"The Dying and Rising God: Religion and Power in Ancient Sparta" by Megan Daniels

Presented by Dr Megan Daniels: The terms “spartan” and “laconic” sum up our modern conception of ancient Sparta: a city-state founded upon hardline militarism and eschewing all forms of art and luxury. Yet some of our earliest evidence for this city-state in the Iron Age (ca. 1100–700 BCE) suggests that Sparta was originally a cosmopolitan and wealthy state tied into flourishing Mediterranean exchange networks. In this talk, Redford Postdoctoral Fellow Megan Daniels will examine one aspect of this cosmopolitanism: the religious offerings at the sanctuary dedicated to the mysterious goddess Orthia. In particular, she presents her research on two ivory plaques showing, arguably, the widespread myth of the death of a youthful god, and connects the symbolism on these plaques to notions of kingly power operating between western Asia and the Mediterranean world in the Iron Age. This talk thus engages the mysterious origins of Sparta with some of the more notorious religious theories from the early 20th century–namely James Frazer’s conception of the dying and rising god–to argue for fascinating networks of elite religious power operating between East and West during the genesis of the Greek city-state.



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