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Sarah Hitch, Fred Naiden and Ian Rutherford

Animal sacrifice was not the most common ritual in the ancient world.
That distinction surely goes to prayer and also to the broad category
of offerings, which are the best-attested practice in the archaeological
record. Nevertheless, animal sacrifice was uniquely complex and presti-
gious, important not only within the cultures of the ancient
Mediterranean and Western Asia,1 but as far afield as India and
China.2 It is still practiced all over the world; for example it has been
documented in many parts of Africa.3 When it develops in human
history is still uncertain, but it seems likely to go back at least as far as
the Neolithic, when animals are first domesticated, and it could be much
Nowhere does it seem to have been more important than in Greece,
where to ‘perform the sacred things’ often meant to sacrifice animals. It is
found in all periods of Greek history, from the Bronze Age right down to
the late Roman Empire. It begins to disappear only under pressure from
Christianity, which nevertheless preserved sacrifice as a religious symbol.5
The Greeks seem to have regarded their form of sacrifice as distinct from
those of other peoples, and the surviving evidence – literary texts, inscrip-
tions, iconography and zooarchaeological data – does indeed suggest a high
degree of uniformity, albeit with local variations.6

Near East: Pongratz-Leisten (2012); Maul (2008), Abusch (2002); Recht (2015).
India: Biardeau and Malamoud (1976); China: Stercx (2011); Campbell (2012).
Africa: Sundermeier (2002), de Heusch (1985), Insoll (2010).
See, e.g., Graf (2012:49–50); Insoll (2011), Evans-Pritchard (1954). Domestication: J. Z. Smith (1987).
For Mycenaean Greece, see Rutherford (2013:265). For the Christian attitude to sacrifice, see now
Stroumsa (2009), Petropoulou (2008), Ullucci (2012).
For variations in the practice of animal sacrifice in Greece, the locus classicus is the demonstration in
the Herodotean Life of Homer (523–37) that Homer must have been Aeolian because he does not
describe the burning of the osphus (sacrum bone); for the use of the osphus in sacrifice, see Carbon in
this volume (Chapter 6).

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2 s a r a h h i t ch , f r e d n a i d e n a n d i an r ut h e r f o rd
At the same time, it was a complex system comprising several sacrificial
scripts.7 In the best-known script, the killing of an animal is preceded by
vegetal offerings and prayers, and followed by the burning of symbolic
parts of it on the altar, libations, and the consumption of the rest by an
assembled group of worshippers. Here the gods were not have imagined as
taking part in the human feast, but in another script, the so-called theoxenia
ritual, they supposedly ate both meat and other foods.8 In a third common
script the animal was burned whole and there were no vegetal offerings or
libations. If the remains were buried in a pit, the ritual was directed to
a special class of divinities usually called chthonic.9
Sacrifice also occurred frequently as part of other rituals, such as
purification, oath-taking and divination,10 or as part of longer sequences,
such as a vow followed by a later sacrifice. No less important was the
practice of using substitutes for sacrifice: early in antiquity, models of
sacrificial animals supplemented, anticipated, or replaced acts of sacrifice;
later, payment of fees gave worshippers access to sacrificial altars, and
some sacrifices were commuted into cash payments. Common to all its
forms is the idea of some kind of reciprocal communication with the
divine realm by offering of a gift meant to secure divine good will or avert
divine anger.11
Until Christians and some pagan philosophers began to make concerted
criticisms of it early in the Common Era, the Greeks did not frequently talk
about the meaning of sacrifice as opposed to the ways and means of
successfully performing the ritual.12 (Hesiod’s view that sacrifice originated
in Prometheus’ attempt to deceive Zeus was never authoritative.)13 The
modern taste, on the other hand, tends to have been to go in for grand
theories about the significance of sacrifice:14 according to one influential
theory, it is all about the person making the offering, who achieves
a moment of intense, status-transforming communication with the deity,
and, since such contact is dangerous, the sacrificial victim is destroyed in

