P Stengel and M Nilsson on Greek sacrifice The importance ofNilssons work for the purposes of this book

In the bibliography on religions, there are also some predominantly historical approaches, but these do not have sacrifice as their main subject, nor do they provide a theoretical interpretation of it. In some of these approaches, however, one can find references to, or sections on, animal sacrifice in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, which is the time-span of the present book.

P. Stengel and M. Nilsson were the main representatives of the shift towards ritual in German scholarship on religion, as this had been represented first by the Cambridge School in England. Stengel and Nilsson were classicists concerned with Greek religion, but neither of them avoided the pitfall of evolutionism. They too tried to find 'primitive' ideas, antecedent meanings and purposes hidden under rituals, with the supposition that the peoples practising rituals could no longer understand their initial meaning.53

In his work Die griechischen KultusaltertUmer (1890), Stengel dedicated a section of the chapter on cult to sacrifice. The section is a detailed description of all types of Greek offerings. In his presentation, Stengel for the first time distinguished between bloody and unbloody sacrifices, as he dealt separately with them. Contrary to Nilsson, who treated purificatory sacrifices separately on the grounds of their ritual peculiarity, to Stengel all sorts of offerings, including sacrifices to chthonian deities, expiatory sacrifices, and human sacrifices, were included in the vast category of 'sacrifice'. Stengel's work Opferbrauche der Griechen (1910) is mostly useful for its arrangement on the basis of Greek terms (e.g. dveiv, o^ayia, Kapvovv).

Apart from his attachment to an approach to religion on the basis of ritual, Nilsson had an unsurpassed knowledge of Classical Antiquity. One of his teachers was the German classicist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, the founder of the method which is known in classics as Hermeneutics. Nilsson was mainly a historian of

53 For the criticism of these theories, see Burkert (1981), 93-5. Also Burkert (1983: 27-9).

religion, 'perhaps the greatest of all modern scholars in the field of Greek religion',54 but as such he also exploited his qualities as a philologist, an archaeologist, and a historian.

To the modern scholar of religion, many of Nilsson's interpretations and categorizations might seem arbitrary and old-fashioned. For instance, the Swedish author often distinguished the religion of the 'educated' (die Gebildeten) from the religious beliefs of the 'people', the 'simple folk' (die Massen);55 or, even, the religion of the city-states from cults in the country. The latter distinction is perhaps due to Nilsson's rural background (his parents were peas-ants).56 Despite these and other questionable aspects, Nilsson's works represent what is still the most thorough and systematic attempt to characterize Greek religion, from Mycenaean times down to the Roman Imperial period. His most representative book, entitled Geschichte der griechischen Religion (1940), is very well organized and shows a vast knowledge of the evidence.

Nilsson integrates the issue of sacrifice into his general comments on Greek cult. Thus, generic sacrificial terms are discussed in his works introductory to religion.57 Nilsson even provides us with a short account of Robertson Smith's theory on the totemistic character of animal sacrifice, which he rejects as regards Greeks and 'other Indo-European peoples'^8 Otherwise, sacrifice is mainly mentioned by Nilsson in the context of Classical civic religion.59

55 See Wide-Nilsson (1931), 38-9. See also the title of ch. 8 in Nilsson (1925), 263: 'The religion of the cultured classes and the religion of the peasants', and Nilsson (19512), 676 ('die Volksreligion'), 700 ('Leuten' vs. 'gebildeten Leuten'), 701 ('hoher'-'Erlesen' vs. 'nieder'); in ibid. 681 Nilsson attributes the success of Christianity to the simplicity of the people.

56 In fact, in Nilsson's work there is an underlying link between the distinctions educated-folk and city-country. See mainly Nilsson (1940), 20-1. Also Nilsson (19512), 699.

57 Nilsson (19673), 70-1, 77-9, and on the various types of sacrifice, 79-80, 94-7, 122-4, 129-135. Wide-Nilsson (1931), 18-20.

