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Civic Rites: Democracy and Religion in Ancient Athens by Nancy Evans

By Nancy Evans

Civic Rites explores the spiritual origins of Western democracy through analyzing the govt. of fifth-century BCE Athens within the higher context of historic Greece and the jap Mediterranean. Deftly combining historical past, politics, and faith to weave jointly tales of democracy's first leaders and critics, Nancy Evans offers readers a contemporary's viewpoint on Athenian society. She vividly depicts the actual atmosphere and the ancestral rituals that nourished the folk of the earliest democratic nation, demonstrating how non secular issues have been embedded in Athenian governmental strategies. The book's lucid portrayals of the best-known Athenian festivals--honoring Athena, Demeter, and Dionysus--offer a balanced view of Athenian ritual and illustrate the diversity of such customs in fifth-century Athens.

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The Athenians were faced with constant pressure to import grain, and to export residents to colonies around the Mediterranean basin. The need to colonize and expand had been a factor in the larger Greek world since at least the tenth century. At that time Greeks began to settle other lands 18 cleisthenes around the Mediterranean, founding cities such as Corcyra (modern Corfu), Cyrene on the North Africa coast (today’s Libya), Syracuse in Sicily, and Naples in Italy. Even a city as far west as Marseilles on the coast of France started out as a Greek colony.

S. desert Southwest. The prevailing Mediterranean wind came in from the west, and Attica, being on the east side of a mountain range, received even less rainfall than some of its immediate neighbors. The arable land in the plains of Attica stretched between the mountains and the sea, and it was highly valued for the cultivation of grains—primarily barley, but wheat and rye were also grown. Wheat was the preferred cereal because it was a finer grain when milled, but barley was the preferred crop because it was more drought tolerant.

Dramatic festivals for the god Dionysus probably became popular during the rule of Pisistratus and his sons. Pisistratus used traditional cult practices to consolidate his power and advance a sense of cohesion and civic identity among the Athenians. An anecdote in Herodotus illustrates how Pisistratus’s sense of political theater eased his first return from exile: he found an unusually tall and beautiful woman, and dressed and armed her like Athena. This image of the goddess rode into Athens on a chariot announcing that she was bringing Pisistratus back to rule.

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