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Kernos

23 (2010)
Varia

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Jan Bremmer

Manteis, Magic, Mysteries and


Mythography
Messy Margins of Polis Religion?

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octobre 2013, consult le 11 octobre 2013. URL: http://kernos.revues.org/1559; DOI: 10.4000/kernos.1559
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Kernos23(2010),p.13-35.

Manteis, Magic, Mysteries and Mythography:


Messy Margins of Polis Religion?

Abstract: In recent decades it has become customary to assume that in the classical
periodthepoliscontrolledreligioninallitsaspects.Itisonlyrecentlythatthisviewisbeing
questioned.Althoughthemoremarginalaspectsofpolisreligionhavealreadyreceivedthe
necessary attention, the study of these marginal aspects remains dominated, to a certain
extent,byoldprejudicesofpreviousgenerationsofscholars,whichinturnweresometimes
fedbytheprejudicesorrepresentationsofancientauthors.Iwillconcentrateonthoseareas
of Greek, especially Athenian, religious life in which books and writing were particularly
important, as the written word enabled people to take a more independent stance in polis
religion.Subsequently,Iwillmakeobservationsonmanteis(1),magic(2),mysteriesand
Orphism ( 3) and mythography ( 4), and end with some remarks on the nature of polis
religion(5).
Rsum:Cesderniresdcennies,ilestdevenuhabitueldeconsidrerquelapolisdela
priodeclassiquecontrlaitlareligionsoustouscesaspects.Cenestquercemmentquece
pointdevueatmisenquestion.Mmesilesaspectsplusmarginauxdelareligiondela
polisontdjreulattentionncessaire,leurtuderestemarque,dansunecertainemesure,
parlesprjugsdessavantsdesgnrationsantrieures,eux-mmesnourrisdesprjugset
desreprsentationsdesauteursanciens.Cetarticleseconcentresurleslieuxdelaviereligieusegrecque,etplusparticulirementathnienne,odeslivresetdelcrittaientparticulirement importants, dans la mesure o lcrit permet aux gens de prendre une position
plus indpendante en regard de la religion de la polis. Mes observations concerneront les
manteis ( 1), la magie ( 2), les mystres et lOrphisme ( 3), la mythographie ( 4), en
terminantparquelquesconsidrationssurlanaturedelareligiondelapolis(5).


With the passing away of Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood (1945-2007), my
generation has lost its most personal voice and, perhaps, its most powerful
intellect.Christianehadstillmuchtoofferandherdeathisanirreparableloss.I
knewherforthirtyyears,andshealwayswasaveryloyalfriend.Iwouldnever
visit Oxford without having lunch with her and her husband Mike Inwood,
ofteninTrinityCollege,andthoseoccasionsaresomeofmybestmemories.It
isalsofairtosaythatfrommygenerationshewasoneofthemostpolemical
scholars.Onecontradictedheratonesperil,asseveralofherpublicationsall
too clearly show.1 That is why my contribution is delivered not without a
certainfeelingofambivalence.Certainly,whileshewasstillalive,itwouldhave

1 See, for example, C. SOURVINOU-INWOOD, Reading Greek Death to the End of the Classical
Period,Oxford,1995,p.413-44.

14

J.N.BREMMER

been very hard to disagree with her in print at length. Yet the memory of a
great scholar is never served by hagiography, and it is in the spirit of the
greatest admiration that I would like to ask some questions regarding Christianesseminalandhighlyinfluentialarticlesontheideaofpolisreligion.2
ItisasignofherpersuasivenessthatcriticismsofChristianesmodelhave
longbeenfewandfarbetween,andthatasustainedcriticalanalysisappeared
onlylastyear.3InmycontributionIwilltakeacloserlookatthemoremarginal
aspectsofpolisreligion.Althoughthesehaverecentlybeenadmirablystudiedby
RobertParkerandEstherEidinow,4itmaystillbepossibletoaddafewmore
touchestotheirgeneralpicture,asthestudyofthesemarginalaspectsremains
dominated, to a certain extent, by old prejudices of previous generations of
scholars,whichinturnweresometimesfedbytheprejudicesorrepresentations
of ancient authors. I will concentrate on those areas of Greek, especially
Athenian,religiouslifeinwhichbooksandwritingwereparticularlyimportant,
asthewrittenwordenabledpeopletotakeamoreindependentstanceinpolis
religion. Subsequently, I will make observations on manteis ( 1), magic ( 2),
mysteriesandOrphism(3)andmythography(4),andthenendwithsome
finalobservationsonthenatureofpolisreligion(5)

(. Manteis
Let us start with the Greek seers. It is clear that in the Archaic Age the
oldestseersstilloperatedwithouttheuseofwritingortexts.Infact,theidea
that oracles speak and are spoken lasted well into the fifth century. In a
valuable study of Greek holy tales and holy books,5 Albert Henrichs has
recentlystressedthatoraclesareintrinsicallyoral,thatistosaytheyspeakto
thehumanrecipientintheirownvoicebyaddressinganissue,asatBirds962f.:
Thereisanoracle(chrsmos)ofBakisexplicitlyspeakingabout(legn)Cloudcocuckoland.6Andindeed,asthelateOlivierMassonhasargued,Bakisactually
means Speaker.7 This oral character started to change from the late seventh

2 I quote her What is Polis Religion? (1990) and Further Aspects of Polis Religion (1988)
from the reprints in R.BUXTON (ed.),Oxford Readings in Greek Religion,Oxford, 2000, p. 13-37,
38-55.
3 J. KINDT, Polis Religion  A critical Appreciation, Kernos 22 (2009), p. 9-34; note also
M.H.HANSEN,Polis: an introduction to the ancient Greek city-state,Oxford,2006,p.119-122.
4 R. PARKER, Polytheism and Society at Athens, Oxford, 2005, p. 116-35; E. EIDINOW, Oracles,
Curses, & Risk Among the Ancient Greeks,Oxford,2007.
5 A. HENRICHS, Hieroi Logoi and Hierai Bibloi: the (Un)written Margins of the Sacred in
AncientGreece,HSCP101(2003),p.207-266at220.
6NotethesameexpressioninAr.,Eq.,128.
7Suda,s.v.Bakis;schol.Ar.,Pax,1071,cf.W.BURKERT,ApokalyptikimfrhenGriechentum:
ImpulseundTransformationen,inD.HELLHOLM(ed.),Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean world and
the Near East, Tbingen, 1983, p. 235-254 at 248-249; O. MASSON, Onomastica Graeca Selecta III,

Manteis,Magic,MysteriesandMythography

15

centuryonwardswhenoraclesandpropheticutteranceswerefixedintowriting.
Ouroldestexampleistheso-calledskinofEpimenides,apparentlyaparchment
sheetwithoraclesofthatgreatbutelusivepurifier.8Epimenidesgravewasinthe
officialbuildingoftheSpartanephors,whoalsoregularlyconsultedanincubation
oracle in Thalamae, a hamlet south-west of Sparta,9 whereas each of the two
SpartankingshadtwoPythioi,officialswhocouldconsulttheDelphicoracle,the
resultsofwhichtheypreservedinanarchiveforfutureconsultation.10Weseehere
clearly the combination of seers, power and literacy in the area of the gods
messages.
Poweroverthesemessagesmusthavebeenconsideredsoimportantthatthe
Pisistratids too kept oracles on the acropolis, and Pisistratus son Hipparchus
expelledthemanwhohadbeenofficiallychargedwithcollectingoracles,Onomacritus,whenhewasseizedintheveryactoffalsifyingoneoftheseoracles.11When
in510B.C.,theSpartankingCleomenesoustedthePisistratids,hetooktheoracleshomeintheprocess,tobestored,presumably,intheSpartanroyalarchives.12
Thiscloseconnectionbetweenoraclesandtherulingpowersisalsosuggestedby
HerodotusstorythattheSpartanDorieuswasadvisedbytheseerAntichareswho
citedanoracleofLaios(V,43).Itwasapparentlynotconsideredstrangethatthe
Thebankingsownedoraclesandthis,presumably,addedtotheauthorityofthe
oracularsource.Infact,Pausanias(IX,26,3)mentionsthatLaiosrevealedtothe
SphinxanoraclethatwasknownonlytothekingsofThebes.Itfitsthissituation
that many kings of archaic times were also known as seers, such as Anios of
Delos13,PolyidosofArgos,whowasthesonofKoiranos,Ruler,14Mounichos,

Geneva, 2000, p. 207-208;add to hismaterial L.JONNES,The Inscriptions of Heraclea Pontica, Bonn,
1994,p.128(Bakides).
8ForEpimenidesandhisskin,seeJ.N.BREMMER,TheskinsofPherekydesandEpimenides,
Mnemosyne46(1993),p.234-36;fororaclesonparchmentsheets,notealsoEuripides,fr.627(ed.
KANNICHT).
9Plut.,Ag.,9;Cle.,11,3-6;Agis and Cleomenes,28,3;Cic.,Div.I,96;IGV1,1317;Tert., An.,46;
JACOBYonFGrH596F46.
10Hdt.,VI,57;Xen.,Resp. Lac.,15,5;Cic.,Div.I,95;K.ZIEGLER,Pythioi,RE24(1963),
col.550-552.
11 Hdt., VII, 6; H.A. SHAPIRO, Oracle-mongers in Peisistratid Athens, Kernos 3 (1990),
p.335-345;J.DILLERY,ChresmologuesandManteis:IndependentDivinersandtheProblemof
Authority,inS.I.JOHNSTON,P.STRUCK(eds.),Mantik,Leiden,2005,p.167-231.
12Hdt.,V,90,2.OraclesinstatearchivesduringtheheydayofAtheniandemocracy:Dem.,21,
51-54;43,66.
13 Anios: Cypria, fr. 19 (ed. DAVIES) = 20 (ed. BERNAB); Pherecydes, FGrH 3 F 140 =
fr.140(ed.FOWLER);SEG32,218;41,80and129;44,682;Ph.BRUNEAU,Anios,inLIMCI.1
(1981),p.793-794;A.D.TRENDALL,ThedaughtersofAnios,inE.BHR,W.MARTINI(eds.),
Studien zu Mythologie und Vasenmalerei,Mainz,1986,p.165-168;M.HALM-TISSERANT,DeDlos
lApulie:lesfillesdAniosetlepeintredeDarius,Ktema25(2000),p.133-142;N.HORSFALLon
Verg.,Aen.III,80.
14 Il. V, 148 and schol. (king), XIII, 663-670 with R. JANKO ad loc.; Pind., O. 13, 74-75;
Pherecydes,FGrH3F115=fr.115(ed.FOWLER);Soph.,ManteiswithRADTad loc.;Paus.,I,43,

