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

Start - End 
2020 - 2021 (stopped)
Department of History
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This project examines the role of written records and record-keeping in the construction of religious knowledge in ancient Greece. Traditionally, Greek religion is understood as an action-orientated religion based on oral tradition, in which writing was only of significance in so-called ‘marginal’ and ‘magical’ practices, such as Orphism and the writing of curses and binding spells. This project challenges this portrayal. It does so by focusing not on the role of writing, but specifically on practices of recording, and the written records which emerged. In doing so, it reveals the significant afterlife of written records in a variety of religious practices and experiences, demonstrating how texts such as oracular questions or answers, ritual norms, or divine invocations in legal texts, influenced religious practices and experiences in ancient Greek society. In particular, the project illuminates the role such written records could play in the construction and preservation of religious knowledge. Making use of a broad definition of ‘archives’, following recent work in the field of the archival history of sciences, this project sheds new light on the unusual forms in which the ancient Greeks preserved information beyond living memory to create a religious knowledge system of their unknowable gods.