59 Thus, cases where sacriWce is discussed by Nilsson include the following: sacrificial perquisites in the sale of priesthoods: Nilsson (1925), 247, (1948), 68; funerary sacrificial cults of aristocratic families: Nilsson (1925), 248. Nilsson also discusses festivals, (a) in their agricultural context: Nilsson (1940), 24, 26; (b) as a sign of state power—Nilsson says that these were the only opportunities for meat-eating: Nilsson (1925), 254-6, where there is a short discussion on prices. See also

As regards Nilsson's treatment of later periods, it is easy to see that the Swedish scholar tries to harmonize whatever evidence there is for animal sacriWce with his view of the decline of Greek religion in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It is worth dwelling for a moment on Nilsson's treatment of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Nilsson talks about the 'Hellenistic-Roman time' as one period (hellenistischeromische Zeit),6° and notes a reduced interest of the Greeks in Greek religion during this period. According to Nilsson, this lack of interest was the result of the decline of Greek city-states, to which religion ('patriotic religion', in Nilsson's terms) had hitherto been attached.61 From the Hellenistic period onwards, says Nilsson, individualism replaced patriotism^2 religion was a personal, not a civic, matter,63 since Greek cities were lost in the wider context of the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Roman Empire.64 The educated turned to philosophy, and the great mass of people to superstition, mysteries, and foreign cults. From the Greek cults, only those of Asklepios and Hecate retained great popularity.65

The same scholar thinks that the interest of Hellenistic poets and historians in Greek religion was due only to an intellectual romanticism, which culminated in Pausanias' text, representing the second-century archaism fostered by Hadrian. This romanticism was exactly symptomatic of the decline of Greek religion.66

Nilsson (1948), 66-7, 68, (1940), 87, 94; and (c) as an opportunity for the establishment of interstate relations; Nilsson (1925), 256-7, where the following cases are discussed: colonies sending sacrificial animals to the metropolis (with an emphasis on the Athenian procession of victims—see also Nilsson (1948), 68), a colonist's sacrifice in the mother-city, and a common sacrifice of two Cretan cities.

Nilsson also refers to the diVerences between sacriWcial cults; men vs. heroes: 'The forms of the cult of living men were in general not those of the cult of heroes; sacrifices of blood (a^ayia) were not offered to the former, but altars were raised and burnt-offerings made upon them just as to the gods' (Nilsson (1925), 286). Gods vs. heroes and the dead: morning for the cult of the gods, night for the heroes and the dead; sacrifice on altars for the gods, use of Ka^apai for the heroes and the dead (ibid. 295).

64 Nilsson (19512), 695. However, Nilsson accepts the partial survival of the old state religions in the form of local patriotism: ibid. and Nilsson (1948), 177, 187.

66 Wide-Nilsson (1931), 41-2; Nilsson (1925), 295-9.

To Nilsson, the reduced interest in Greek religion was a reality already detectable in philosophical teachings of the early Hellenistic period, when, among other symptoms, people were influenced by Theophrastus' objections to animal sacrificed Thus, Greek inscriptions talking about a pure heart are explained as a result of Theo-phrastus' wider appeal^8 and Plutarch's text (with no references) as corroboration of the increased tendency to magic.69

All this negative disposition towards later Greek religion underlies an article written by Nilsson in 1945, in which he deals with animal sacrifice more extensively,7° and argues for its decline in the Roman period. In this article, Nilsson Wrst argues that in pre-Hellenistic Greek religion, sacriWce was an expensive cultic act, taking place once a year or on special family occasions. And he adds: 'In Greek religion there was also a monthly cult, especially the cult of Apollo and the house cult; yet as far as is known animal sacriWce did not occur in this, rather oVerings of a less pretentious kind. It might seem to the Greeks that they venerated their gods too rarely, bringing oVerings to them generally once a year, less frequently once a month, and more often at irregular occasions.'7i Nilsson goes on to say that, at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, we come across the Wrst daily offerings. Passing on to the time of Pausanias, he says that daily service continued to be practised, but 'animal sacriWce was not the dominating rite'.72 Strikingly enough, Pausanias' references to daily offerings as quoted by Nilsson do not support this view.73

A long section of the article is dedicated to examples of cultic use of incense, lamps, hymns, and speeches, as evidence for the fact that animal sacriWce was rejected not only by Christians but by pagans, too. Among these examples, several belong to the Roman period or come from Asia Minor. The final section of the article is about the cult of Asklepios, and an inscription from Epidauros, where the word

6s Nilsson (1948), 90, with no references.

72 Ibid. 65. Nilsson can easily go on to talk about the Roman period, since he believes in the continuity of the Roman period with the Hellenistic one (see n. 60 above).

73 Pausanias, Elis I, XIII.10, Achaia, XXIII.11.

vvpfapos is brought forward by Nilsson as evidence for incense-offering (the inscription is LSS 25, 2nd or 3rd c. ad): '. ..a fire-bearer went round the altars, probably to burn incense (any other sacriWce is hardly thinkable) .'74 Nilsson bases his argument on this mutilated inscription in order to restore the sequence of a ritual not based on animal sacriWce. This ritual 'impressed people and seemed to them to be a more appropriate veneration of the gods than animal sacriWce which took place but rarely and at irregular intervals'^5 So, in Nilsson's view, Greeks showed an increasing lack of interest in animal sacriWce, because they began to realize that this practice was inappropriate to worship, and favoured other cultic forms instead.