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J.N.BREMMER

TenerosandPhineusofThrace.15Asimilarcombinationofpoliticalauthorityand
oracles prevailed in Rome where the Senate anxiously guarded the Sibylline
oracles,whichwereevenclassifiedashiddenbooks,libri reconditi.16
Literacy,however,isagreatdemocratiser.Inthefifthcenturywefindallkinds
of oracle collections and collectors.17 Our earliest known example is probably
Polemainetos,whobequeathedhisbooksondivinationtohisfriendThrasyllosin
the middle of the fifth century (Isocr., 19, 5-9), but Aristophanes repeatedly
mentions the collections of Bakis and Musaeus, the latter an Athenian and the
formeraBoeotian.18Theseoracleswereprobablyusedindebatesintheassembly
andthusliabletotheapprovaloftheaudience,19butthatwasonlyoneplacewere
theywerequotedorchanted.20Thebookswillalsohavebeenusedinmoreprivate
gatherings, as in Aristophanes Birds (980-989), where they were not subject to
public scrutiny. They were peddled by men and women,21 and Once we are
alertedtotheirpresence,wefindthemeverywherethroughoutoursources.22As
Burkertwellnotes,theseseersanddivinersremainedsomewhatmarginaltoPolis
religion, and could never even think of authoritarian organization of belief, of
dogmatomonopolizethecreationofsense.23

2. Magic
A similar increasing visibility, even if not in the public sphere or the literary
sources,isthecaseofmagicalspellsandcurses.Inthelasttwodecadesthestudy

5; Apollod., III, 3, 1. Koiranos etymology: A. HEUBECK, Koiranos, korragos und Verwandtes,
Wrzb. Jahrb. Altert. NF 4 (1978), p.91-98; E. KACZYSKA, Greek (Hesychian) kros Great
NumberofMenandRelatedWords,Emerita75(2007),p.273-278.
15 Mounichos: Ant. Lib., 14; L. PALEOCRASSA, Mounichos, in LIMC VI.1 (1992), p. 655657.Teneros:Pindar,fr.51dand52g.13(ed.MAEHLER);Strabo,IX,2,34;Paus.,IX,26,1;schol.
Pind., P. 11, 5 and Lycophron, 1211; I. RUTHERFORD, Pindars Paeans, Oxford, 2001, p. 343f.
Phineus: A. KISLINGER, Phineus, Diss. Vienna, 1940; L. KAHIL, Phineus I, in LIMC VII.1
(1994),p.387-391.
16J.LINDERSKI,TheLibriReconditi,HSCP89(1985),p.207-234,reprintedinhisRoman
QuestionsI,Stuttgart,1995,p.496-523,669(addenda).
17J.FONTENROSE,The Delphic Oracle,Berkeleyet al.,1978,p.158-165;W.K.PRITCHETT,The
Greek State at WarIII,Berkeleyet al.,1979,p.320.
18HENRICHS,l.c.(n.5),p.216-222;MusaeusT64-71(ed.BERNAB).
19 As persuasively argued by H. BOWDEN, Oracles for Sale, in P. DEROW, R. PARKER
(eds.),Herodotus and His World,Oxford,2003,p.256-274at270-274.
20ForthechantingoforaclesseeSoph.,fr.573(ed.RADT);Eur.,fr.481,16(ed.KANNICHT);
Eupolis,fr.231(ed.KASSEL-AUSTIN).
21SeemostrecentlyEIDINOW,o.c.(n.4),p.26-32;add,forfemaleseers,M.FLOWER,The Seer
in Ancient Greece, Berkeley et al., 2008, p. 211-5, to be supplemented by J.N. BREMMER, Greek
Religion and Culture, the Bible and the Ancient Near East,Leiden,2008,p.149-150.
22EIDINOW,o.c.(n.4),p.27.
23W.BURKERT,Kleine SchriftenI,Gttingen,2001,p.24.

Manteis,Magic,MysteriesandMythography

17

of ancient magic has been a booming business.24 Yet this study has remained
mainlylimitedtothesmallcrowdofafficionadosofancientmagicandhashardly
enteredthestudyofpolisor,forthatmatter,Greekreligion:thereisnodiscussion
ofmagicinthehandbooksofNilssonandBurkertandneitheristhereanentry
magic in the indices of Christianes books. Yet in some respects this is an
excellent opportunity to compare polis religion with what Robert Parker calls
unlicensedreligion,25atermwewillhavetocomebackto.
Evenifwelimitourattentiontomagictodaytothecursetablets,itisclearthat
thesewerepartofalllayersofAtheniansociety.Thementioninthesetabletsof
thepoliticiansLycurgusandDemosthenes,butalsoofPhocion(tonoteonlythe
most famous ones)26 suggests that the practice pervaded the whole of Athenian
society, from top to bottom, aiming mainly at males, but sometimes also at
females,althoughthelatterwerestigmatisedaslaikastriai,aGreektermtowhich
theEnglishtranslationtartinEidinowdoesnotreallydojustice.27Inpassingwe
note that women were already the target of very early Selinuntine defixiones but
withoutattractingsuchmalice.28Onceagain,itisliteracythatmusthavemadea
realchangeinthisrespect.
Our oldest curse tablets derive from Sicily and Magna Graecia, where they
emerge in the sixth century,29 whereas in Attica they arrive in the course of the
later fifth century. Fritz Graf has suggested two possible explanations. First, the
earlyAtticspellswerewrittenexclusivelyonperishablematerialsandonlylateron
lead;30or,secondly,thedefixionesoriginatedinSicilyandMagnaGraeciaandwere
brought from there to Athens. It is true that Plato (Leg., 933a) mentions waxen
imagesattachedtodoorsandspellsdepositedoncrossroads,whichinbothcases
wouldhardlyhavesurvivedtheravagesoftime.Yetthetimedifferenceseemsto
speakunequivocallyforthepriorityofItaly.Nowtheancestorofthecursetablet

24ForanexcellentsurveyseeR.GORDON,F.MARCO SIMN,Introduction,ineidem(eds.),
Magical Practice in the Latin West, Leiden, 2010, p. 1-49; D. FRANKFURTER, H.S. VERSNEL (eds.),
The Brill Guide to the Study of Magic,Leiden,2010.
25PARKER,o.c.(n.4),p.116-135.
26C.HABICHT,AttischeFluchtafelnausderZeitAlexandersdesGrossen,ICS18(1993),
p. 113-118, reprinted in his Athen in hellenistischer Zeit (Munich, 1994), p. 14-18; A. NISOLI,
Defixionespoliticheevittimeillustri.IlcasodelladefixiodiFocione,Acme 56(2003),p.271286; F. MARCO SIMN, Execrating the Roman Power: Three Defixiones from Emporiae
(Ampurias),inGORDONMARCOSIMN,o.c.(n.24),p.399-423at413.
27EIDINOW,o.c.(n.4),p.415(translatingSGD48),cf.D.BAIN,SixGreekVerbsofSexual
Congress,CQ41(1991),p.51-77at 74-77.
28 M. DEL AMOR LOPEZ JIMENO, Las tabellae defixionis de la Sicilia griega, Amsterdam, 1991,
p.223-4;addL.BETTARINI,Corpusdelledefixionesdi Selinunte,Alessandria,2005,p.1-7(no.1):
Kleonn.
29 See, with bibliography, A. WILLI, Sikelismos. Sprache, Literatur und Gesellschaft im griechischen
Sizilien (8.-5. Jh. V. Chr.),Basel,2008,p.317-321.
30ThissuggestionisfollowedbyG.BOHAK,Ancient Jewish Magic,Cambridge,2008,p.154.

