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Chapter 3 - Ancient Greek Smellscapes and Divine Fragrances

Anthropomorphizing the Gods in Ancient Greek Culture

from Part II - Representation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2022

Esther Eidinow
University of Bristol
Armin W. Geertz
Aarhus Universitet, Denmark
John North
University College London
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This chapter examines the ways that Greek gods were perceived as anthropomorphic, positing why and how these perceptions may have developed in relation to specific cultural forms, such as narrative. By drawing on the theory of situated conceptualization, within the framework of grounded cognition (as developed by Lawrence Barsalou), it aims to explore how the mind, body, and physical and social environments were inextricably linked in shaping god concepts in ancient Greek culture. Examining both narrative as a cultural form, and narratives that described or alluded to other cultural forms, including ritual activities, it investigates how descriptions of smell and smelling could evoke, and in turn shape, experience of a divine presence for their audience. Such an approach, it argues, allows for cultural, group, and individual variation within the constraints of shared cultural forms, illuminating how ancient Greek conceptions of the gods became embedded, while at the same time allowing for the variety of a polytheistic culture, and, in addition, the personal response of individuals. As such, it contributes to discussions of belief in ancient Greek cultures by offering some suggestions for the ways in which concepts of the divine may have been formed, shared, personalized, embodied, and embedded within, across, and between communities.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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