In recent standard works on Greek religion, even that of the later period, the refutation of Nilsson's argument is not among the aims of the authors.76 In fact, to the extent that the second chapter of this book (on Greek animal sacrifice) can be read independently of its connection with the chapter on Christianity, it is structured so as to serve the following aim: to establish the thesis of continuity in animal sacriWcial practice by means of which it is proven that there is no sufficient evidence to support Nilsson's claim that animal sacrifice was in decline in the period we are studying. One could be sceptical about my choice to disprove Nilsson's outdated views. However, Nilsson's work is still pivotal in the study of Greek religion, and modern scholars still cite it, sometimes without making clear to the reader which aspects of the section cited are still valid and which not.77 Nilsson's still overwhelming Wgure, and the fact that he is the only classicist who saw Greek religion—and, thus, sacrifice— diachronically, provide a legitimate framework in which we can set out the evidence.

Further historical approaches

Among modern scholars, only R. Lane Fox has challenged Nilsson's view on the decline of animal sacrificial cult.78 He has insisted on the

77 See e.g. Beard-North-Price (1998), i. 342, n. 78, where the reader would expect the writers to keep their distance from the Nilssonian cliches contained in the pages cited.

fact that bloodless cult was not a new way of worship, starting in the Hellenistic period. He has correctly advocated the view in favour of which this book argues, namely that whenever animal sacriWce was not oVered, this was due more to Wnancial reasons than to moral hesitation. Unfortunately, his point is not accompanied by references proving it: 'The bloodless alternative to sacrifice owed something to ease and economy, but nothing to growing scruples about shedding animals' blood. When pagans could pay for it, they did, and the scruples of a few philosophers made no impact.'^ However, sacrifice does not constitute the main theme in Lane Fox's book, so there is no systematic refutation of Nilsson's theory. Lane Fox's examples of animal sacrifice come from Miletus (2nd c. ad), Astypalaia (2nd or 1st c. bc), Pisidia (Imperial period), Asklepios' shrine at Pergamum (apparently 2nd c. ad), and Lydia. Quite strikingly, most of these examples refer to Asia Minor and not mainland Greece, where one can also Wnd numerous instances of animal sacriWce.

Finally, a few other works on religion, which deal with the issue of sacriWce, should be mentioned here. A very original approach to sacriWce from the point of view of the Roman imperial cult is that by S. R. F. Price in Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial cult in Asia Minor (1984). Apart from an analysis of the dynamics of the imperial cult, Price has also stressed the importance of two issues: that of the exact recipient in the sacriWces of the imperial cult and that of the divine (or not) status of the emperor. In this regard, Price's book touches the area of anthropology, and it is the combination of history and anthropology that certainly constitutes its originality.

As regards Jewish sacriWce, two authors should be mentioned, even if they have not provided us with a satisfactory interpretation of the issue. E. P. Sanders's book Judaism; Practice and Belief: 63 bce-66 ce (1992) could be regarded as the only one which acknowledges the importance of animal sacrifice in the Temple of the Roman period; it contains very vivid descriptions of the sacriWcial activities in the Temple.

I should also mention R. K. Yerkes' Sacrifice in Greek and Roman Religions and Early Judaism (1952), even if it does not deal with the period covered by this book. Despite its ambitious title, the work leaves

out the most crucial phenomenon in the relation of Judaism to Christianity: the coexistence of the two before ad 70.

The survey above has not included all the monographs or parts of monographs which deal with special aspects of the subject.8° What I have rather tried to present here is a 'history' of the most influential schools of thought concerned with sacriWce, a sort of common background from which every scholar has to start. I have presented the inauguration, use, and handing down of methodological tools, which were used selectively according to each scholar's personal preferences. What remains for the inheritor of this tradition is the awareness that he/she uses models which others have used, and accordingly the impulse to specify the meanings and limits of his/ her own methods.


