Private initiation and the afterlife in classical Greece

Rawson, Stuart David (2020) Private initiation and the afterlife in classical Greece. Doctoral thesis, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

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Abstract

Private initiators, freelance religious practitioners who worked for a fee, offered their clients a better fate after death. I survey the evidence for their activities in classical Greece, and try to determine the date they came into being, which I suggest may be the end of the fifth century, their relation to other forms of religion such as the cult of Dionysus and mainstream polis religion, and their views of the afterlife. I argue that they did not belong to anything that could be called a sect, a concept anachronistic for this period, and that they did not have a coherent doctrine of the afterlife, but rather employed a patchwork of different and inconsistent concepts. In particular, there is no evidence that they belonged to a group of Orphics in the sense in which this term is used by modern scholars. There is, however, a basic similarity which can be seen in a number of disparate sources. I look at the Pythagorean Notebooks, the lex sacra of Selinous, the funerary gold leaves and the Derveni Papyrus to find a common underlying pattern, featuring the survival of the soul after death, a division between those with a better and a worse fate after death, enforced by hostile divine powers, and an initiation ritual to neutralise these and secure for its adherents the better outcome.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ancient Greece, initiation, mysteries, Orphism, Derveni Papyrus, gold leaves.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DF Greece
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities
Depositing User: Sandra Stedman
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2020 08:40
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2020 11:01
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/1367

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