A good up-to-date survey is that in ThesCRA 1 (2004):59–134 (A. Hermary, M. Leguilloux,
V. Chankowski, A. Petropoulou).
Theoxenia: Jameson (1994a); Ekroth (2011)
For chthonic rituals, see Scullion (1994), Ekroth (2002).
For purification, see Georgoudi in this volume (Chapter 4); for oath-taking, see Seaford in this
volume (Chapter 9).
See Ullucci (2012:24–8) on the ‘reciprocal logic of sacrifice’; Pierce (1993).
In other words, Greek sacrifice is ‘non-discursive’, to use the terminology of Ullucci (2012:21). For
Greco-Roman accounts of the origin of sacrifice, see Prescendi (2007:169–223)
Hes.Theog. 535–57. Significantly, this aetiology is not explicitly referred to in any author in the
Classical period: Parker (2011:140).
Useful guides include Carter (2003) and the introduction to Knust and Várhelyi (2011).
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Introduction 3
the process as a substitute for the communicant and other worshippers.15
Another theory influential among Hellenists emphasises communal din-
ing, which has the effect of creating and reinforcing group solidarity and/or
internal hierarchy;16 a recent formulation of this theory sees it as a device
used by male kinship groups to assert control over human reproduction;17
a related theory developed by Walter Burkert envisions communal solidar-
ity generated by directing aggression onto the sacrificial victim.18
These big theories have recently met with criticism,19 but their chief
drawback is not what they may get wrong, but what they omit. On the one
hand, sacrifice let worshippers honour and communicate with the gods,
and on the other hand, it let them increase their individual or collective
prestige. It had, so to speak, a vertical and a horizontal dimension. Each of
these two dimensions needs to be understood in connection with the other.
The theology and the sociology of sacrifice need to be analysed together.
Though the grand theories are in retreat, interest in animal sacrifice
seems to have intensified in recent years.20 Often, case-studies deal with
traditions of sacrifice from certain phases of Greco-Roman religion, from
certain periods, or from neighbouring cultures. Other research deals with
the representation of sacrifice in a specific medium. Scholars aim not to
confirm the correctness of one particular model, but to explore differences.
We also see a focus on the idiosyncrasies of the evidence: epigraphical
sources, such as sacred laws, sacred calendars and other regulations set up
by the polis or other bodies;21 representations of sacrifice in poetry which
may have something to tell scholars about both the theology and the
sociology behind sacrifice;22 or iconography on vase-paintings and votive
stelai.23 Currently, the most important new material is coming from

Hubert and Mauss (1899); this theory was based on Vedic and Jewish sources and has never been
popular with Hellenists, though the notion of substitution is not alien to Greek religion. Maurice
Bloch’s theory of sacrifice (1992:24–45) has a lot in common.
W. Robertson Smith (1889); Detienne and Vernant (1979). 17 Jay (1992); see Stowers (1995).
Burkert (1983).
Recent critique of grand theories of sacrifice: on modern theories, see Lincoln (2012); Graf (2012);
Naiden (2013a:3–14, 276–316); Evans-Pritchard (1954).
Recent work includes the monographs of Ekroth (2002) and Naiden (2013a); Baumgarten (2002);
the edited volumes of Hägg and Alroth (2005); Georgoudi, Koch Piettre and Schmidt (2005);
Stavrianopoulou, Michaels and Ambos (2008); Mehl and Brulé (2008); Knust and Várhelyi (2011);
Pirenne-Delforge and Prescendi (2011); Faraone and Naiden (2012) and Porter and Schwartz (2012).
Also useful is the volume À quoi bon (se) sacrifier? Sacrifice, don et intérêt, published in La revue
du M.A.U.S.S. semestrielle No5, 1er semester 1995.
Lupu (2005: introduction).
Hitch (2007), Cingano (2004), Stocking (in press). For sacrifice narratives as a universe of literature,
see Hogan (2003:186–200).
For vase-painting, van Straten (1995); for votive stelai, see Klöckner in this volume (Chapter 8).
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4 s a r a h h i t ch , f r e d n a i d e n a n d i an r ut h e r f o rd
archaeology in the form of osteological evidence, which promises to
revolutionalise our understanding of sacrificial victims and the way they
were treated after death.24
This volume aims to foster the process of close analysis of the evidence and
representation of animal sacrifice. We present twelve papers, which we group
into four categories: victims, procedure, representations and margins.

