Sacred Words: Orality, Literacy and Religion

Orality and Literacy in the Ancient World, vol. 8


A prevalent view in the current scholarship on ancient religions holds that state religion was primarily performed and transmitted in oral forms, whereas writing came to be associated with secret, private and marginal cults, especially in the Greek world. In Roman times, religions would have become more and more bookish, starting with the Sibylline books and the Annales Maximi of the Roman priests and culminating in the canonical gospels of the Christians. It is the aim of this volume to modify this view or, at least, to challenge it. Surveying the variety of ways in which different types of texts and oral discourse were involved in ancient Greek and Roman religions, the contributions to this volume show that oral and written forms were in use for both Greek and Roman state and private religions.

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André P.M.H. Lardinois (Princeton Ph.D. 1995) is Professor of Greek Language and Literature at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. His main interests center on Greek lyric poetry and Greek drama.

Josine H. Blok is Professor of Ancient History and Classical Culture at Utrecht University and has published widely on the cultural, political and social history of archaic and classical Greece and nineteenth-century classical scholarship.

Marc van der Poel is Professor of Latin Language and Literature at Radboud University Nijmegen. He has published on various aspects of the history of rhetoric from antiquity to the Renaissance, and on Latin literature, especially in the Renaissance.

Contributors: Crystal Addey, Mark Alonge, Vanessa Berger, Josine Blok, Bé Breij, Christopher Faraone, Franco Ferrari, Michael Gagarin, Sarah Hitch, Fiona Hobden, Vincent Hunink, Akio Ito, Andromache Karanika, André Lardinois, Elizabeth Minchin, James Morrison, Maria Pavlou, Marc van der Poel, Ana Rodriguez-Mayorgas, Ruth Scodel, Niall W. Slater, Roslaind Thomas and Evelyn van 't Wout.

1. The Words of Gods: Divine Discourse in Homer's Iliad
Elizabeth Minchin
2. Enter the Divine: Sympotic Performance and Religious Experience
Fiona Hobden
3. Past and Present in Pindar’s Religious Poetry
Maria Pavlou
4. Euripides, the Derveni Papyrus, and the Smoke of Many Writings
Ruth Scodel


5. Writing Sacred Laws in Archaic and Classical Crete
Michael Gagarin
6. Embedded Speech in the Attic Leges Sacrae
Sarah Hitch
7. From Oath-swearing to Entrenchment Clause: the Introduction of atimia Terminology in Legal Inscriptions
Evelyn van ’t Wout
8. ‘And you, the demos, made an uproar’: Performance, Mass Audiences and Text in the Athenian Democracy
Rosalind Thomas


9. Hexametrical Incantations as Oral and Written Phenomena
Christopher Faraone
10. Oral Bricolage and Ritual Context in the Golden Tablets
Franco Ferrari
11. Greek Hymns from Performance to Stone
Mark Alonge
12. Annales Maximi: Writing, Memory, and Religious Performance in the Roman Republic
Ana Rodriguez-Mayorgas
13. Homer the Prophet: Homeric Verses and Divination in the Homeromanteion
Andromache Karanika
14. Assuming the Mantle of the Gods: ‘Unknowable Names,’ Hieratic Formulae and Invocations in Late Antique Theurgic Ritual
Crystal Addey


15. Plautus the Theologian
Niall W. Slater
16. Orality in Livy’s Representation of the Divine: The Construction of a Polyphonic Narrative
Vanessa Berger
17. Dilemmas of Pietas in Roman Declamation
Bé Breij


18. Paul the ‘Herald’ and the ‘Teacher’: Paul’s Self-Images within an Oral Milieu
Akio Ito
19. Divine Voice, Literary Models, and Human Authority: Peter and Paul in the Early Christian Church
James Morrison
20. Singing together in Church: Augustine’s Psalm against the Donatists
Vincent Hunink

All those interested in ancient religions and issues of orality and literacy, including ancient history, Greek and Roman literature, Greek law and Early Christian literature