18

J.N.BREMMER

probably derives from the Assyro-Babylonian world, as Graf has argued,31 and
NearEasterninfluencehasalsobeenclaimedfortheenumerationofthedifferent
bodypartsinanatomicalcurses.32GiventheCarthaginianruleofWesternSicily
from the sixth century onwards and the occurrence of the Carthaginian name
Mago on an earlier fifth-century Selinuntine defixio,33 Near Eastern influence on
Sicily via Carthage seems impossible to overlook and very plausible.34 Such an
influence would also account better for the fact that Pythagorean or Orphic
influenceisnotnoticeableintheearliestcurses.
Having looked at their origin, let us now turn to their connection with polis
religion.Ifanywherestrictreligiouscontrolwasimpossible,itwasintheareaof
eschatology.Thecursetabletsthereforepresentaninterestingcasewherewecan
comparepolisreligionwithitspossibleopposite,admittedlyarathervaguetermto
whichIwillcomebackattheendofthispiece(5).Asweknow,literaturealways
makescertainchoicesdeterminedbygenre,audienceorpersonalpreferenceofthe
author.ThuswehardlyfindasingletraceofOrphicandPythagoreanbeliefsin
Greektragedy,andthestatementofacharacterinEuripidesMeleagros(fr.532
Kannicht) that after death every man is earth and shadow: nothing goes to
nothingmightevensuggesttheabsenceofanybeliefinanafterlife.However,
these words clearly demonstrate that we cannot simply extrapolate to general
beliefsorcollectiverepresentationsfromoneliteraryorartisticmedium,since,as
weknowfromvasepaintingsandtheHomeric Hymn to Demeter,theAthenians,like
theotherGreeks,believedintheusualafterlifesuspects,suchasCharon,Hades,
CerberusandPersephone.Infact,someofthesefiguresmustbeprettyold:adog
alreadyguardstheroadtotheunderworldinancientIndian,PersianandNordic
mythology,35andaferrymanispartoftheeschatologyofmanypeoples.36Finally,
Persephonesnamehasrecentlybeenetymologizedasshewhobeatstheearsof
corn,anexplanationthatfitstheactivityofgirlsinmanylessdevelopedareas
and probably predates the first millennium.37 The antiquity of these figures,
then, well guarantees their presence in the Greek belief system, even if an

31F.GRAF,Magic in the Ancient World,CambridgeMass.andLondon,1997,p.170-174.For
anearlyforerunnerseeW.S.FOX,OldTestamentParallelstoTabellae Defixionum,Am. J. Semitic
Languages30(1913-14),p.111-124.
32 H.S. VERSNEL, An Essay on Anatomical Curses, in F. GRAF (ed.), Ansichten griechischer
Rituale. Geburtstags-Symposium frWalter Burkert,Stuttgart/Leipzig,1998,p.217-267at256-259.
33BETTARINI,o.c.(n.28),no.23.
34 Similarly WILLI, o.c. (n. 29), p.317-318; less precise, H.S. VERSNEL, Fluch und Gebet, Berlin/NewYork,2009,p.27.
35M.L.WEST,Indo-European Poetry and Myth,Oxford,2007,p.392.
36 L.V. GRINSELL, The Ferryman and His Fee: A Study in Ethnology, Archaeology, and
Tradition, Folklore 68 (1957), p. 257-269; B. LINCOLN, The Ferryman of the Dead, J. IndoEuropean Stud.8(1980),p.41-59.
37R.WACHTER,reviewofLexikon des frhgriechischen Epos,Bd3,p.1009-1678,inKratylos51
(2006),p.136-144.

Manteis,Magic,MysteriesandMythography

19

elementofdoubtseemstohavealwaysbeenthereandwouldcontinuetodoso
wellintotheByzantineperiod.38
Do we find the eschatological inherited conglomerate of Charon, Hades,
CerberusandPersephonebackontheAtticcursetabletsoftheClassicaleraordo
we find different divine figures? Let us first note that we do not encounter
Charon. This is not really surprising, but it also shows that it is not the normal
underworldthatwehavehere.Thisisalsodemonstratedbythescarceinvocation
ofHadeswhoismentionedonlytwice(DTA102;SGD44).Hades name also
hardlyappearsonAtticvasepaintingandmaywellhavebeenfelttooinfernal
toinvoke.39ThemostpopulardeitybyfarisHermes,whoismentionedwithjust
his own name (8), but also as Katochos (14), he who holds down, Hermes
Chthonios (8), of the Earth, Eriounios (3: unknown meaning), Dolios (2),
Cunning, and once as Lord Katochos (DTA 94) and as God Katochos (DTA
95),thelastperhapsbeingexamplesofthesoftAttictabooonthepronunciation
ofnamesofunderworldpowers.40Interestingly,then,wefindinthesetabletsnot
onlythenameofthegodHermesbutalsoHermeswithvariousdifferentepithets.
FromtheseepithetsonlyonecanbefoundinAtticaasacultepithetoutside
thecursetablets:HermesChthonios.DuringtheChoestheAthenianssacrificedto
HermesChthoniosbuttononeoftheOlympiangods,accordingtoTheopompus
(FGrH115F347ab).Forthestudyofepithetsthisisaveryinterestingpassage,as
Hermes was of course one of the Olympian gods. We can see here that in
particularcircumstancestheGreekscouldcompletelyisolateagod+epithetfrom
thesamegodwithoutepithet.41Fromtheotherepithets,Katochosisclearlythe
most popular, because Hermes is often asked to bind the objects of the curse
(DTA89,100,102,DT50,etc.);Eriouniosisanoldepicepithet,whichwasno
longer understandable but was probably chosen for its poetic effects,42 whereas
Doliosindicatesthetrickinesswhichishopedfortodefeattheopponents.Unlike

38J.N.BREMMER,The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife,London/NewYork,2002,p.8;PARKER,o.c.
(n.4),p.363-368.
39K.CLINTON,Myth and Cult,Stockholm,1992,p.63note200.ForHades,seemostrecently
J.N.BREMMER,Hades,inDer Neue PaulyV(1998),p.51-3;forhisetymology,C.J.RUIJGH,Scripta
minoraI,Amsterdam,1991,p.575-6;R.BEEKES,HadesandElysion,inJ.JASANOFFet al.(eds.),
Mir curad: studies in honor of Calvert Watkins, Innsbruck, 1998, p. 17-28 at 17-19; A. HENRICHS,
Hades,inOCD,Oxford,2003,p.661-662.
40 Cf. Il. XIV, 274; Hes., Th., 767; Soph., Ajax, 571; El., 292; OC, 1548; Eur., Or., 37,
probably parodied by Euboulos, fr. 64 (ed. KASSEL-AUSTIN); [Eur.], Rh., 963; A. HENRICHS,
Namenlosigkeit und Euphemismus: Zur Ambivalenz der chthonischen Mchte im attischen
Drama,inH.HOFMANN,A.HARDER(eds.),Fragmenta dramatica,Gttingen,1991,p.161-201at
178-181.
41 For cult epithets, see R. PARKER, The Problem of the Greek Cult Epithet, OAth 28
(2003), p. 173-183; P. BRUL, La Grce d ct, Rennes, 2007, p. 313-332; F. GRAF, Gods in
GreekInscriptions:SomeMethodologicalQuestions,inJ.N.BREMMER,A.ERSKINE(eds.),The
Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations,Edinburgh,2010,p.55-80.
42ForitspossiblemeaningseeRICHARDSONonHomeric Hymn to Demeter, 407.

20

J.N.BREMMER

Katochos,DoliosdoesoccurasanepithetofHermesintragedyandcomedy,but
inAtticaitwasnotacultepithet.43
The prominence of Hermes is somewhat striking, as he hardly figures, for
example, on Sicilian curse tablets. Yet Hermes was important on the funerary
whitelekythoi,whichwerethemostpopularAtheniangravegiftsfromthemiddle
ofthesixthtotheendofthefifthcentury.Giventhatthelekythoiwereplacedon
graves of recently deceased Athenians, the presence of Hermes as the great
psychopomp, often in the company of Charon, is not surprising, but his role is
alwayslimitedtoleadingthedeceasedtoCharon:heseemstobeabsentfromthe
underworldproper.44Inshort,theprominenceofHermesistypicalofthecurse
tablets.
Moreover, Hermes is several times invoked with Persephone,45 who is the
secondpopulardivinityinthecursetablets.Herpresenceishardlysurprisingand
doesnotreallyaddnewaspectstohermorepublicpersona.Inonecasetheform
of her name, Persephoneian (SGD 42), suggests an (ultimate) origin in dactylic
poetry,suchaswealsofindinsomecursetabletsfromSicilyandBoeotia.46Intwo
othercaseswefindtheformP(h)errephatta(DT68-9),whichisthenormalAttic
oneincomedy,inscriptionsandothernon-tragicliterature.47Thestrangestcase
surelyisthementionofShewithPersephone(DT68).Couldthisbeareference
to Demeter? Whatever the answer, the mention shows that the cursers could
personalize their curses and did not wholly depend on the inherited conglomerate.ThisisalsoclearfromthefrequentmentionofGe,whowasnotparticularly
honoured in ancient Greece, even though in Atticashe received several cults,
which, whatever their purpose, do not seem to have been connected to the
underworld.48
Other interesting examples are Tethys and Lethe. Tethys (DT 68) is the
GreektranscriptionofAkkadianTiamat,asBurkerthasshown,49whoappears

43Soph.,Ph.,133;[Eur.],Rhes.,217;Ar.,Thesm.,1202;Plut.,1157;Aen.,Tact.,24,15;Paus.,VII,
27,1(Pellene);SEG37,1673;PARKER,l.c.(n.41),p.176.
44 SOURVINOU-INWOOD, o.c. (n. 1), p. 353-356; J.H. OAKLEY, Picturing Death in Classical
Athens,Cambridge,2004,p.137-141.
45DTA103;DT50;SDG1,44(HermesKatochos).
46D.JORDAN, TwoCurseTablets fromLilybaeum,GRBS 38(1997),p.387-396 at393394; C. FARAONE, Gli incantesimi esametrici ed i poemi epici nella Grecia antica, QUCC 84
(2006[2008]),p.11-26.
47 Ar., Thesm., 287; Ra., 671; L. THREATTE, The Grammar of Attic Inscriptions, 2 vols, Berlin/
New York, 1980-1996, I p. 450-451, II,750; the place called Pherephattion (Dem., 54, 8; Hes.
s.v.).
48F.GRAF,Nordionische Kulte, Rome,1985,p.360;M.B.MOORE,Ge,inLIMCIV.1(1988),
p.171-177;S.GEORGOUDI,Gaia/G.Entremythe,culteetidologie,inS.DESBOUVRIE(ed.),
Myth and Symbol I,Athens,2002,p.113-134;PARKER,o.c.(n.4),p.416.
49 W. BURKERT, The Orientalizing Revolution, Cambridge Mass., 1992, p. 92-3 and Babylon,
Memphis, Persepolis, Cambridge Mass., 2004, p. 30-31, doubted by M.L. WEST, The East Face of
Helicon,Oxford,1997,p.147note20,butacceptedbyJANKOonIl. XIV,200-207.