Part I: Victims
In this section we present three papers relating to different aspects of
Chapter One, Gunnel Ekroth’s ‘Bare Bones: Zooarchaeology and Greek
Sacrifice’, is a penetrating study of how bone deposits in sanctuaries shed
light on variety of animals sacrificed and methods of cooking. She looks
particularly at the sanctuary of Poseidon at the Isthmos and the Kommos
sanctuary on Crete, analysing three aspects of thusia sacrifice in particular:
activity at the altar, debris from consumption and refuse from butchering.
Among her suggestions are that, whereas the practice of burning the thigh-
bones on the altar is an ancient practice that goes back to the Mycenaeans,
the burning of tail could be an innovation, perhaps introduced from the
Near East. She also draws attention to bones from unexpected types of
animals, such as dogs and horses, suggesting that these were consumed along
with those of sacrificial animals, but not incorporated into the rituals.
Ekroth’s investigation sets the stage for more specific studies in the
following chapters, beginning with Chapter Two, Jennifer Larson’s
‘Venison for Artemis? The Problem of Deer Sacrifice’. In the first part of
the chapter, Larson surveys the evidence for deer in ancient religion and
society. Deer-bones are found in large numbers at Greek sanctuaries from
Mycenaean period onwards (more than other wild animals), and herds of
deer may have been maintained in special parks. Nevertheless, as she
shows, explicit evidence for the sacrifice of deer is meagre – two votive
stelai, in fact; thus, it may seem attractive to attribute the osteological
evidence not to sacrifice but to the consumption of animals which were
hunted and killed in the wild or in parks. Even if that is right, she none-
theless asks whether it makes sense to draw an absolute distinction between
animals killed at the sanctuary and ones killed elsewhere and subsequently
brought to the sanctuary to be presented to the god and consumed.
The further question thus arises whether the circumstances of killing are

On osteology, see Ekroth and Wallensten (2013) and Ekroth in this volume (Chapter 1).
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Introduction 5
more important than the system of food production, the ‘alimentary
system’ as a whole. This question applies not just to offerings of deer,
but to all kinds of offerings. Several passages in Aristophanes confirm the
practice of having mixed meats – some sacrificial and some not – at the
same meal. In the second part of the chapter, Larson offers a new theory
about how deer came to have the role they did in the ancient alimentary
system, suggesting that what we see here is an echo of a system established
by hunter-gatherers in the Mesolithic period. The invocation of hunter-
gatherers reminds us of Walter Burkert’s theory about the origins of
sacrifice in Homo Necans, but whereas Burkert put the emphasis on
violence, guilt and reparation, for Larson the point is ecological:
a religious framework allows for the successful long-term management of
the food supply. The tendency for hunters to give Artemis first fruits,
rather than honour the goddess through thusiai, confirms Larson’s view of
Greek hunting ritual as distributive rather than destructive.25
In Chapter Three, ‘Don’t Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg?
Some Thoughts on Bird Sacrifices in Ancient Greece’, Alexandra Villing
discusses the much neglected topic of the role of birds in Greece sacrifice.
She focuses on three cases: first, sacrifice of the cockerel and chicken,
attested from about 400 bc, which seem to have occurred particularly in
the cult of Asclepius and that of heroes; secondly, the dove and the
partridge, which, though widely associated with Aphrodite, do not seem
to have been sacrificed, though they were used in purification offerings;
and, thirdly, the goose, which was widely sacrificed to Aphrodite and Isis in
the Hellenistic period. This has sometimes been thought to be the result of
Egyptian influence, but Villing sees evidence for an earlier practice of goose
sacrifice in a fifth-century votive relief from Aegina which seems to depict
a goose being led in procession for sacrifice to Hecate or Artemis. More
broadly, she argues that the use of geese and chickens for sacrifice makes
sense insofar as just like the other types of domestic animal commonly
sacrificed, they are by the fifth century bc an integral part of the alimentary
system of Greek society.

