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Author Topic: The Cattle of the Sun: Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks.  (Read 1617 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Topic Start: April 06, 2011, 09:01:40 pm »

Title: The Cattle of the Sun: Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks.
Author(s): Jeremy McInerney
Publisher: Princeton/Oxford:  Princeton University Press
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 0691140073
ISBN-13:
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

From the Bryn Mawr Classic Review:
In The Cattle of the Sun: Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks, J. McInerney argues convincingly that cattle continued to play a central role within the Greek imaginaire long after it became impractical for Greek households to keep and pasture large herds of cattle. Although by the Classical period the Greeks could no longer be described as transhumanant pastoralists, McInerney discusses how the Greeks retained a “bovine register,” never entirely abandoning “the herder’s habits of mind” (4). Later Greek practices and cultural artifacts evince this “bovine register” and preserve traces of a time in Greece’s history when cows were, indeed, king. On the whole, McInerney’s book is stronger on the historical and religious aspects of Greek cattle culture than on the role cattle played in Greek literary culture, but readers interested in early Greek pastoralism, land management, the evolution of sanctuaries, the ancient Greek economy, and, to a lesser extent, animal studies will discover much of value. Scholars interested in extending the discussion of the role cows played in the Greek imaginaire through analyses of later Greek sayings, literature, and visual art will find McInerney’s demonstration of the deeply embedded importance of cattle in Greek society a solid historical foundation on which to build.

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

Additional Description:
Though Greece is traditionally seen as an agrarian society, cattle were essential to Greek communal life, through religious sacrifice and dietary consumption. Cattle were also pivotal in mythology: gods and heroes stole cattle, expected sacrifices of cattle, and punished those who failed to provide them. The Cattle of the Sun ranges over a wealth of sources, both textual and archaeological, to explore why these animals mattered to the Greeks, how they came to be a key element in Greek thought and behavior, and how the Greeks exploited the symbolic value of cattle as a way of structuring social and economic relations.

Jeremy McInerney explains that cattle's importance began with domestication and pastoralism: cattle were nurtured, bred, killed, and eaten. Practically useful and symbolically potent, cattle became social capital to be exchanged, offered to the gods, or consumed collectively. This circulation of cattle wealth structured Greek society, since dedication to the gods, sacrifice, and feasting constituted the most basic institutions of Greek life. McInerney shows that cattle contributed to the growth of sanctuaries in the Greek city-states, as well as to changes in the economic practices of the Greeks, from the Iron Age through the classical period, as a monetized, market economy developed from an earlier economy of barter and exchange.

Combining a broad theoretical approach with a careful reading of sources, The Cattle of the Sun illustrates the significant position that cattle held in the culture and experiences of the Greeks.

Special Notes:
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Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from Amazon.com and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron.



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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