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Meat for the gods
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Classical archaeology and ancient history.
2011 (English)In: Nourrir les dieux?: Sacrifice et répresentation du divin, actes de la VIe rencontre du Groupe de recherche européen "Figura, représentation du divin dans les sociétés grecque et romaine" / [ed] V. Pirenne-Delforge & F. Prescendi, Liège: Centre International d'Étude de la Religion Grecque Antique , 2011, 15-41 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In Homer, the practice of giving the gods cooked meat is evidenced by Eumaios’ sacrifice in Odyssey XIV, while at this and other sacrifices pieces of raw meat from the animal victim were placed on top of the thighbones, which were then burnt in the altar fire as a part of the god’s portion, a procedure labelled omothetein. In the Classical period, gifts of meat for the gods are well attested in the epigraphical evidence, in the form of trapezomata or theoxenia, but also in literary sources and iconography. This paper will discuss when the practice of meat offerings came into being and how it develops, what the gods may have been thought of actually receiving on these occasions and why meat was given. It will be argued that the gifts of meat for the gods may have arisen from the honouring of kings and exceptional individuals with choice portions of meat, and that their growing importance in cult can be linked to the significance of banquets in Archaic society as a means for expressing status and hierarchies, perhaps under the influence of Near Eastern ritual practices. The gods were never perceived as craving or eating the meat and the central concept of meat offerings was the bestowing of honour, time. Still, by offering the gods something, which both could and was consumed by man, the meat offerings may have created possibilities for a different and closer interaction between mortals and immortals, in particular by evoking a context of xenia.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Liège: Centre International d'Étude de la Religion Grecque Antique , 2011. 15-41 p.
, Kernos supplément, 26
National Category
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
Research subject
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-160101ISBN: 9782960071795OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-160101DiVA: diva2:448338

Université de Liège, 23-24 octobre 2009

Available from: 2011-10-16 Created: 2011-10-16 Last updated: 2016-05-15

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