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📙 Interpreting early Hellenistic religion: A study based on the mystery cult of Demeter and the cult of Isis by Petra Pakkanen — free download


Two cults, the Great Mysteries of Demeter and the cult of Isis, in Hellenistic Greece, especially in Athens and Delos, as related to the city of Athens from the third to the first centuries BC, have been examined on the basis of inscriptions, ancient literature, archaeological material and research literature. These cults function as examples characterizing the features of religion in early Hellenistic Athens and the change in it. The method departs from the methods used in the history of religions and of the phenomenology of religion, firstly by giving a description of the cults as a basis and, secondly, by giving an interpretation of them. The cult of Demeter had a remarkable continuity and was also in Hellenistic times a Panhellenic festival and a symbol for the city of Athens. The participants, administration, finances and expression of this public festival are examined. The same aspects of the cult of Isis, a newcomer to Athens, are likewise studied. The so called 'mystery nature' of both of these cults is examined from various aspects, and the terminus post quem for the existance of the Mysteries proper of Isis in Greece is determined. On the level of interpretation the four commonly accepted concepts characterizing Hellenistic religion are re-evaluated on the basis of the primary material from early Hellenistic Athens, Delos and areas related to them. These concepts are syncretism, monotheistic trend, individualism and cosmopolitanism. Even though they are widely used generalisations, it is possible and necessary to reinterpret them.

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