Part II: Procedure

Here we present three papers dealing with sacrificial procedure, and with
the place of sacrifice within the realms of religious ritual and polis law.

Accordingly Naiden (2013a:234–5) (citing the literary evidence) and Ekroth (2007) (citing the
osteological evidence) have questioned the distinction between sacred and profane offerings.
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6 s a r a h h i t ch , f r e d n a i d e n a n d i an r ut h e r f o rd
Chapter Four, ‘Reflections on Sacrifice and Purification in the Greek
World’ by Stella Georgoudi is a masterful and theoretically informed study
of the relationship between animal sacrifice and purificatory rites designed
to eliminate miasma. Focussing particularly on the issue of whether there is
such a thing as a purificatory sacrifice, she admits that evidence for these
ritual categories is so complex that a precise understanding of them will
always elude us. However, she makes a persuasive case for the view that
although purification and animal sacrifice may sometimes occur in close
sequence in the same context, they are generally distinct; in fact, the animal
sacrifice may signify that the purification has come to a satisfactory con-
clusion. Confusion arises partly because many rites of purification involve
the killing of a young animal and/or the shedding of its blood (very young
animals are preferred in these contexts, as she shows, because they are
regarded as pure). These acts of cleansing differ from the acts of burning
and offering characteristic of thusia, the most common general term for
In Chapter Five, ‘“Polis Religion” and Sacrificial Regulation’, Fred
Naiden challenges the emphasis of earlier scholars on sacrifice as
a mechanism of the democratic polis. Taking Sourvinou-Inwood’s much
discussed conceptualisation of Greek religious practice as dictated by the
polis as his starting point, he lays out the evidence for a reciprocal arrange-
ment between the subdivisions and the overarching polis structure in late
Classical Athens. Rather than a hierarchy, he charts a nexus between
smaller and bigger groups. He expands this discussion through considera-
tion of the extant aetiologies of sacrifice, which credit individuals sacrifi-
cing on behalf of small groups with original sacrifices, rather than the polis
or the gods themselves. His conclusions reveal an Athenian notion of
sacrificial regulations that lies outside of the monopoly of the polis, and
they confirm that Hesiod’s aetiology of sacrifice was not universally
accepted by the Greeks.
In Chapter Six, which concludes this section, ‘Meaty Perks: Epichoric
and Topological Trends’, Mathieu Carbon studies the division of the
animal’s body after killing, particularly which parts were given to priests
and which consecrated to the gods. (His chapter is the most systematic
investigation of this subject since Friedrich Puttkammer’s dissertation of
1912.) Carbon looks closely at a number of aspects: the priests’ share, which,
as he shows, is usually ‘the extended rear leg’ (since the thighbones were
offered to the god, this links the priest with the divine sphere); the parts
reserved for the gods, especially the so-called ἱερὰ μοῖρα (‘sacred portion’);
and the relative values given to the parts drawn from the left and right sides
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Introduction 7
of the animal. As Carbon demonstrates, the evidence from different parts
of Greece shows striking homogeneity, but also a degree of local variation.

