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.
The various Attic calendars are perfect examples of the importance of heroes in local cult. no political explanation of a hero cult will have much power that does not start from the experience of the worshipper who visited the shrine and, where it was not consumed in the flames, ate the sacrificial meat.” The last sentence is a perfect transition to the next chapter, the fifth one ("Killing, Dining, Communicating").
The last part of the chapter questions the motives for their worship, the benefit expected by their worshippers, which is not primarily a “political” one, as sometimes assumed. After dealing with the gods and heroes, Parker scrutinizes sacrifice, the main ritual that achieves communication with them.
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.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.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.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?Against the first argument, it can be argued that there were no “charter myths” in ancient Greece, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, that Aristophanes’s play The Birds plays on the image of smoke feeding the gods (v.187-193, 1262-1266), one of whom, Prometheus, is put on stage talking about the lack of smoke for the gods who are hungry (v. The second argument can be qualified by the fact that sacrifice is a complex process that entails various ways of exploring statuses: meat-offering is a human expression of hierarchy, which adds something else, in terms of definition, to the burnt part of the animal.The first chapter ("Why Believe without Revelation?The Evidences of Greek Religion") analyses the different implications of a religious system without sacred book(s) or reference writings.