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There are different ways of expressing divine superiority and alterity, and Vernant was probably right in emphasizing this sacrificial function.Be that as it may, the whole chapter is full of insights that usefully question and circumscribe all aspects of sacrifice.
Since the Greeks did not feel any “lack”, three questions arise: what reason(s) had the Greeks to believe in their gods?
how could they know what was pious or impious, pleasing or unpleasing to the gods?
Telling the first time of a ritual was considered to be the best way of explaining it.
Moreover, searching for almost every blessing was a potential exploitation of many festivals: they “were magnets that drew everything toward them” (p. The second attempt is to approach the festivals through their divine plots and the actions performed by humans: the god arrives, the god dies or disappears, the god weds; humans experience new life and the seasons, etiology (commemoration evoked above), self-celebration of the city, disorder and rudeness, social reversal, awe and terror.
If we try to identify the “literary genre” to which the book belongs, “essay” is probably the best label it deserves, an essay with finely crafted footnotes and up-to-date international bibliography.
The seven chapters and five appendixes derive from the Townsend lectures delivered at Cornell during the autumn of 2008.
The underlying question of the third chapter is “what is a Greek god? All current debates on the subject are addressed: plurality or unity of a divine being, relationship between its name and cult-epithets, between panhellenic and local levels, the implications of the so-called “structuralist” approach on the understanding of gods and pantheons.
This chapter shows how hard it is to answer the preliminary question, and Parker has not changed his mind since 2005, when he wrote that “polytheism [was] undescribable” (p. Regarding heroes, the fourth chapter deals with their nature (mainly mortals and minor gods at the same time), their relationship to the past of the communities to which they belonged, and with the inconsistencies in their cults, related to the oscillations on the line between their mortal nature and their divine functions.
Parker pays close attention to both levels (divine and human) intertwined in all these contexts.
A last problem to deal with is the chronological one.