Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide / Edition 1

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Overview

Religious beliefs and practices, which permeated all aspects of life in antiquity, traveled well-worn routes throughout the Mediterranean: itinerant charismatic practitioners journeying from place to place peddled their skills as healers, purifiers, cursers, and initiators; and vessels decorated with illustrations of myths traveled with them. New gods encountered in foreign lands by merchants and conquerors were sometimes taken home to be adapted and adopted. A full understanding of this complex spiritual world unfolds in Religions of the Ancient World, the first basic reference work that collects and organizes available information to offer an expansive, comparative perspective.

At once sweeping in scope and groundbreaking in format, the Guide eschews the usual encyclopedic approach, instead presenting, side by side, materials from ten cultures and traditions. Thus specific beliefs, cults, gods, and ritual practices that arose and developed in Mediterranean religions--of Egypt, Anatolia and the Near East, Mesopotamia, Iran, Greece, and the Roman world, from the third millennium to the fourth century C.E.--are interpreted in comparison with one another, and with reference to aspects that crisscross cultural boundaries, such as Cosmology, Myth, Law and Ethics, and Magic. Written by leading scholars of ancient religion, the essays in this guide sketch the various religious histories, raise central theoretical issues, and examine individual topics such as Sacred Times and Spaces; Prayers, Hymns, Incantations, and Curses; Sin, Pollution, and Purity; Death, the Afterlife, and Other Last Things; Divination and Prophecy; Deities and Demons; and Sacred Texts and Canonicity.

Clearly and stylishly written, grandly illustrated, this comprehensive work welcomes readers as never before into the diversity and interconnections of religion in the ancient world.

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Editorial Reviews

Review of Biblical Literature

Comparative study of ancient cultures—especially ancient religious conceptions—has evolved in recent decades, and this volume meets an important desideratum in light of scholarly advances... 'Key Topics' is the most distinctive feature of the book, and one that will make this reference tool valuable for many years to come, especially when used together with the first two parts for comparative purposes...This volume contains a wealth of information.
— Bill T. Arnold

Journal of the American Oriental Society

Every once in a long while, a reference work comes along that is certain from the outset to become a well-used standard. Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide is such a work, which is unsurprising given that approximately one hundred forty top scholars contributed to the articles inside. Not quite an encyclopedia, not quite a collection of essays, this unique volume is the first comprehensive and comparative reference guide to a wide array of topics in ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern religions.
— Frances Flannery

Review of Biblical Literature - Bill T. Arnold
Comparative study of ancient cultures--especially ancient religious conceptions--has evolved in recent decades, and this volume meets an important desideratum in light of scholarly advances... 'Key Topics' is the most distinctive feature of the book, and one that will make this reference tool valuable for many years to come, especially when used together with the first two parts for comparative purposes...This volume contains a wealth of information.
Journal of the American Oriental Society - Frances Flannery
Every once in a long while, a reference work comes along that is certain from the outset to become a well-used standard. Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide is such a work, which is unsurprising given that approximately one hundred forty top scholars contributed to the articles inside. Not quite an encyclopedia, not quite a collection of essays, this unique volume is the first comprehensive and comparative reference guide to a wide array of topics in ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern religions.
Library Journal
Johnston (Greek/Latin, Ohio State) has solicited the contributions of over 100 scholars to produce this informative but curiously organized reference work dealing specifically (despite the title) with religions of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. In her introduction, Johnston argues for the importance of a comparative approach, given the early proliferation of cross-cultural influences in the region. Thus, the heart of the volume consists of long encyclopedic articles treating a particular topic (e.g. "Myth and Sacred Narratives," "Ethics and Law Codes," or "Religious Personnel") from a synoptic, multi- faith perspective. The first section, in which 11 short essays sketchily introduce many of the same topics, and the second section, which devotes brief chapters to individual religions or regions, both seem superfluous. Bottom Line The expert contributors know their stuff but make few concessions to lay readers. The prose is highly formal, densely packed, and replete with specialized terms; and the bibliographies cite many technical and foreign language works. Still, this large, nicely illustrated book is a bargain; recommended for academic libraries.-Charles Seymour, Mabee Learning Resources Ctr., Wayland Baptist Univ., Plainview, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674015173
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Series: Harvard University Press Reference Library Series , #18
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 1,223,039
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 10.54 (h) x 1.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Iles Johnston is Professor of Greek and Latin at Ohio State University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
Sarah Iles Johnston

Note on Translation and Transliteration

Abbreviations

Maps

ENCOUNTERING ANCIENT RELIGIONS

What Is Ancient Mediterranean Religion?
Fritz Graf

Monotheism and Polytheism
Jan Assmann

Ritual
Jan Bremmer

Myth
Fritz Graf

Cosmology: Time and History
John J. Collins

Pollution, Sin, Atonement, Salvation
Harold W. Attridge

Law and Ethics
Eckart Otto

Mysteries
Sarah Iles Johnston

Religions in Contact
John Scheid

Writing and Religion
Mary Beard

Magic
Sarah Iles Johnston

HISTORIES

Egypt
Jan Assmann and David Frankfurter

Mesopotamia
Paul-Alain Beaulieu

Syria and Canaan
David P. Wright

Israel
John J. Collins

Anatolia: Hittites
David P. Wright

Iran
William Malandra and Michael Stausberg

Minoan and Mycenaean Civilizations
Nanno Marinatos

Greece
Jon Mikalson

Etruria
Olivier de Cazanove

Rome
John North

Early Christianity
Harold Attridge

KEY TOPICS

Sacred Times and Spaces

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Dictionary of Religious Festivals

Religious Personnel

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Religious Organizations and Bodies

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Rome

Christianity

Sacrifice, Offerings, and Votives

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Prayers, Hymns, Incantations, and Curses

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Divination and Prophecy

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Deities and Demons

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece and Rome

Etruria

Christianity

Dictionary of Deities and Demons

Religious Practices of the Individual and Family

Introduction

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Rites of Passage

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Rome

Christianity

Illnesses and Other Crises

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece and Rome

Etruria

Christianity

Death, the Afterlife, and Other Last Things

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Sin, Pollution, and Purity

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Rome

Christianity

Ethics and Law Codes

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Rome

Christianity

Theology, Theodicy, Philosophy

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece and Rome

Christianity

Religion and Politics

Introduction

Egypt

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Rome

Christianity

Controlling Religion

Introduction

Egypt

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Rome

Christianity

Myth and Sacred Narratives

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece and Rome

Etruria

Christianity

Visual Representations

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Syria-Canaan

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece, Rome, and Etruria

Christianity

Sacred Texts and Canonicity

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Israel

Anatolia

Iran

Greece

Etruria

Rome

Christianity

Esotericism and Mysticism

Introduction

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Israel

Manicheism

Theurgy

Hermeticism

Gnosticism

Epilogue
Bruce Lincoln

Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Contributors

Index

Color plates follow p. 172

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2008

    I Wish I Knew

    I was simply delighted to find this book but once I read it I regretted buying it. It is misleading in quite a few places and outright wrong in others. Sometimes I felt like the authors were simply lieing to thier audience. I learned more about Roman paganism by reading the biography of Cicero by Anthony Everitt and I learned more about Persian and Babylonian paganism in the first sixty pages of Persian Fire by Tom Holland. The sections of Israel and Christianity were full of erroneous information, so much so I felt like it was a purposefull propaganda campaign design to discredit Christianity and Judaism. The most valuable reason for reading the book is to find out what the latest attacks are against the Church.

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