Manteis,Magic,MysteriesandMythography

21

firstintheIliadwherewehearofOkeanos,begetterofthegods,andmother
Tethys(XIV,201).ThecoupleappearsseveraltimesinGreekmythology:not
onlyinHesiodandEumelus,butalsoonawell-knownAtticdinosofSophilos
on the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (SEG 35, 37) and in a, presumably,
OrphicTheogonyquotedbyPlatoinhisCratylus:ThehandsomeriverOkeanos
was the first to marry, he who wedded his sister Tethys, the daughter of his
mother.50EidinowquoteswithassentAudollentwhoquotedWnschthatshe
was conceived as Mutter Erde  also chthonisch,51 but there is no proof of
that. It rather seems that she was chosen because of her strange name and
hoarypast.52AnothercurioushapaxisarelativelyearlytextfromtheKerameikos
(ca.375BC)thatmentionsLetheasapersonalpower(SEG51,328).Itfitsthis
unique content that Lethe was less popular among the Greeks than among the
Romansandwasmoreofageneralunderworldcharacterthanafixedidentity:itis
notariverbeforePlatosRepublic (X,621a-c).53
Our final example is a third, possibly fourth-century, curse tablet from
Attica (DT 72), which mentions a number of people, amongst whom are the
intriguingfiguresBakchisandKittos,twoDionysiacnames.Itconcludeswith
(Ibind)theirhopesfromboth godsandheroesandalltheirbusinessbefore
HermestheBinderandbeforeHekateandbeforeGeandbeforeallthegods
and the Mother of gods. Is the appearance of Mother here unique and
aberrant, as has recently been claimed?54 I argue unique, certainly, but also
aberrant?TheGreeks,theAtheniansincluded,hadidentifiedGaia/Geasthe
MotherofGodsfromanearlytimeonwards.WeseethisintheHomeric Hymn
to Gaia (17) as well as in Solon (36, 4-5 West2) and Sophocles (fr. 269a, 51
Radt).ItseemstomeplausiblethatthisqualityofGehasplayedarolehere.
Alternatively,shemighthavebeenadducedasasymbolofgreatantiquitylike
Tethys. A third possibility, however, is that the scribe or buyer of the tablet
wantedtobeabsolutelycertainandaddedtheMotherofGodstoallthegods
inordertobeabsolutelysuretohaveadducedthewholepantheon.
Inanycase,isthenotionaberrantjustifiedinregardstothesecursetablets?
We have seen that the infernal divinities that we find in them do not all
conform to the inheritedconglomerate, but constitute amotley of divinities,
someofwhomwedonotfindineithercultorliterature;otherexampleswould
be Hekate Chthonia (DTA 105-7) and the Praxidikai (DTA 109; SGD 14).

50 Hes.,Th., 337,362, 368,fr. dub. 343,4(ed.MERCHELBACH-WEST); Eumelus,fr.1B (ed.
DAVIES) = 1 (ed. BERNAB); Acusilaus, fr. 1 (ed. FOWLER); Pl., Crat., 402b = OF 22 (ed.
BERNAB);notealsoPl.,Tim.,40e;BREMMER,o.c.(n.21),p.2.
51EIDINOW,o.c. (n.4),p.291note53.
52ForthenameseeE.LHTE,Typologiedesanthroponymesen,inM.B.HATZOPOULOS
(ed.),Phns charaktr ethnikos,Athens,2007,p.271-294at278,291.
53M.P.NILSSON,Opuscula selectaIII,Lund,1960,p.85f.
54PARKER,o.c. (n.4),p.126note40.

22

J.N.BREMMER

Athenians could use formulaic enumerations of deities as provided by the
professionalsellingthemthetablet,ortheycouldpersonalizetheirdivinities.Is
itnotpreciselyintheareaofmagicthatwewouldexpectapantheondifferent
fromthenormalOlympianone?

3. Mysteries and Orphism


Theunderworldalsoplayedanimportantroleinaphenomenonthatcannot
be neglected in a discussion of polis religion, the world of Orphism. But who
wasOrpheus,whatdidhewrite,whatdidheteachandwhowerehisfollowers?
Thedebateaboutthesequestionshasalreadyragedfortwocenturies,anditwill
behelpfulforourdiscussiontotakeabrieflookatwhatthemainhandbooks
ofGreekreligionfromthetwentiethcenturyhavesaidaboutthesequestions.
Inthesummerof1931theagedWilamowitz(1848-1931)workedfeverishly
onhislastbook,Der Glaube der Hellenen,knowingthathewouldhavelittletime
leftforcompletingthisworkthatclearlywasclosetohisheart.55OnOrpheus
and Orphism he was pretty sceptical. He admitted that there had been an
OrphicTheogony,but,asheargued,thisdidnotproveabesondereReligionund
erst recht keine Gemeinde, an orphische Seelenlehre soll erst einer nachweisenandtheGoldLeavescertainlywerenotOrphic.Ontheotherhand,there
was vegetarianism, and Winkelpriester administered teletai with their books with
magicalformulas,butthesewerenomorethanSchwindler.Ratherstrikingis
hisrejectionoftheideathatPlatonsHadesbilderundzugleichdiePetrusapokalypse von Orpheus stammen.56 Although he does not mention any names
here,itisclearthatheaimedatAlbrechtDieterichsNekyia,57buthisrejection
must have also struck Eduard Norden, whose commentary on Aeneid VI had
appearedinathirdeditiononlyafewyearsearlier,andwhichWilamowitzhad
enthusiasticallywelcomedwhenitwasfirstpublishedin1903.58
Only a decade later, Martin Nilsson (1874-1967) turned Prussian scepticism
fullyonitshead.HisdiscussionofOrphism,whichWilamowitzhadstillcalled

55 A. HENRICHS, Der Glaube der Hellenen: Religionsgeschichte als Glaubensbekenntnis
undKulturkritik,inW.M.CALDER IIIet al.(eds.),Wilamowitz nach 50 Jahren,Darmstadt,1985,
p.262-305; R.L. FOWLER, Blood for the Ghosts: Wilamowitz in Oxford, Syllecta Classica 20
(2009);J.N.BREMMER,TheGreekGodsintheTwentiethCentury,inBREMMERERSKINE,
o.c. (n.41),p.1-18,at7-10.
56Forthequotes,seeU. VON WILAMOWITZ-MOELLENDORFF,Der Glaube der Hellenen,2vols,
Darmstadt,19593,IIp.191-202.
57A.DIETERICH,Nekyia, LeipzigandBerlin,1893,19132.
58E.NORDEN, P. Vergilius Maro Aeneis VI,Leipzig,19031,19273.ForhischangingappreciationcompareWILAMOWITZSlettersof11June1903and25August1926inW.M.CALDER III,
B.HUSS, Sed serviendum officio The Correspondence between Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff and
Eduard Norden (1892-1931),Berlin,1997,p.18-21and235-236,respectively.

Manteis,Magic,MysteriesandMythography

23

das neue Wort,59 accepted most of what the latter had rejected  a sobering
lesson for anybody engaged in the study of Orphism. Nilsson distinguished its
heyday in the archaic age from its decline in the fifth and fourth centuries to
einerverachtetenSekte,whenithadfallenintothehandsofBettelpriesterand
Scharlatane.YetthetieferBlickende,suchasPindarandPlato,werereceptive
toitsgrosseGedanken.AselementsofOrphism,NilssonacceptedaTheogony,
of which he considered the anthropogonical part the most original and to be
connected to the doctrine of reincarnation, vegetarianism, and books about
Orpheus descent into the underworld, which pictured the penalties for the
uninitiated;inhissurvey,healsomentionedNordensscharfsinnigenVersuchto
reconstructthese.Finally,butnotuninterestingly,Nilssonwonderedwhetherwe
shouldspeakofOrphic-DionysiacmysteriesratherthanDionysiacmysteries.60
AfterNilssonstwenty-pagediscussion,itisratherstrikingtoseethatWalter
BurkertdiscussesOrphisminrelativelyfewpages,andmostlyincombination
withPythagoreanism,despitetherecentappearanceoftheDervenipapyrus,the
GoldLeafofHipponionandtheboneplatesfromOlbia.Heacceptsmetempsychosis, vegetarianism and a Theogony, a poem about Demeters arrival at
Eleusis,andanOrphicKatabasis,whichrelatestheblessingsandpunishmentsin
thehereafter.Sofar,thisisnotagreatstepforwardfromNilsson.However,in
thelightofourpreviousobservationsitisnoteworthythatBurkertstressesthe
importanceofbooks.Ashenotes:thenewformoftransmissionintroducesa
newformofauthority,towhichtheindividual,providedthathecanread,has
directaccesswithoutcollectivemediation.Theemancipationoftheindividual
andtheappearanceofbooksgotogetherinreligionaselsewhere.Yet,inthe
end,heconcludes:Orphism,likeothersects,probablyappealedtotheclassof
thesmallmanmostofall.61
WhatdidChristianethinkofOrphism?Inherwork,thereareafewreferences,bothimplicitandexplicit,whichgiveaprettyclearideaofherthoughts.In
her seminal article she stated that in a religion without a canonical body of
belief,withoutrevelation,withoutscripturaltexts(outsidecertainmarginalsects
which did have sacred books but are irrelevant to our present discussion),
withoutaprofessionalanointedclergyclaimingspecialknowledgeorauthority,
withoutachurch,itwastheorderedcommunity,thepolis,whichassumedthe
roleplayedinChristianitybytheChurchtouseonemisleadingcomparison
(for all metaphors derived from Christianity are inevitably misleading) to
counteract and destroy alternative, implicit models. The only exception she

59WILAMOWITZ-MOELLENDORFF,o.c.(n.56),IIp.200.
60M.P.NILSSON,Geschichte der griechischen ReligionI,Munich,19411,19673,p.678-99;notealso
thatDIETERICH,o.c.(n.57),p.84alreadyspeaksofpythagoreisch-orphisch-bakchischenGemeindenundMysterien.
61W.BURKERT,Greek Religion,Oxford,1985,p.296-303(quoteson297and302).

