Classical Mythology, Day 20

In this class we continue to examine the relationship between storytelling and human life in the Archaic age by paying special attention to Greek ‘Religion’, separated into parts that include ritual, sacrifice, and divination. We will move between theories of ritual and religion and textual and archaeological evidence for actual practices. In closing, we will consider the extreme case of human omens: stories of and ritual response to intersex births and experiences in the Ancient Mediterranean.

Ancient Authors Discussed

Homer, Archaic Age

Plato, Classical Period

Aristotle, Classical Period

Ovid, Roman Imperial Period

Diodorus Siculus, Hellenistic/Roman Republican Period

Pausanias, Roman Imperial Period

Phlegon of Tralles

Some Suggested Course Texts

Iliad, book 1

Pausanias, 2.1-2.30

A terrible story of an intersex child as an Omen

Thury’s Notes on Victor Turner

Burkert, Greek Religion: “Animal Sacrifice”


Links to Blogposts

Aristotle on Monsters

Diodorus Siculus on Superstition and Intersex Births

A terrible story of an intersex child as an Omen

A collection of intersex tales from Ancient Greece and Rome


Modern Authors Mentioned

Victor Turner

Walter Burkert


Other Articles for Additional Reading

Hilary Ilkay’s essay on “Ovid’s Mythological Hermaphrodite

Cassie Garrison’s Essay on “Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity: The Trial and Consciousness of Callon

Das, Veena. “Language of Sacrifice.” Man, New Series, 18, no. 3 (1983): 445-62. doi:10.2307/2801591.

Caroline Humphrey and James Laidlaw. “Sacrifice and Ritualization.”

Walter Burkert. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. 1983

For a starter bibliography on Sacrifice in the Ancient Mediterranean, see this BMCR Review

Alexiou, Margaret. “Reappropriating Greek Sacrificehomo necans or άνθρωπος θυσιάζων?” Journal of Modern Greek Studies, vol. 8 no. 1, 1990, pp. 97-123. Project MUSE


Student Links



Sacrifice of a young boar, with kalos inscription (ΕΠΙΔΡΟΜΟΣ ΚΑΛΟΣ). Tondo from an Attic red-figure cup, ca. 510 BC–500 BC.

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