Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece

Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece

Sarah Iles Johnston

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0520280180

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

During the archaic and classical periods, Greek ideas about the dead evolved in response to changing social and cultural conditions—most notably changes associated with the development of the polis, such as funerary legislation, and changes due to increased contacts with cultures of the ancient Near East. In Restless Dead, Sarah Iles Johnston presents and interprets these changes, using them to build a complex picture of the way in which the society of the dead reflected that of the living, expressing and defusing its tensions, reiterating its values and eventually becoming a source of significant power for those who knew how to control it. She draws on both well-known sources, such as Athenian tragedies, and newer texts, such as the Derveni Papyrus and a recently published lex sacra from Selinous.

Topics of focus include the origin of the goes (the ritual practitioner who made interaction with the dead his specialty), the threat to the living presented by the ghosts of those who died dishonorably or prematurely, the development of Hecate into a mistress of ghosts and its connection to female rites of transition, and the complex nature of the Erinyes. Restless Dead culminates with a new reading of Aeschylus' Oresteia that emphasizes how Athenian myth and cult manipulated ideas about the dead to serve political and social ends.











the time. What Herodotus and Pausanias actually tell us about the cults of the Erinyes aligns with this: they arose from crisis situations in which the angry Erinys or Erinyes had to be propitiated by the Spartans and Arcadians. There are literary instances as well. For example, in Apollonius Rhodius’s Argonautica, Jason and Medea must make propitiatory offerings to the Erinyes as part of their purification after the murder of Apsyrtus.48 The goddesses are angry at their grossly impious murder of

those rituals which have to do with the passage between the divine and human realm, without taking notice of their widely differing valuation in society.” Cf. also his conclusion on 34, that the common denominator of mysteries, divination, and sorcery was simply that they did not belong to civic religion, which implies that they had little in common ideologically or in terms of practice. More in agreement with me here are the remarks of Tsantanoglou, 98–99. 63. Plu. Mor. fr. 126 (Sandbach) =

they the deities chosen to do it? Let us begin with Hecate. Her only connection to the Underworld during this period is her role as the mistress of the restless dead. In Euripides’ Helen, Helen and Menelaus refer to her as the one who leads forth ghosts and an unassigned fragment of fifth-century tragedy portrays her as leading packs of them through the night.107 She has no other role that connects her to the dead or to the Underworld. Nor does she have any role as a goddess who punishes

like others who had offended the gods—Niobe, for example—they had to be punished to an extraordinary degree; most especially, they had to be punished for eternity and in unusual ways. It is notable that their punishments take place in the Underworld, but this may be nothing more than a way of making the punishment more odious by situating it in the most unpleasant realm imaginable. Additionally, situating the punishments in the Underworld may be a way of moving them outside of the normal world

adept at preparing girls to become wives and mothers: Aphrodite feeds them, Hera gives them exceptional beauty and wisdom, Artemis gives them stature, and Athena teaches them handiwork. Just as Aphrodite is arranging their marriages, however, another disaster strikes. The harpies snatch the girls and hand them over to the Erinyes, whom they will be compelled to accompany (amphipoleuein) forevermore. Unfortunately, Penelope does not bother to tell us why the girls are handed over to the

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