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Is There Anything New under the (Mediterranean) Sun? Expressions of Near Eastern Deities in the Graeco-Roman World*

In: Religion and Theology
Author:
Daniel R. Miller Department of Religion, Bishop’s University 2600 College St., Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada J1M 1Z7 daniel.miller@ubishops.ca

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Abstract

The concept of divine translatability was a prominent feature of Graeco-Roman religion. Major deities of the Greek and Roman pantheons had their origins in the ancient Near East, and the Greeks and Romans equated members of their pantheons with ancient Near Eastern divinities having similar characteristics and functions. This study employs salient examples of equations and correspondences between the Graeco-Roman and ancient Near Eastern pantheons, as well as attestations of multiple manifestations of the same deity based on function or geographic region, as a heuristic device for problematizing the issue of divine translatability in general. It is asserted that a deity is but a projection of human will, a signifier without a signified. This, in turn, locates the phenomenon of divine translatability within the realm of the subjective, making any reasonable “translation” of two or more deities as valid as any other, with no external adjudication of the matter possible.

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