It is evident that the anthropological theories presented above are based on sources of the Classical-early Hellenistic periods as regards Greek religion, and on the Bible (that is the First and early Second Temple periods) as regards Judaism. What is more, even this historical background is used as foundation for the formation of anthropological theories on the origins of sacriWce, for which, actually, we have no evidence. So, as regards chronological limits and intent, these theories can contribute very little to the aims of the present book. Methodologically, however, anthropological theories such as the ones above can be used as a basis for a discussion on sacriWce. Thus, one notices that anthropological theories on sacriWce move along two lines, the one vertical, the other horizontal. The vertical line concerns the relation between the offerer of sacrifice and its recipient, s° See e.g. on choice and cost of animals, Jameson (1988). Or on military sacrifices, Pritchett (1979), 83-90. Sarah Peirce (1993) denies even the smallest evidence of guilt during Greek sacrifice, and instead reinterprets the old theory of sacrifice as a gift. The idea of sacrificial guilt is also criticized by A. Henrichs (1998). For a further sacrificial theory based on the idea of violence, see Bloch (1992), 24-45.

a relation which is expressed in the beliefs of the worshippers, by means of a theological or metaphysical language. The horizontal refers to the relation of the offerer with the reality in which he/she belongs, that is, the members of his/her society, the principles and the materials within it.

Some theories have their focus on the vertical line (Tylor, Hubert and Mauss, Evans-Pritchard), others on the horizontal one (Meuli, Burkert, Smith, Girard), others on both lines (Robertson Smith, Frazer, Vernant, and, even though not an anthropologist, Price), but this does not mean that there can be an absolute distinction between the theories according to their focus. It is also worth noticing that most anthropological theories on Jewish sacriWce focus on the vertical line, that is, the oVerer's relation to the Jewish God.

As regards the historical approaches to sacrifice presented above, one could clearly state that historical theories on sacriWce are missing (that is why, in this case, I have used the term 'approach' instead of 'theory'). In other words, there is no such thing as a 'history' of sacriWcial practice through time. The only historical approach to Greek religion, that of M. Nilsson, does not have sacriWce as its focus, and even when it does (for instance, in Nilsson's article of 1945), it is influenced by Nilsson's evolutionist idealization of the Classical period, and his underlying view that monotheism came as an answer to the already reduced interest in Greek religion.

Of course, as we shall see in this book, not much changed through time as regards practices and modes of animal killing, mainly in Greek religion (in Judaism one notices minor diVerences through time). So, a diachronic study of Greek religion or Judaism in isolation is not very appropriate, since the two religious systems remained more or less the same. However, something must have changed when Christianity, a new religious system, entered their Weld. It is obvious that the missing aspect of all the historical presentations is that none of them tries to study the impact which the attested coexistence of Greek religion and Judaism with Christianity had on animal sacriWcial practice. This point is the main question addressed by the present book.

The theories presented above either look for the origins of animal sacriWce or just take it for granted. I rather focus on the events triggering the cessation of animal sacrifice—even if the term 'cessation'

is itself relative, as will be shown. Obviously, a theory explaining the cessation of animal sacriWce would presuppose a systematic study of the circumstances under which this cessation took place. This book is primarily a Wrst attempt to look into these circumstances by demonstrating the centrality which animal sacriWce continued to have in Greek religion and Judaism when Christianity appeared.^ Only at the end is a more personal view on the cessation of the practice expressed.

It is now time that I presented a few points about the view taken in this book as regards animal sacriWce. (I have stated from the beginning that, in this chapter, I continue to use the term 'sacriWce' with no further speciWcation, because most scholars whose theories I have presented have done so. Yet it has been evident that, in forming their theories, all these scholars mainly had animal sacriWce in mind.)

Having been influenced by the methodology of the anthropologists whose work I have studied, I think that the act of sacriWce is a composite of beliefs, gestures, objects, and materials, which are defined by both the vertical and horizontal lines, as these have been described above: that is, vertical is the line linking oVerer and recipient, and horizontal is the one linking the oVerer with objective reality. Both the vertical and horizontal lines are characterized by the use of codes.

In my view, sacriWce is a way for the oVerer to approach the recipient (either divine or not). I do not use the phrase 'communicate with' the recipient, because the response of the recipient is not always obvious to the external observer. This approach is eVected along what I have called the vertical line, which includes every belief, wish, or intention which the oVerer bears in mind when performing the act of sacriWce. The codes of the vertical line through which the oVerer

81 Actually, while my book was in the process of being published, Guy Stroumsa made a similar attempt: Stroumsa (2005). The promising title of his book (La Fin du sacrifice) creates expectations in the reader. Despite admitting the writer's knowledge of a rich recent bibliography, in fact one has to be satisfied with a general, and at times simplistic, overview of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. Furthermore, Stroumsa tends to focus on Christian writers of the third and fourth centuries. However, it is worth retaining Stroumsa's comparison of the cessation of sacriWce to a 'change of paradigm'—in Thomas Kuhn's terms; I would not agree, though, with his view that this change consists in an 'interiorisation de la religion': see Stroumsa (2005), 24-5.

approaches the recipient are, for instance, those of metaphysics, theology, or religious art. Furthermore, the code of language is an intrinsic component of the vertical line, because it is through language that all other codes are communicated, so language is common to the whole vertical line.

