architectural sculpture will be examined,
and minor deities and small shrines will be added to the “big picture” in order to
give a richer view of religious expression in antiquity. The course will explore
most of the major topics and problems in the study of Greek religion: myth vs.
cult, sacred spaces, the influence of politics and economics, the role of gender, the
relationship of magic to religion, prophecy and divination, theories about animal
sacrifice, rites of passage, personal and communal piety, and mystery cults from
the Eleusinian Mysteries to early Christianity. The material to be covered spans
the history of Greek religion from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period, with
focus on the Archaic and Classical periods. To a lesser extent, we will also
examine influences from other Mediterranean cultures and the interactions
between the pagans and the early Christians.
The successful student in this course will be able to:
Understand the distinctive features of Greek religion, trace their changes over
time, and recognize their relationships to the features of other religious systems.
Contextualize Greek religion in its setting: temporal, cultural, political,
geographical, and economic.
Identify the ancient sources for Greek religion, evaluate the uses of each, and
employ them to express arguments.
Mikalson, J. 2009.
Ancient Greek Religion.
Warrior, Valerie. 2009.
Greek Religion: A Sourcebook.
Aeschylus. The Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides.
(1984 reprint trans. R. Fagles)
Other readings can be found on reserve in the library (2-hr), online (linked on
Blackboard), or on Blackboard. Assignments, helpful additional resources, and
images from the course can be found on Blackboard. I expect you to check
Blackboard frequently for announcements: treat it like a required text.