The Origins of Greek Religion

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Walter de Gruyter, 1974 - Religion - 345 pages
Nilsson's seminal work on Minoan-Myceanaean religion had its second edition in 1950 prior to the decipherment of Linear B; yet he found much in the archaeological record of the Bronze Age which he associated with later Greek religion. In that respect his insights were vindicated by the reading of those tablets which bore the names of classical Greek divinities, though at tme time new conclusions were needed about Indo-European arrival in Greek lands. Dietrich, with Nilsson very much in mind, starts from the premises that beliefs and their associated rites are inherently conservative; that, even where populations change, they tend to do so gradually, creating fusions rather than wholesale disruptions in ritual practice. An understanding of classical Greek religion thus, necessarily, depends on appreciation of its forerunners in the Bronze Age; and they, in turn, on evidence from the better documented religions of the Middle East. Dietrich's four main chapters deal first with those eastern links; then with the old traditions of Minoan Crete; next with the interplay of pre-Greek Minoan and Greek Mycenaean cultures; and finally he attempts to bridge the commonly assumed divide between bronze age and archaic Greece. Appendixes deal with Minoan peak-sanctuaries, with Apollo at Delphi, and (sympathetically) with Nilsson's pervasive view that Greek mythology was first formulated in the Mycenaean age. In these areas a great deal more work has been done since 1974. Dietrich's thoroughly researched work was at once trend-setting and provocative. It is here made available for the first time in paperback; for it still contains much of importance for the student of Greek religion.

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About the author (1974)

Bernard C. Dietrich was Professor of Greek in the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

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