Inscribing religion. Writing, records and religious knowledge in Ancient Greece

Start - End 
2020 - 2023 (ongoing)
Department of History
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This project examines the role of written records in the construction of religious knowledge in ancient Greece. Traditionally, Greek religion has been understood as an action-orientated religion based on oral tradition, in which writing was only of significance in so-called ‘marginal’ and ‘magical’ practices like Orphism and curse-writing. This project challenges such a portrayal by uncovering the varied spaces and occasions where writing, specifically written records, did play a role in Greek religion. It does so through three interconnected lines of enquiry, examining the recording of Delphic oracles on epigraphic sources; the use of written oracular questions in the divinatory practice of the Dodona oracle itself, and the function of sanctuaries as sites for display of inscribed laws, decrees, and ritual norms.

The project pays attention to the afterlife – through display, re-use and re-quotation – of inscribed religious documents and maps these written records onto the sacred spaces in which they were stored and displayed. By adopting and adapting methodologies recently developed in the field of archival history, which employs a broad definition to reconceptualise ‘archives’, and by foregrounding the materiality of inscribed texts, this project sheds new light on the unusual forms in which the ancient Greeks recorded information to create, preserve and transmit religious knowledge.