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Author Topic: Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets  (Read 3049 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Topic Start: February 20, 2010, 04:09:21 pm »

Title: Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets
Author(s): Fritz Graf, Sarah Iles Johnston
Publisher:   London and New York:  Routledge
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 0415415519
ISBN-13:
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

From the Bryn Mawr Classic Review:
This study of the enigmatic gold tablets, by two experts in the field of Greek religion in general and of these tablets in particular, provides an accessible introduction to these difficult texts, as well as an excellent overview of the religious contexts in which they were produced. As the title indicates, Graf and Johnston locate these tablets, which have been labeled as everything from Orphic to Dionysiac to Pythagorean, within the ritual practice of Bacchic mystery cults, although they maintain a connection with the mythical poet Orpheus and the rites attributed to him. Their edition makes accessible for the first time in English translation all of the currently published gold tablets, and their commentary is the only monograph devoted to the tablets in English.1 In addition to the texts and translations, the volume includes an excellent history of the scholarship, a chapter on the myth of Dionysos Zagreus that the authors imagine underlies the tablets, a chapter examining the eschatology of the tablets, a survey of Dionysiac Mystery Cults, and finally a chapter exploring what can be known about Orpheus, his poetry, and sacred texts in general within the Greek religious tradition. An appendix provides the texts and translations of some other pieces of evidence that seem to arise from similar contexts (the Olbia bone tablets, some other Olbian inscriptions, the Gurob papyrus, and the edict of Ptolemy concerning Dionysiac ritualists). Typographical or other production errors are few and trivial, and the book contains six images that add greatly to the arguments. Despite a few problems of interpretation (some serious), this study will be valuable, not only to those encountering these mysterious tablets for the first time, but also for experts in the field. Most important is the authors' articulation and employment of a model of bricolage to explain the complex processes of transmission and alteration within the Greek mythic and religious tradition that produced the tablets. While Levi-Strauss' model of the rag-bag tinker who puts together new things from the scraps of old has been around for decades, it has never been applied as usefully and broadly as Graf and Johnston do in their study. Their use of the bricolage model produces some of the best insights and explanations in the study -- not just of the tablets, but of Greek religion in general. Indeed, the main flaws in their work come in places where they fall short of applying the model as thoroughly as they might.

Read the full review at the Bryn Mawr Classic Review web site.

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Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.
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