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36 - Socrates’ Cock and Daphnis’ Goats: The Rarity of Vows in the Religious Practice of the Greek Novels (2012)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2023

Ewen Bowie
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

This chapter explores the religious practice of characters in the five ‘ideal’ Greek novels, arguing that despite these works’ overall presentation of a world that is in many ways ‘realistic’, their representation of religion diverges from ‘reality’. At one end of the spectrum the behaviour of the rustic couple Daphnis and Chloe is almost hyper-religious, and it is only in Longus’ novel that we find a full range of traditional religious practices, including vows and libations. In the other four many features correspond to behaviour in the ‘real’ world – prayers, offerings, sacrifices, feasts and festivals: but libations are sometimes not poured when they might be expected; rituals associated with marriage or burial are omitted or played down; and, most strikingly, the practice of making a vow to a god at critical moments to secure help or rescue, a practice documented in the ‘real’ world by epigraphy and literature from the archaic period down to at least the third century AD, is wholly absent. Possible reasons for this absence are briefly discussed: is it simply a generally soft-focus and elliptical account of religious behaviour, or is it the avoidance of a device which, if deployed, would risk short-circuiting characters’ tension-creating peril in cliff-hanging situations?

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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