Part III: Representations

This section presents some overlooked examples of how Greeks repre-
sented sacrificial rituals in poetry and art. All three papers discuss artistic
representations that would have themselves formed part of the religious
landscape through either performance in festivals or dedication in sanctu-
aries: a hymn, votive reliefs and a tragic play.
In Chapter Seven, ‘Sacrifice and the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 112–41’,
Oliver Thomas looks at the scene in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes where
Hermes slaughters and roasts two cows and divides the meat into twelve
shares. Thomas argues that this scene does not describe a proto-sacrifice
(as other scholars have assumed), but, while evoking aspects of sacrifice,
provides an aetion for local topography and for heraldic customs.
The Hymn says that the cow-hides left by Hermes remain to this day
(125–6), and Thomas argues that in other respects as well the function of
the narrative is aetiological, explaining topographical features in the region
of the River Alpheios, just as Hermes himself is a model for the sacred
heralds who, unlike the god, carry out sacrifice. The Hymn can thus be
understood as a sort of ‘precursor’ to a cult of the Twelve Gods at Olympia.
In his conclusion, he decisively confirms Walter Burkert’s hypothesis that
Olympia was where the Hymn was first performed.
Anja Klöckner in Chapter Eight, ‘Visualising Veneration: Images of
Animal Sacrifice on Greek Votive Reliefs’, looks at the portrayal of
sacrificial animals on votive reliefs, a type of iconography which (unlike
vases) always presupposes a ritual act, that of dedication by private
individuals. The main subject of the reliefs is always the dedicants
themselves (women as well as men), often depicted in the act of praying.
However, about a quarter of them depict sacrificial animals, almost
always in the context of a procession; others show the altar instead.
As a source for ritual performance their value is thus limited; they tell
us nothing about ritual itself, and although they provide some useful
information about cultic reality, for example what animals were sacrificed
on these occasions, that information is selective and approximate.
A better approach, as Klöckner shows, is to start from the assumption
that the reliefs were meant as a form of ritual communication between
dedicants and gods. By looking at this body of evidence as a cultural
form, and not as a social document, Klöckner reorients a field of
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8 s a r a h h i t ch , f r e d n a i d e n a n d i an r ut h e r f o rd
scholarship still dominated by Folkert Van Straten’s Hiera Kala, which
regarded votive reliefs as illustrative of ritual practice.
Richard Seaford’s starting point in Chapter Nine, ‘Sacrifice in Drama:
The Flow of Liquids’, is the spectacular pre-battle sacrifice described in the
proem of Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes where the seven warriors touch
the blood of a sacrificed bull poured into a shield. Seaford analyses this as
combining features of an ordinary pre-battle sacrifice and an oath sacrifice,
in which the participants symbolically partake in the blood of an animal.
For Seaford, the emotional impact of the communal participation in blood
in Aeschylus’ narrative should be understood as consolidatory, along the
lines of the sprinkling of khernips-water in ordinary sacrifice; conversely,
the shedding of tears immediately afterwards by the seven warriors as they
anticipate their fate seem to echo the pouring of libations of wine in the
closing stages of an ordinary sacrifice. First, blood replaces water, and then
water replaces wine. The paper closes with a provocative analysis of the
oath sacrifice in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, clearly modelled on the Seven,
which, as Seaford shows, contains clear sexual imagery.

