History Other Essay

This essay has a total of 2197 words and 8 pages.

History Other

Mikey Ritualistic Sacrifice in Ancient Greek Mythology The ritual of sacrifice in Greek
literature played a prominent role in societal influence, defining many aspects of their
culture. Sacrifice was the foundation of moral concern, as well as an effective means of
narrative development in Greek tragedy. The thematic reoccurrence of sacrifice in Greek
literature reveals its symbolic importance. At a time when politics and religion were one
in the same, sacrifice was crucial in regulating governmental issues. Tragedies manipulate
rituals in order to portray a community's current sense of order or disorder. The pattern
of sacrifice typically entails conflict between the needs of an individual and those of a
community in crisis, ultimately resolved in favor of the community through willing
participation of the sacrificial victim (Easterling 188). Rites of sacrifice serve to
rectify corrupted relations, and maintain moral balance. The social order of Greek life is
constructed, by sacrifice, through irrevocable acts; religion and political existence were
thoroughly integrated forcing all other life functions to reflect this foundation. In
Greek literature, the role of sacrifice served many functions. The literal meaning of
sacrifice, in most instances, juxtaposes the consequences of its perpetrations, ultimately
establishing beneficial results. Most importantly, sacrifice was the basis of the
relations maintained between men and gods, establishing a means of contact and
interaction. Additionally, the practice of ritual sacrifice helped to classify the gods,
and differentiate them from one another: double aspects of a single deity, hierarchical
relations between two dietes, or the outstanding nature of one particular deity. And
finally, sacrifice functions directly to clarify the political rights of each individual
and reveal the structures of their social body (Sissa and Marcel). However, various
implementations of sacrifice can possibly induce different results depending on the
direction of the interaction. For example, sacrifice can take place between a god and
animals, humans, or another god thus revealing rites both of, and to mythological gods.
Mortals made sacrifices at any time, to any god during the occurrence of something that
fell with that deity's' jurisdiction, or as a payment of a vow (Sissa and Marcel). Rites
of sacrifice were also the focus of many cultural festivals in which additional purposes
were combined, such as rites of initiation, purification, fire, blood and oath. These
rites presented themselves in all facets of Greek culture, producing ritualistic transfers
of virtue, possessions, and power seeking to redress past injustices or to return
existence to the status quo. However, blood, oath, and fire rituals are simply additional
aspects, or traditions connected with rites of sacrifice that exemplify the detail once
exhibited surrounding previous experiences. For example, the power of blood in belief and
superstition exits only when it is warm running blood- as it is also necessary that the
altars become bloody, in adherence with ritualistic protocol. Occasionally human blood
rituals were performed, yet limited to only two reasons: before battle and at the burial
of the dead (Burkert 60). Although instances of sacrifice in Greek literature are not
limited by their purpose or triviality, as can be seen in exchanges of virtues or material
belongings, the traditional premise of ritual sacrifice is ceremonious in conduct and
essentially religious. Typically, the sacrificial victims are almost always
animals—customarily Greeks chose the bull, the sheep, the ox, the goat, or the pig as
honorable subjects (Burkert 55). Humanistic ritual, contrastingly, was not as prevalent
due to societal disapproval, though instances of human sacrifice did occasionally take
place in Ancient Greece. The moral decision pertaining to blatant human sacrifice creates
a double-standard in mythological theory: on one hand it is nothing more than the
sacrifice of a victim as a means to satisfy the vengeance of the gods; but on the other
hand it is a violent sacrilege resulting in the murder of another human. Greek
mythological accounts of human sacrifice reflect the hesitancy of society towards killing
one of their own. Rene Girard, a Civilization Professor at Stanford University presents
the rationalization of this position in his novel, Violence and the Sacred: "this dividing
of sacrifice into two categories, human and animal, has itself a sacrificial character, in
a strictly ritualistic sense. The division is based in effect on a value judgment, on the
preconception that one category of victim—the human being—is quite unsuitable for
sacrificial purposes, while another character—the animal—is eminently sacrificeable"
(11). Girard further maintains that both forms of sacrifice are unnecessarily violent in
nature contributing to a misunderstanding of value categorization. In order to remain
morally sound, there must be a unified set of specifications regarding individual's
appropriateness for sacrifice. Typically, Greek mythology portrayed the current moral
standards of society, thus creating the prominence of animal sacrifice in ritual. Yet, in
the Oresteia, the story of Agamemnon revolves around human sacrifice as a secondary motif.
Simultaneously, however, epitomizing public reaction to such types of ritual. The first
instance of sacrifice, and the cause of all following retribution, begins when Agamemnon
resolves to sacrifice his daughter, Iphpigenia, because of constraints being placed upon
him by Artemis and Zeus. And because Agamemnon is blinded by his determination for his
Army's success, he commits the sacrifice fervently. The chorus then provides the
appropriate reaction to this, announcing that the King "has had a change of heart that is
impure, sacrilegious: he is prepared to dare anything, his mind is made up…He dares to
become the sacrificer of his own daughter in order to help an army recapture a woman and
to open up the sea to his ships" (Aeschylus). The fact that Agamemnon willingly sacrifices
his daughter so quickly, shows that her life meant nothing to him once it began to
infringe upon his military progress. In tradition with other works by Aeschylus, the
corruption of sacrifice taints all interaction. The tragedy resolves itself through
further acts of immoral sacrifice motivated by vengeance. Agamenmnon's own wife,
Clytemnestra, becomes his murderer due to orders from the gods as well as out of her own
hatred for him. Thus, the play ends morally reversed, resulting in the triumph of
corruption. Yet the remaining trilogy in the Oresteia resolves the issues of
‘perverted-sacrifice,' once again establishing order. This play conveys the degree by
which the social order in Ancient Greece was constructed by sacrifice. The irrevocable
acts in Agamemnon produce a series of consequential events that essentially aid in
stabilizing the city's foundation. The strength of a city in Greek literature was
typically attributed to the blessings or vengeance inflicted by the gods. Strong
discipline, in Ancient Greece, prevented chaos and disorder as can be seen in Agamemnon.
Failure to observe and respect the absolute power of a god eventually overturned his
entire life. The punishments typically given out by gods were not set to any scale or
limit—a spiteful mood might provoke a decree of death for no particular offense at all.
But alongside rites of sacrifice, gods often punished by means of metamorphosis or
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