24

J.N.BREMMER

allowedforthemediationbypolisreligionofallreligiousdiscoursewas,asshe
putit,somesectariandiscourse.62
Inherlastbook,Hylas,shemadeafewmoreobservationsonOrphism.So
she argued that the dying Dionysos most dominantly inhabits sectarian,
Orphic,beliefs;butthesebeliefsseemtohaveinvolvedmorethanonestrand,
and also, and most importantly, they eventually came to interact with, and
ultimately infiltrate, exert influence on, polis cults. After all, for Christiane,
Orphism was the broad multifarious current of sectarian teaching that was
containedinOrphicbooks.63
Now the first thing that must strike any student of Orphism and of ChristianeswritingsisheruseofChristianlanguageinthesepassages.Althoughshe
herself added the warning that all such metaphors are misleading, one may
wonder to what extent her own Greek origin and socialisation at a time when
virtuallyeveryGreekwasatleastnominallyGreek-Orthodoxhaveplayedarole
inherobservationthatthepolisassumedtheroleoftheChurchinChristianity.
Surely,anybodyraisedinaProtestantchurchshouldknowthat,inthisrespect,
therealreadyisabigdifferencebetweenProtestantismandRoman-Catholicism,
andthatProtestanttheologymightbeinfluencedbutcertainlyisnotmediatedby
theChurch.
More worrying, though, is her use of the expression sectarian discourse.
OnceagaintheunderlyingstandardisChristianitywithitsestablishedchurches,
suchasAnglicanisminEngland,LutheranisminGermanyandScandinaviaorthe
various Orthodox churches in Eastern and Southern Europe. The distinction
between church and sect was popularised at the beginning of the twentieth
centurybythegreatGermansociologistsofreligionMaxWeber(1864-1920)and
ErnstTroeltsch(1865-1923),whohadbothbeenveryimpressedbythereligious
developments in America with its lively sects. However, the trouble with the
expressionsectariandiscourseisnotonlythatitsuggeststheexistenceofasect
and a Church, but also that this discourse is of a somewhat less respectable or
marginalcharacter.Neithersuggestionisjustified,aswewillseeshortly.
Having looked at the various opinions about Orphism, let us now try to
answersomeofthequestionsIraisedatthebeginningofthisparagraph.Iwill
startwiththefollowingquestions:1)whichOrphicbookscanweestablishwith
some certainty for the fifth century and 2) which of those were composed in
Attica?Thesequestionsarenotthateasytoanswer,asthereareanumberof
booksamongtheOrphicwritingsthatarecloselyconnectedtoPythagorasand
Pythagoreanism. And indeed, the great scholars of the ancient underworld,
AlbrechtDieterich(1866-1908)andEduardNorden(1868-1941),usedtheterm

62SOURVINOU-INWOOD,l.c.(n.2),p.19-20.
63C.SOURVINOU-INWOOD,Hylas, the Nymphs, Dionysos and Others. Myth, Ritual, Ethnicity,Stockholm,2005,p.169and173,respectively;notealso187:Orphismanditspenetrationofmainstream
religionand188:sectarianreligionandOrphicmaterialeventuallypenetratedpoliscults.

Manteis,Magic,MysteriesandMythography

25

Orphic-Pythagorean.64TheirinheritanceisstillclearlyvisibleinBurkertsclose
combinationofOrpheusandPythagoras,andthereisnodoubtthatastrandin
OrphicwritingworkedonPythagoreanthemes.MartinWesthaswellidentified
these, most of which carry very brief names: Net, Robe, Crater, Lyre, Sphere.
There is very little left of these cosmological poems, and we can hardly say
anythingabouttheircontents,letaloneabouttheirdatesandplacesoforigin.65
Itisdifferentwithsomeotherpoems.PrideofplacemustgototheOrphic
Theogony. Unfortunately, neither its date nor place of origin is known. It is very
likelythattherewasmorethanone,buttheoldestexamplethatallowsustohave
someideaoftheOrphictheogony(ies?)istheDervenipapyrus.Itsquotationof
theOrphicpoem,though,isincompleteduetotheburningofthepapyrus,but
alsotothefactthattheauthormayhaveleftoutwholepassages.Anyreconstructionofitsoriginalcontentshould,therefore,behandledverycarefully.66Boththe
Ionian-epic character of the Orphic hexameters and the influence of Hittite
material seem to point to Ionia as its original place of composition, but the
sprinklingofAtticfeaturesinthetextsuggestsapresence,eveniftemporary,of
theauthoroftheDervenipapyrusinAthens,regardlessofhisoriginalorigin.67
Thereis,however,oneotherlikelyremnantofAtticOrphictheogonicalpoetry.
InAthensPersephonesnamewaswrittenininscriptions,comedyandothernontragicliteratureasPherephattaanditsvariations(2),whereasP(h)ersephassais
the spelling in tragedy;68 Timaeus already identified this spelling as the more
poeticalforminhisPlatoniclexicon.69NowTatian(Or.10.1=OF89F)usesthe
form Phersephassa in an enumeration of divine metamorphoses, when saying
that Zeus became a serpent because of Phersephassa. Consequently, this
indicatesanultimateoriginfromanAttic,poeticandOrphicsource.Fromthis
evidence, I conclude that Orphic theogonies were probably also composed in
Atticainthefifthcentury.
Besides an Orphic Theogony, the second big poem must have been the
Orphic Katabasis, whose existence was doubted by Wilamowitz, as we have
seen.However,therecanbelittledoubtthatNordenwascorrectinhisreconstructionofelementsoftheOrphicKatabasisonthebasisofAeneidVI,asthe
appearance of the Bologna papyrus (OF 717) in 1954 with its picture of the
underworldhasonlystrengthenedhisposition.NowinGreekandLatinpoetry,

64DIETERICH,o.c.(n.57),p.84;NORDEN,o.c.(n.58),p.22.
65OF403-420,cf.M.L.WEST,The

Orphic Poems,Oxford,1983,p.7-15.
Schriften III: Mystica, Orphica, Pythagoric,
Gttingen,2006,p.95-111(DiealtorphischeTheogonienachdemPapyrusvonDerveni).
67Forthelinguisticnatureofthetext,seeT.KOUROMENOSet al.,The Derveni Papyrus,Florence,
2006,p.14.
68Persephassa:Aesch.,Cho.,490;Eur.,Or.,964(corrupt);Phoen.,684;Archemachus,FGrH
424F6;A.HOLLMANN,ACurseTabletfromtheCircusatAntioch,ZPE145(2003),p.67-82,
line27.Phersephassa:Aesch.,fr.(dub.)451s,70(ed.RADT);Soph.,Ant.,894;Eur.,Hel.,175.
69TimaeusSoph.1006b,37-38=ThomasMagister,Ecl.378.
66 BURKERT, o.c. (n. 49), p. 89-90; see also id., Kleine

26

J.N.BREMMER

Orpheus descent into the underworld is always connected to his love for
Eurydice.70Infact,atthebeginningoftheOrphicArgonautica,Orpheushimself
tellsusinthefirstpersonsingular:ItoldyouwhatIsawandperceivedwhenI
wentdownthedarkroadofTaenarumintoHades,trustinginourlyre,71outof
loveformywife.Nordenalreadynotedtheclosecorrespondencewiththeline
thatopensthekatabasisofOrpheusinVirgilsGeorgica,Taenarias etiam fauces, alta
ostia Ditis, / ingressus (IV, 467-469), and persuasively concluded that both
linesgobacktotheDescent of Orpheus.72AsreferencestothemythofOrpheus
andEurydicedonotstartbeforeEuripidesAlcestis(357-362)of438BC,aredfigure loutrophoros from 440-430 BC, and the decorated reliefs of, probably,
thealtaroftheTwelveGodsintheAthenianAgora,datingfromabout410BC,
thepoemaboutOrpheuskatabasisthatwasusedbyVirgilprobablyarrivedin
AthensaroundthemiddleofthefifthcenturyBC,anditsusebyAristophanes
showsthatitwaswellknowninAthens.73
On the other hand, the use of Orphic eschatological material by Pindar
suggeststhathealreadyknewanearlierversionofthispoemoradifferentone.
Onthesametopic,onecouldconsidertheDescent into HadesascribedtoOrpheus
fromSicilianCamarina(Sudas.v.=OF708,870,1103).Heseemstobea
fictitious person, as Martin West has noted,74 but the mention is remarkable.
Surely, he owed his name to the fact that he also told his descent in the first
person singular (above). As Camarina was a town with close ties to Athens,75
influencefromthatquarterisnotunthinkable.
AmuchlessknowntextistheOrphicPhysica,whichmustdatetothesecond
half of the fifth century. As Renaud Gagn has persuasively argued, this hexametric poem, in which the Tritopatores played a prominent role, combined
theogonicandanthropogonicnarrativeswithatheoryofthesoulandPresocratic
physicaldoctrine.Unfortunately,thescarcityoffragmentsmeansthatwecannot
sayanythingmore.76
OurnexttextsaretheOrphicHymns,whicharementionedintheDerveni
papyruswherecolumnXXIIsays:AnditisalsosaidintheHymns:Demeter,

70 WILAMOWITZ, o.c. (n. 56) II p. 194; F. GRAF, S.I. JOHNSTON, Ritual Texts for the Afterlife:
Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets, London/NewYork,2007,p.172-174.
71 NORDEN (ad loc.) compares Aen. VI, 120: Threicia fretus cithara; see also his Kleine Schriften
zum klassischen Altertum,Berlin,1966,p.506-507.
72SeealsoNORDEN,o.c.(n.71),p.508f.ForOrpheusaccountinthefirstpersonsingular,
WILAMOWITZ,o.c.(n.56),IIp.194-195alsopersuasivelycomparesPlut.,M.,566c(=OF412).
73IarguethisinmoredetailinJ.N.BREMMER,TheGoldenBough:Orphic,Eleusinianand
Hellenistic-JewishSourcesofVirgilsUnderworldinAeneidVI,Kernos22(2009),p.183-208at
193-196.
74WEST,o.c.(n.65),10note17.
75F.CORDANO,Camarinacittdemocratica?,PP59(2004),p.283-292;S.HORNBLOWER,
Thucydides and Pindar,Oxford,2004,p.190-192.
76R.GAGN,WindsandAncestors:ThePhysikaofOrpheus,HSCP 103(2007),p.1-24.