Part IV: Margins

Nearly all work on Greek sacrifice has dealt with Greece alone, overlooking
the intercultural connections presented in this section.
In Chapter Ten, ‘Animal Sacrifice in Hittite Anatolia’, Alice Mouton
gives a systematic overview of animal sacrifice in the different regions of the
Hittite Empire (late second millennium bc), dealing with the three main
issues of what animals are sacrificed, how they are divided and in what
contexts sacrifice takes place. In a final section she discusses the meaning of
animal sacrifice in the Hittite world, suggesting that the most important
idea is that of a regular gift to the gods, through which they become linked
or indebted to humans. It has long been suspected that Hittite religion is
related to early Greek religion, and one similarity has long been known
between Hittite and Greek sacrificial practice, namely that the Hittite
word for make an offering, spant-, is manifestly related to the Greek
spendein (‘pour a libation’). Significantly, Mouton uncovers one other
significant parallel, namely that the vital organs (the heart and liver) are
roasted and the rest of the animal stewed. There are also, of course, many
differences between the two systems, for example the fact that in Hittite
religion victims are frequently identified as substitutes.
In Chapter Eleven, ‘The Reception of Egyptian Animal Sacrifice in
Greek Writers: Ethnic Stereotyping or Transcultural Discourse?’, Ian
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Introduction 9
Rutherford looks at accounts of Egyptian animal sacrifice by Greek writers
from the fifth century bc till the Roman era. He considers first the idea
attested in Plutarch and Diodorus (apparently going back to Manetho)
that the victim represents the god Seth; secondly at Herodotus’ detailed
accounts of the Egyptian way of sacrificing bulls and pigs; and third at the
idea found from the fourth century bc, and apparently inconsistent with
the other two, that Egyptians, far from sacrificing animals, did not eat meat
at all. Rutherford shows that there are different ways of looking at these
accounts: on the one hand, they may well reflect the cultural bias of the
Greek writers, who emphasise the strange and extraordinary in foreign
religion; on the other hand, most of what they say seems to correspond at
least roughly to Egyptian sacrificial practice or to Egyptian discourse about
animal sacrifice.
The final chapter moves from the edges of the Greco-Roman world to
the end of Greco-Roman paganism. In ‘A Quiet Slaughter? Julian and the
Etiquette of Public Sacrifice’, Sergio Knipe looks at religious policy of
Julian the Apostate, whose edict of ad 362 temporarily moved the Empire
away from Christianity and back to paganism. Julian placed great impor-
tance on sacrifice, as is shown by his personal attitude as well as by his
official policy, and his ancient biographers stressed this aspect of his rule.
However, he expresses a less enthusiastic attitude in a letter he wrote in ad
363. Here he seems to criticise a sacrifice he had observed at Batnae in Syria
because it was not ‘away from the beaten path and performed in peace and
quiet’. Knipe interprets Julian’s concern for the traditional standard of
euphemia (‘ritual silence’) as being influenced by the theurgy of the
Neoplatonist Iamblichus, for whom animal sacrifice enabled communica-
tion with the gods and also purification of the soul. More generally, Knipe
suggests that this emphasis on sacrifice being performed in the correct way
should be seen in the context of Julian’s official religious policy directed in
the first instance towards priests in different parts of the Empire: thus,
under Julian, animal sacrifice regains its place in Roman state religion, but
it has a new form, shaped by the theurgy that he so admired.
If we take the twelve chapters together, a number of common themes
One is the definition of sacrifice itself. What is it? How do we distin-
guish it from other ritual actions? Are such distinctions always valid or
useful? These problems arise in the case of the deer offerings discussed by
Larson, where the killing probably happened during the hunt and not at
the altar. They also arise for the ritual discussed by Seaford, which involves
the blood of a bull, but not the meat itself. Some of the papers show how
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10 s a r a h h i t ch , f r e d n a i d e n a n d i an r ut h e r f o rd
recent scholarship has tended to be imprecise in its use of the term
sacrifice, allowing it to be applied to phenomena that are connected to
it, but differ from it. One example is the purificatory rites accompanied
by sacrifice studied by Georgoudi in her chapter. Thomas’s chapter
reveals the uncertainty felt by scholars about whether Hermes’ acts of
killing the cattle, and roasting and dividing the meat, should be seen as
a sacrifice or something else.
Another issue thrown up by several of the chapters is the problem of
reconciling different types of evidence. For example, the new osteological
data sometimes point in different directions to the epigraphical and other
sources (see Ekroth, Carbon): the latter usually dictate part of an official
script, whereas faunal remains reveal the chaos of actual practice.
Similarly, accounts of sacrifice in Greek poetry, which classicists have
traditionally tended to privilege as sources,26 sometimes turn out to have
only a tangential relationship to actual practice (see Thomas, Seaford);
thus, prose and poetry tend to suggest that acts of sacrifice may go awry,
whereas epigraphical and visual sources present normative sacrifice.
The relationship between iconography and other types of sources raises
the same issues (Klöckner).
Thirdly, several of the papers address in different ways the issue of the
authority for ritual practice. Who mandates that sacrifice be performed in
a certain way? In traditional societies we might ascribe authority to an
anonymous oral tradition of ritual of uncertain age. Thus, Thomas’s
analysis of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes traces a sacrificial practice in
honour of the Twelve Gods at Olympia back to an aetion, to which the
Hymn itself gives voice. In Classical Greece the authority is these days most
often thought to be the polis, which used the medium of sacred regulations
(cf. Carbon in this volume (Chapter 6)) to enforce its will; against that,
Naiden argues that frequently an independent group organises sacrifice
within the polis and may ascribe the authority for it to an external source.
Finally, an entirely different model appears in Knipe who shows that when
Julian revives sacrificial practice in the fourth century ad, the authority is
partly his own as emperor, but also that of Neoplatonic philosophy.
A fourth theme is the importance of studying sacrifice cross-culturally:
the papers make it clear that understanding Greek sacrifice means

