In this book Walter Burkert, the most eminent living historian of ancient Greek religion, has produced the standard work for our time on that subject. First published in German in 1977, it has now been translated into English with the assistance of the author himself. A clearly structured and readable survey for students and scholars, it will be welcomed as the best modern account of any polytheistic religious system.
Burkert draws on archaeological discoveries, insights from other disciplines, and inscriptions in Linear B to reconstruct the practices and beliefs of the Minoan-Mycenaean age. The major part of his book is devoted to the archaic and classical epochs. He describes the various rituals of sacrifice and libation and explains Greek beliefs about purification. He investigates the inspiration behind the great temples at Olympia, Delphi, Delos, and the Acropolis - discussing the priesthood, sanctuary, and oracles. Considerable attention is given to the individual gods, the position of the heroes, and beliefs about the afterlife. The different festivals are used to illuminate the place of religion in the society of the city-state. The mystery cults, at Eleusis and among the followers of Bacchus and Orpheus, are also set in that context. The book concludes with an assessment of the great classical philosophers' attitudes to religion.
Insofar as possible, Burkert lets the evidence -- from literature and legend, vase paintings and archaeology -- speak for itself; he elucidates the controversies surrounding its interpretation without glossing over the enigmas that remain. Throughout, the notes (updated for the English-language edition) afford a wealth of further references as the text builds up its coherent picture of what is known of the religion of ancient Greece.
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Review: Greek ReligionUser Review - Yannis Theodossis - Goodreads
If you are interested in Greeks' religion, this is an indispensable book. Not easy to read, but a great reference. If you have an even bigger interest in Greek religion, mind that it is much more than a book can contain. Still, this is an excellent book to begin with. Read full review
Review: Greek ReligionUser Review - Jose Luis Belmonte - Goodreads
A great compendium of Greek religion. In the book I found what I was looking for: heroes, gods, daemons. The mastery of the author is amazing in terms of mythology and its history. The main Olympic gods are well ordered and explained. It is a great reference book. Read full review
The Scope of the Study
The Dark Age and the Problem of Continuity
Ritual and Sanctuary
Gift Offerings and Libation
Polis and Polytheism
The Rhythm of the Festivals
Social Functions of Cult
Piety in the Mirror of Greek Language
Mysteries and Asceticism
Bacchica and Orphica
Sophists and Atheists