Manteis,Magic,MysteriesandMythography

27

Rhea, Ge, Meter, Hestia, Deio (11-12).77 Dirk Obbink has argued that Philochoros,whoquotesotherOrphicpoetry(FGrH328F77=OF810),therefore
musthaveknowntheDervenitext,sincehealsoquotesthisverseasbeingby
OrpheusandashavingstoodintheHymns(FGrH328F185).Butthisisnot
really necessary. If the text from which the quote was taken belonged to a
collectionofhymns,itmayindeedhavebeenknownastheHymns.78Obbinkis
on firmer ground when he argues that, originally, the line must have been
written in Attic,79 a suggestion supported by the many divine identifications,
whichpointtoAtticpoetryofthelasthalfofthefifthcentury.80Referringto
PausaniasmentionofOrphichymnsintheritualsoftheAtticLykomids(IX,
30, 12 = OF 531), the family of Themistocles, Obbink plausibly suggests a
connection between the Hymns and family mysteries. The Lykomids met in a
club-house,andinthisconnectionwemayperhapsdrawattentionagaintothe
famousbeginningoftheOrphicTheogony:Closethedoors,youuninitiated(OF
1)whichsuggestsaperformanceindoors,asopposedtotheperformanceofthe
great epics and Hesiodic poems at festivals. Another connection of Orpheus
witharespectableAthenianfamilybecomesvisibleinEuripidesHypsipyle(ca.
411-408BC),whereEuneos,theancestoroftheEuneids,isinstructedonthe
lyrebyOrpheus(fr.759a,1619-1622Kannicht);theplayevenseemstocontain
tracesofanOrphictheogony(F758a,1103-1108withKannicht).81
OurlasttextistheOrphichymnonDemetersentryinEleusis,whichhas
beenreconstructedinoutlinebyFritzGraf.82Thishymncelebratedthecultural
achievementsofAthenswithintheframeworkoftheHomeric Hymn to Demeter
butwithsome importantalterations,suchastheintroductionoftheswineherd
Eubouleus.ItprobablyalsocontainedanaitionoftheThesmophoriainorder
tofacilitatetheadoptionofEubouleusbyEleusisfromhisoriginalHeimaton
theCycladicislands.ThisaitionhasbeenpreservedbyClementofAlexandria
andascholiastonLucian(OF390).ItssourcewasaHellenisticAtticantiquarian, as appears both from the mention of the Attic Skirophoria and ArretophoriainClementandthescholionaswellasfromClementcallingKore(the
nameinLuciansscholion)Pherephatta,theAtticversionofhername,aswe
have already seen above ( 2). The date of the hymn seems tohave been the

77ForthespellingDeioseeJ.N.BREMMER,RescuingDeioinSophoclesandEuripides,
ZPE 158(2007),p.27.
78SeealsothedoubtsofG.BETEGH,The Derveni Papyrus,Cambridge,2004,p.98-99note20.
79SimilarlyBURKERT,o.c.(n.66),p.116-7.
80W.ALLAN,ReligiousSyncretism:theNewGodsofGreekTragedy,HSCP 102(2004),
p.113-155.
81 D. OBBINK, A Quotation of the Derveni Papyrus in Philodemus On Piety, Cronache
Ercolanesi 24 (1994), p. 110-35; see alsoBURKERT, o.c. (n. 66), p. 112-119 (Attic Orphic Hymns
andEuneids),overlookedbyKOUROMENOS,o.c.(n.67),p.254f.
82F.GRAF,Eleusis und die orphische Dichtung Athens in vorhellenistischer Zeit,Berlin,1974,p.151186.

28

J.N.BREMMER

thirdquarterofthefifthcentury,givenitsindebtnesstotheculturaltheoriesof
Prodikos and the mention of Eubulos in the famous Athenian First Fruits
decreeof422/1BC,whereheiscombinedwithTheosandThea(IG378,39).83
Do we also have Orphic sects, as Nilsson, Burkert and Christiane suggest?
Thereissimplynotatraceofitand,infact,itisveryimprobable.TheChristian
image of a sect conjures up small-minded, lower-class people, as does indeed
Burkerts class of the small men. Yet the visits of Orphic initiators to wealthy
Athenians,asattestedinPlatosRepublic(364b-365a),precludeanyacceptanceof
Burkerts surprising statement, as does the fact that well-to-do women seem to
haveconstitutedthegreatmajorityofrecipientsoftheGoldLeaves.Andindeed,
in the most recent study of the social origin of the Gold Leaves Robert Parker
rightlyconcludesthatinitiatestendedtoberelativelywealthy.84
Moreover,wenowherehearofOrphicgroupsorcongregations:itistoooften
forgotten that Orphikoi on the Olbian bone plates is not a secure reading and
wouldbethefirstandonlydesignationofthefollowersofOrpheusasOrphics.85
The itinerant, probably vegetarian, life style of the orpheotelestai, which is increasinglydocumentedalsobythewidegeographicalspreadoftheGoldLeaves,hardly
favourstheformationofsects.Theearliestknownorpheotelests,Philippus,wasstill
receivedbytheSpartankingLeotychidasinthefirstdecadesofthefifthcentury
(OF653),andChristophRiedweghasinterestinglyarguedthatEmpedoclesstyled
himselfasakindoforpheotelests;GborBeteghhasgoneastepfurtherbysuggesting that the constellation of functions and abilities that make up the image of
EmpedoclesfindsitsmostimmediateprefigurationinOrpheus.86Empedoclesis
indeedoneofthelastofthewanderingWundermnnerofthelaterArchaicera,a
group which includes the likes of Epimenides, Abaris, Aristeas and, to some
extent, Orpheus himself,87 but, of course, adapted to his own day and age. The
orpheotelestai(OF653-664),Isuggest,arefurtherinheritorsofthistradition.Inthe
course of time, society moved on, and Plato and other philosophers started to
lookdownonthem.YetthereisnoreasontoseethemascharlatansorSchwindler.
Suchjudgmentsneedbetterargumentsthanmoderncontemptforreligiousentrepreneurs:thehistoryofreligionhasshownushowcomplicatedtheevaluationof
religiouspractitionersoftenis.

83 For a fuller discussion of Eubouleus and his origin see my forthcoming Divinities in the
OrphicGoldLeaves:Eukls,Eubouleus,Brimo,Kybele,KoreandPersephone,intheproceedings
ofthe2006OhioconferenceontheGoldLeaves.
84BREMMER,o.c.(n.38),p.17-18(wealthandwomen); R.PARKER,M.STAMATOPOULOU,A
New Funerary Gold Leaf from Pherai, Arch. Ephem. 2004 [2007], p. 1-32 at 21 (affluency:
quote),28-31(women).
85GRAFJOHNSTON,o.c.(n.70),p.185;HENRICHS,l.c.(n.5),p.213note15.
86C.RIEDWEG,OrphischesbeiEmpedocles,A&A41(1995),p.34-59at39-40;BETEGH,
o.c.(n.78),p.370-372;seealsoWILLI,o.c.(n.29),p.260-262.
87ForthesemiracleworkersandpurifiersseeBREMMER,o.c.(n.38),p.36-39.

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29

Itisclear,then,thatbooksplayedanimportantroleinthespreadofOrphic
thought,88butcanwecallthesebookssacredasChristianedoes?Idoubtit.Holy
booksinoursenseofthewordisatypicallyJewishandChristianinventionthat
has managed to infiltrate even Islam and modern Judaism, neither of whom
traditionally knew a Holy Quran or a Holy Torah.89 Moreover, an important
qualityofholybooksisthattheirtextsarefixed.Thisisofcoursenotthecasein
Orphic literature, which was extremely fluid in its texts. We may even wonder
whetherwecanactuallycallthisliteraturereligiousbooks.90Whatisthedifference between the mid-sixth-century epic of Heracles katabasis and that of
Orpheus?Istheoneliterature,theotherreligion?OrtheOrphicTheogony?Isthat
classed as religious, but Hesiods one literary? Admittedly, Euripides Theseus
scoldsHippolytushonouringthesmokeofmanywritings,butthatonlyshows
himupasabookishintellectual,justlikeAristophanesassociatesthesophistswith
books.91 However this may be, it is clear that in fifth-century Athens Orphic
bookscirculatedandwerecomposed,booksthatdidnotconformtothestandard
ideasofAthenianpolisreligion.