On the other hand, the horizontal line of the sacrificial procedure represents man's reality in the strict sense: the members of the society to which the offerer belongs, their principles, and the practicalities available within the framework of this society. We could imagine this line as consisting of many sections, each representing a particular realm of reality: the realm of cultic space and instruments, the realm of offerings (including animals, or parts of their bodies, plants, and even non-organic objects), the realm of human activities (modes of killing people/animals or of dying), the realm of values (justice, purity), the realm of lifestyles (continence)—and others, which, if listed, would produce an endless series. Each of these realms functions through a code (buildings, images), but, as in the case of the vertical line, apart from their own codes, the meaning of all these realms is further communicated by the common code of language, that is, words. Words do not constitute a particular realm, but move along the whole horizontal line (see Figs. A to C, where language has been depicted in italics).

This book mainly deals with the horizontal line, the line of reality. Moreover, despite the fact that reality is detectable through a great deal of evidence other than textual, this book is mainly written on the basis of texts.

If we were to draw only a part of the horizontal line, characterizing each section of it ('space + instruments', etc.), we would have Fig. A, in which it is clear that language ('lang.') arises in every section of the line.

— space + instruments (lang.)-offerings (lang.)-activities (lang.)-values (lang.)-lifestyles (lang.)-

Fig A. The horizontal line of sacrificial procedure (a section thereof)

If we provide indicatively some of the respective linguistic terms in italics ('open altar,'ox', etc.) underneath each section of the horizontal line, this gives us Fig. B.

■ space + instruments-offerings-activities-values-lifestyles-

Greek religion

(open altar) (ox) (slaughter) (honour of (civic tradition)

the dead)


(Jerusalem Temple) (pigeons) (slaughter) ('restoration (obedience to after childbirth) the Law)

Fig B. The horizontal line with associated linguistic terms

Of course, these are specific terms used for the separate elements in an animal sacrifice. The more general terms used for the notion of 'sacrifice' in Greek and Jewish religion (see pp. 33-7 and 173, respectively) cover more than one section of the line. This is to be expected, since sacrifice is a whole procedure for the activation of which the offerer selects objects and beings from many domains of the real world around him or her. Thus, in the case of Greek and Jewish religion, Fig. B could be changed as shown in Fig. C (with the reader always bearing in mind that this is only a part of the line).

-space + instruments-offerings-activities-values-lifestyles-

Greek religion

--------lepa hueiv--------(honour of (civic tradition)

the dead)


---p r e s e r v a t i o n - o f f e r i n g-----(restoration' (obedience to after childbirth) the Law)

Upa Bveiv = offer a sacrifice (see p. 34)

Fig C. The horizontal line with generic sacriWcial terms

As we shall see in the relevant section, Fig. C will help us understand the mechanism of metaphor used in Christian texts. By means of metaphor the terms normally applied to a section of the line move towards other sections of it.

I have to stress that the horizontal line, that is, the one linking the offerer with objective reality, directly depends on the vertical line. In other words, the relation of the offerer to the recipient is what defines the materials and gestures evident in a sacrificial act. For instance, if a group of worshippers believe that their recipient has human needs, this will result in a succession of sacrificial acts involving the offering of a portion of meat to the particular god.

So, whereas both lines are open to a structuralist study on the basis of semiotics, I believe that the horizontal line is more easily accessible, if we want to embark on the study of radical religious changes. By accepting the interdependence of the two lines, we shall be able to recognize that an obvious change in the horizontal line signiWes that a fundamental change in the whole system has taken place. This is because, when a worshipper starts thinking diVerently of his/her relation to the object of sacrificial worship (vertical line), this results in the use of diVerent codes in the everyday reality of worship (horizontal line). In other words, a change in the vertical line results in changes in the horizontal line, even if the modern observer Wrst spots the changes in the latter.

Minor changes in ritual (for instance, the quantity of animals sacriWced) should not be regarded as stemming from a change in religious beliefs (vertical line), but rather as a variety in the horizontal line of the sacriWcial system.

It must have become evident that the writer of this book has a preference for structuralist approaches to the issue of sacrifice, although her main method is the traditional hermeneutic one, which consists in the close reading of texts. But, as we shall see in the book's final section (Epilogue), a thorough study of the relevant textual sources provides us with the necessary historical background to make the search for signs a fruitful one.

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