Cf. Burkert (1983:3): ‘Thanks to descriptions in Homer and tragedy, we can reconstruct the course
of an ordinary Greek sacrifice to the Olympian gods almost in its entirety.’ See also Graf (2004:340),
Parker (1996b:1344), Pollard (2010, vol. vi:196–8), Hermary et al. (2004:67), Zaidman and Schmitt
Pantel (1992:31).
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Introduction 11
understanding sacrifice beyond the borders of the Greek world, particu-
larly as regards the neighbouring Mediterranean cultures of Asia Minor,
the ancient Near East including Israel and Egypt. This may be because
Greek sacrificial practice may actually have been influenced by foreign
cultures (cf. Villing on Near East sacrifice, Mouton on Hittite sacrifice); or
it may be because understanding other cultures gives us insights into early
Greek practice (cf. Larson on the use of deer in Assyria); alternatively,
Greek accounts of animal sacrifice in other parts of the Mediterranean
reveal general concepts about supposedly universal and local aspects of
sacrifice (Rutherford). As more work is done on the religions of the cultures
of the ancient Near East, we can expect rapid progress in this area.27
Are there any other hints in the chapter about where the study of ancient
sacrifice may go in the future? One suggestion is given by Larson, who
argues in her piece that animal sacrifice in any particular culture cannot be
understood without also understanding how food production was mana-
ged; and since configurations of ritual may tend to be conservative, it may
be necessary to understand what forms the alimentary, economic and
ecological system might have taken in the remote past. A systematic
investigation of the relationship between food production and society is
surely a desideratum, and by the same token, so is investigation into the
symbiotic relation between sacrifice and ancient economic development as
a whole, as opposed to past interest in sacrifice and the Classical democratic
polis. There is perhaps also scope for applying recent advances made by
scholars articulating evolutionary approaches to religion and cognitive
science. For example, the theory of ‘costly signalling’, which explains
spectacular religious actions as conspicuous social displays, could elucidate
many of the forms of sacrifice discussed in this volume, and also many
representations of sacrifice, such as the votive stelai discussed by
The study of Greek sacrifice, which began in the Victorian era, and
reached a peak of theoretical development about forty years ago, has an
expanding but unpredictable future before it, in which the Greek will
consort with the non-Greek, and sacrifice, no longer regarded as monolith,
will become a crossroads of religious and cultural forms.

See Burkert (1990); Rutherford in this volume (Chapter 11); see also Naiden (2006b).
For costly signalling and sacrifice, see, for example, Henrich (2009); Palmer, Steadman and Cassidy