4. Mythography
BeforeItrytodrawsomeconclusionsletusconcludebylookingverybriefly
atmythography.Thechoiceofsubjectmaybesurprisinginadiscussionofpolis
religion. Yet it should be clear that Greek myths were important media for
conveying information on gods, heroes and other supernatural beings that were
worshipped by the Greeks. For many Greeks, their mental images of the gods
musthavebeenformedbythegreatpoemsofHomerandHesiod,anditisnot
unexpectedthataccordingtoHerodotus(II,53)itwasHomerandHesiodwho
gavethegodstheirepithets,chosetheirhonoursandskills,andpointedouttheir
forms.Startingatabout500BCweseetheriseofauthorswhocollectedGreek
mythsandbegantosystematizethem.Theywerenot,however,justputtingthe
mythologicalhouseinorder,sotospeak,butalsochangingthetradition.Those
rationalisations, such as Herodorus replacement of the dragon that guarded the
GoldenFleecewithamazinglybigsnakes(FGrH31F63bis=fr.**52AFowler)
or,moresubtly,Pherecydesprobableomissionofanytheogony,arewellknown
and need not occupy us here. Nevertheless, we mustnot fail to note that these

88OnOrphismandwritingseealsoM.DETIENNE,The Writing of Orpheus,Baltimore/London,
2003,p.131-136.
89SeeJ.N.BREMMER,FromHolyBookstoHolyBible:anItineraryfromAncientGreeceto
ModernIslamviaSecondTempleJudaismandEarlyChristianity,inM.POPOVI(ed.),Authoritative
Scriptures in Ancient Judaism,Leiden,2010,p.327-360.
90R.PARKER,Athenian Religion,Oxford,1996,p.55.
91Ar.,fr.506(ed.KASSEL-AUSTIN),cf.R.THOMAS,Oral Tradition & Written Record in Classical
Athens,Cambridge,1989,p.19-20.

30

J.N.BREMMER

rationalising changes also will have contributed to the secularisation of the
inheritedmythologicaltradition.92
For us, the important question is on whose authority the mythographers
introducedtheirversionsandchanges.Iseeatleasttwodifferentstrategieshere.
FirstwehavetheoneemployedbyAcusilaus,whowas,byallaccounts,oneofthe
oldestmythographers.Hesaid,presumablyintheproemofhisGenealogies,93that
he had found his history on bronze tablets, which his father had dug up in his
house.The strategy of authentification by finding an old manuscript was well
knowninantiquityandalsoemployedbyEuhemerus.94Admittedly,oneofthe
testimonia (T 7 Fowler, from the Suda) claims that Acusilaus works were
forged, and, on this basis, Jacoby (ad FGrH 2 T 1, 7) claimed there was a
forgeryincirculationinImperialtimes.Yetthereisnootherevidenceforthe
existenceofthisforgery,andthelikeliestexplanationofT7isacommentators
scepticism about the story of the tablets in Acusilaus himself.95 In fact, the
appeal to ancient tradition seems to have worked so well that some people
includedAcusilausamongtheSevenSages(FGrH2T11ab=fr11abFowler).
Thiswouldhardlyhavehappenedifhisworkhadjustbeenanenumerationof
genealogies.Inanycase,itisinterestingtonotethattheauthorityinAcusilaus
case no longer is divine inspiration by one of the Muses but tradition in the
formofthehoarypast.
The second strategy is to boast ones own superiority. Let us listen to the
chest-thumpingbeginningofacompetingauthorofGenealogies:Hecataeusthe
Milesian speaks (mytheitai) as follows: I write what I think to be true, for the
talesoftheGreeks,astheyappeartome,aremanyandridiculous(FGrH1F1
=fr.1Fowler).ItisalsotypicalofthisargumentativecontextofearlyGreek
intellectualstocriticisethecompetition.96ThusHellanicus(FGrH4T18=T
18Fowler)criticisedAcusilaus,whointurnhadcriticisedHesiod(FGrH2T6
=T6Fowler).97Inneithercaseisthereanyreferencetothepolis.98


92Forthemythographers,seeR.L.FOWLER,HowtoTellaMyth:Genealogy,Mythology,
Mythography,Kernos19(2006),p.35-46.
93R.L.FOWLER,HerodotusandHisContemporaries,JHS116(1996),p.62-87at78.
94A.J.FESTUGIRE,La Rvlation dHerms Trismgiste,vol.I,Paris,19503,p.319-24andtudes de
religion grecque et hellnistique, Paris, 1972, p. 272-4; W. SPEYER, Bcherfunde in der Glaubenswerbung der
Antike,Gttingen,1970;P.PIOVANELLI,TheMiraculousDiscoveryoftheHiddenManuscript,or
theParatextualFunctionoftheProloguetotheApocalypse of Paul,inJ.N.BREMMER,I.CZACHESZ
(eds.),The VisioPauli and the Gnostic ApocalypseofPaul, Leuven,2007,p.23-49.
95Unlessoneacceptsanadventuroussupplementinfr.11,9(ed.FOWLER,not9,11ashis
apparatusadT7says).
96 Cf. FOWLER, o.c. (n. 93), p. 69; J.BREMMER, Rationalization and Disenchantment in
AncientGreece:MaxWeberamongthePythagoreansandOrphics?,inR.BUXTON(ed.),From
Myth to Reason? Studies in the Development of Greek Thought,Oxford,1999,p.71-83at78.
97SeealsoA.CAMERON,Greek Mythography in the Roman World,NewYork,2004,p.94f.

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31

5. Final observations
Before I come, at last, to the subject of polis religion, let me first say a few
wordsregardingreligioningeneral.Inherdiscussionofpolisreligion,Christiane
offeredanexcellentdefinitionofGreekreligion,which,tothebestofmyknowledge,hasnotattractedanyinterest,eitherinsideoroutsidetheworldofclassics.
Itdeservestobebetterknown.ForChristiane,Greekreligionisaboveall:
awayofarticulatingtheworld,ofstructuringchaosandmakingitintelligible;it
isamodelarticulatingacosmicorderguaranteedbyadivineorderwhichalso(in
complex ways) grounds human order, perceived to be incarnated above all in the
properly ordered and pious polis, and providing certain rules and prescriptions of
behaviour,especiallytowardsthedivinethroughcult,butalsotowardsthehuman
world.99

Ifweleaveoutthesentenceaboutthepolis,whichundulylimitsGreekreligion
tothepolisasiftherewasnotalsothesizeableworldoftheGreekethn,100weare
left with a definition of religion in general, which clearly has been inspired by
JohnGould.He,inturn,wasinspiredbytheperhapsmostfamousdefinitionof
religion at that time, which was developed by Clifford Geertz (1926-2006).
Geertzdefinesreligioninthefollowingway:
A system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and longlasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general
order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality
thatthemoodsandmotivationsseemuniquelyrealistic.101

ItisinterestingtonotethatChristianesdefinitionalsomentionsthehuman
and divine parts of the equation and their interaction in cult, whereas Geertzs
definitionremainsrathervagueregardingthesepoints,althoughintheexposition
of his definition he becomes much more specific. This difference with Geertz
shows the influence of another very influential modern definition of religion,
which is, in the words of Melford Spiro, an institution consisting of culturally
patterned interaction with culturally postulated super-human beings.102

98 For Hecataeus beginning and the secularising role of the mythographers, see R.L.
FOWLER,ThoughtsonMythandReligioninEarlyGreekHistoriography,Minerva(Valladolid)
22(2009),p.21-39.
99SOURVINOU-INWOOD,o.c.(n.2),p.19.
100 See especiallyH.-J.GEHRKE, Jenseits von Athen und Sparta. Das dritte Griechenland und seine
Staatenwelt, Munich, 1986; R. BROCK, S. HODKINSON (eds.), Alternatives to Athens. Varieties of
Political Organization and Community in Ancient Greece, Oxford,2000.
101C.GEERTZ,The Interpretation of Cultures,NewYork,1973,p.87-125at90;J.GOULD,Myth,
Ritual, Memory, and Exchange, Oxford, 2003, p. 203-234 (On Making Sense of Greek Religion,
19851).
102 M. SPIRO, Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation, in M. BANTON (ed.),
Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion,London,1966,p.85-126,reprintedinB.KILBORNE,

32

J.N.BREMMER

Christiane, then, combined the most prominent functionalist and substantivist


definitions.
ChristianewasverymuchaDurkheimian.Thisisclearfromtheconcluding,
nearly rhapsodic, sentences of her seminal article: The role of thepolis in the
articulation of Greek religion was matched by the role of religion in the
articulationofthepolis:religionprovidedtheframeworkandthesymbolicfocus
of the polis. Religion was the very centre of the Greek polis. In fact, she
confessed,ifthatistheword,herselftobeaDurkheimianinapassageofher
Reading Greek Death,inwhichshestressedthenecessitynottofallintothetrap
of reductionist tendencies.103 And indeed, as appears from the words just
quoted, she did not take the road, so often taken by neo-Durkheimians, of
describingsocietyashavingareligiousnature.Rather,sheargued,forreligion
having a social nature or, in a more poetical formulation, the Greek polis as
having a religious heart.104 Now it is well known that Durkheim (1858-1917)
cametoreligionrelativelylateandinhisopusmagumLes Formes lmentairesof
1912heconcentratedinparticularontherelativelyundifferentiatedsocietiesof
theAustralianAborigines.Canweapplyhisthoughtstoareallybigandliterate
cityaslateclassicalAthenswas?
Although the main lines of Christianes argument are convincing, even a
non-reductionist Durkheimian approach has some disadvantages. By concentratingoncivicreligion,wegetamoreharmoniouspictureofreligiouslifeasa
wholethanwasthecaseinreality.Moreover,thefocusonandinspirationby
Durkheimian thought perhaps lead to a certain overvaluation of public cultic
practice above private activities and of religious performance above religious
thinkingandspeculation.Forthelatter,thearrivalofliteracywasundoubtedly
animportantfactor,eventhoughreligiousthinkingwascertainlynotlimitedto
literate societies.105 In both cited definitions of religion, we lack the aspect of
power,ashasbeenpointedoutbyTalalAsadinhisfamouscritiqueofGeertzs
definition of religion.106 Religion is a social phenomenon, and every social
phenomenonhastodealwithhierarchiesandpower,evenifareligionlacksan
establishedclergy,aswasmainlythecaseinancientGreece.Moreover,inthe
case of Christiane it is striking that she notes cult but does not mention anythingaboutreligiousthought,belieforspeculation.


