Presenter: Dr Amelia Brown
The ancient Greeks were never politically unified before the rise of Rome, yet they succeeded in developing and maintaining a common culture all around the Mediterranean coasts ‘like frogs around a pond’ (Plato Phaedo 109b). Modern scholars struggle to explain how the ancient Greeks could have shared such strong bonds of religion, language and identity, despite a homeland of separate city-states, and large-scale migration and intermarriage with other ancient peoples around the Mediterranean sea. This lecture looks to the everyday practices of archaic and classical Greek maritime religion for an answer, focusing on the widespread cults of seafaring saviour gods and the rituals practiced at harbors and aboard ships for safe arrival ashore. I argue that the religious system of sailors and travellers helped the ancient Greeks develop and maintain their common culture all around the Mediterranean sea. Cults of seafaring gods like Aphrodite, Apollo, Hera, Poseidon and the Dioscuri were carried from port to port around ancient Greece, to the Greek colonies, and into foreign cities, yet this maritime religion and carriage of cults ‘on the winedark sea’ is not well understood today. The sources are very widely scattered, from ancient testimonia for seafaring rituals of embarkation, accurate navigation and safe arrival on shore, to the archaeological remains of shipwrecks, harbourside sanctuaries and votive offerings. Bringing this evidence back together, however, reveals a durable yet flexible network of travelling rituals and beliefs which bound the ancient Greeks together in unexpected and close-knit ways, even across great distances and without political bonds.
The lecture will be followed by light refreshments.
About Classics and Ancient History Seminars
Classics and Ancient History seminars are followed by a wine-and-cheese reception ($2 coin donation per person). Enquiries about the seminars may be made to Dr David Pritchard.
The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for 2017 can be found at http://www.friendsofantiquity.org.au.
Level 4, Room 480
The University of Sydney