L.L. LANGNESS (eds.), Culture and Human Nature: Theoretical Papers of Melford Spiro, Chicago, 1987,
p.187-222.
103SOURVINOU-INWOOD,o.c.(n.1),p.31f.
104 For DURKHEIMS view on the religiousness of society, compare I. STRENSKI, The New
Durkheim,NewBrunswick,2006,p.18-21.
105ComparetheclassicstudyofP.RADIN,Primitive Man as Philosopher,NewYork,19572.
106 T. ASAD, Anthropological conceptions of religion: reflections on Geertz, Man NS 18
(1983),p.237-259.

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33

Itisthesetwoaspects,religiousthoughtandauthority,thatIwouldliketo
conclude with in light of my previous discussion. First, religion is more than
cult.RegardingtheChristiantraditiononecouldfairlysaythatmanybookson
itshistoryconcentrateonitsbigthinkersandtheologians.Itis onlyinrecent
timesthatresearchhasstartedtoconcentratemoreoneverydayChristianlife,a
focuswhich,ofcourse,ismoredifficultthemoreoneretreatsintime.Inthe
studyofGreekreligionitisratherthereverse.Althoughthemajorhandbooks
dopayattentiontothereligiousroleofpoetsandphilosophers,onenevergets
thefeelingthatthisisseenasanimportantpartofthehistoryofGreekreligion.
ItisprobablysymbolicthatbothNilssonandBurkerttreatthemtowardsthe
endsoftheirhandbooks,whereasWilamowitzdoesnotgivethemanyspecial
attentionatall.107
Theconceptofpolisreligion,however,cannotbeusedwithoutalsoasking
whoexertedauthorityinthisreligion.Whoactuallyhadthepowertoshapeand
control that religion? In general, we can say that the polis community often
exerts control. The case of Socrates is perhaps the most obvious example,108
but we might also think of the banishment of Diagoras and the reports of
attacks on other fifth-century intellectuals because of their atheism.109 On a
morepositivenote,thestatecalendaroffestivalscomestomind.Weknowthat
circa401BC,forexample,thesecretaryNicomachusdrewupanewcalendar
forpublicsacrifices,whichseemstohaveomittedsomeoftheoldersacrifices.
Therecanbelittledoubtthatsuchmatterswereunderthecontrolofthepolis,
eventhoughwedonothavedetailedinformationaboutthepublicscrutinyof
hisproposals.110
This,though,isonlyonesideofpolisreligion.Theothersideistheshapingof
newideasorthetestingofoldones,asideofreligionthatwasalwaysproblematic
from the perspective of the Durkheimian approach with its stress on the
hegemonyoftraditionandritual.111Hereweshoulddistinguishbetweenpublic
performanceandmoreprivatereading.ThetragediesortheOdesofPindarwere
performed in public, be it in front of larger or smaller audiences. Here too we
couldperhapsstillspeakofthecontrolofthepolisor,inlessdemocraticones,of
its rulers. For example, Pindar may well have thought about what religiosity
TheronfavouredbeforehecomposedhisSecond Olympian Ode.Moreover,how
107NILSSON,o.c.(n.60),p.741-783;BURKERT,o.c.(n.61),p.305-337.
108 For the charge and the process see PARKER, o.c. (n. 90), p. 199-207; P. MILLETT, The
TrialofSocratesRevisited,European Review of History12(2005),p.23-62;J.N.BREMMER,PeregrinusChristianCareer,inA.HILHORSTet al.(eds.),Flores Florentino. Dead Sea Scrolls and Other
Early Jewish Studies in Honour of Florentino Garca Martnez,Leiden,2007,p.729-747at734f.
109PARKER,o.c.(n.90),p.207-210;J.N.BREMMER,AtheisminAntiquity,inM.MARTIN
(ed.),The Cambridge Companion to Atheism,Cambridge,2006,p.11-26at12-19.
110PARKER,o.c.(n.90),p.218-20.
111AsnotedalsobyH.S.VERSNEL,Transition and Reversal in Myth and Ritual,Leiden,1993,p.9.

34

J.N.BREMMER

everfarEuripideswent,hewillalwayshavehadinthebackofhismindthatthe
aimofhiscompositionswasalsotowin,nottolose.
Thisisdifferentwithbooksororalpoems.Wedonotknowhowtheoldest
Orphic poetry was spread over Greece, but the Derveni papyrus demonstrates
thataround400BCpeoplecouldreadthispoetryandevenstudyitscommentaries.112 Orphic poetry was clearly very influential in some areas of thought,
especiallythosehavingtodowiththeafterlife(asiswellillustratedbyPindarand
Empedocles),anareahardlycontrolledbythepolis.Itsauthoritymusthavebeen
thenameofOrpheus.AsthewordsofHerodotusaboutHomerandHesiod(4)
demonstrated,poetscouldhaveanenormousinfluence.Thatiswhyintheearlier
fifthcenturypeoplestartedtospreadnewideasunderOrpheusname.Theloss
ofmostofthatpoetrymakesusforgetthattheprestigeofOrpheusaspoetwas
enormously high in the fifth century. According to a set of fifth-century
historians, which include Pherecydes and Hellanicus, Homer was a descendent
fromOrpheusaswasHesiod.113AndwhenPlatoenumeratesthegreatpoetsof
thepast,heputsOrpheusfirst.114
Buttowhatextentcanwestillcallpoetryunderhisnameexpressionsofpolis
religion?Thisishardlypossible,Iwouldargue,forpoemslikeOrpheusTheogony
andKatabasis,whichderivedtheirauthorityfromthenameoftheirsupposedpoet,
notfromaparticularpolis.ItisOrpheusnametoothatshouldforbidustocallhis
poetry sectarian discourse. There is nothing in our fifth-century tradition that
points into that direction. Orphic poetry was well-known in Athens in the fifth
century,andacceptedinthebestcirclesoftheAthenianpopulation.Someofits
figures (e.g. Eubouleus, Brimo) were even incorporated into the Eleusinian
Mysteries.115ItisclearthatinthefourthcenturyPlatolookeddownontheOrphic
initiators. Sure enough, compared to him they undoubtedly were second-rate
theologiansandhadtoreallyworkforaliving.Yetnothinginoursources(except
Platoscontempt)warrantsmodernopinionsofthemascharlatansorswindlers.
Orphicviews(3),mythography(4)andsophistictheories(3),suchasthoseof
Prodicus,allspreadviabooksandthereisnoreasontocallthemexpressionsof
polisreligion.
Indeed,writingalsoenabledthespreadofprivateoraclesanddefixiones.Inthe
case of the former, Cimon, Nicias and Alcibiades all employed private seers,

112AlsonotethementionofOrphicbooksbyClaudian,Epith.,232-234andCarm. Min.,23,
11;31,25-33,towhichDIETERICH,o.c.(n.57),p.159callsattention,butwhichseemstohave
beenoverlookedbyBERNABinhissplendidneweditionoftheOrphicfragments.
113Pherecydes,FGrH3F167=fr.167(ed.FOWLER)=OF871;Hellanicus,FGrH4F5=OF
871(HomerandHesiod);Damastes,FGrH5F11=fr.11b(ed.FOWLER)=OF871;Charax,FGrH
103F62=OF872.
114Pl.,Apol.,41a(=OF1076);Ion,536b(=OF973);notealsoAlexis,fr.140(ed.KASSELAUSTIN)(=OF1018);Hecataeus,FGrH264F25(=OF55).
115SeeBREMMER,o.c.(n.83).

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35

sometimesevenanumberofthem.116Thisuseofprivateseersbyleadingpoliticians goes back at least to the beginning of the fifth century, since Aeschylus
alreadymentionstheseersofthehouse.117Thereisnoreasontothinkthatthese
seersortheirmorehumblecolleaguesonthestreetswerecontrolledbythepolisor
werealwaysconcernedwithexpressingtheviewsofthepolis.Thesamemustbe
trueoftheprofessionalsthatwroteandsoldmagicalformulae.Asnotedbefore,
RobertParkerdiscussestheseunderthetitleunlicensedreligion,butthatsuggests
thattherewasadichotomyinthepolisbetweenlicensedandunlicensedreligion.
This introduces a distinction that is modern and not warranted by Athenian
evidence.Intheend,wewillhavetoacceptthatreligioninurbanizedGreecewas
indeed mainly polis religion, as has been presented to us in Robert Parkers
wonderful books on Athenian religion. The margins of that religion, however,
wereperhapsmuchmessierthanChristianelikedtothink.118
JanN.BREMMER
Troelstralaan,78
NL9722JNGRONINGEN
E-mail:J.N.Bremmer@rug.nl







116Cimon:Plut.,Cimon,18.Alcibiades:Plut.,Nic.,4,2;13,1;FLOWER,o.c.(n.21),p.177.
117SeeFRAENKELonAesch.,Ag.,409.
118 This is the slightly revised and annotated version of a keynote lecture at the Conference
PerceptionsofPolis-Religion:Inside/Outside. ASymposiuminMemoryofChristianeSourvinouInwood,Reading,6July,2008;Ihavekeptitsoralnature.Thetexthasalsoprofitedfromaudiences
inMontreal,TorontoandNewYorkaswellasfromcommentsbyBobFowler,AlbertHenrichs
andVincianePirenne-Delforge.SuzanneLyekindlycorrectedmyEnglish.