Religious Practices in Classical Thebes
Martin, Kaitlyn Renay
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My thesis uses Thebes as case study to focus on Theban religious practices during the Classical age (traditionally defined as between 510 BCE and 323 BCE). By narrowing my study to this geographical and chronological scope, my research aims to add to the traditional narrative of Theban history by focusing on religious history rather than the political or military. More particularly, by using both literature (Classical Greek tragedies) as well as material culture found in exceptional religious settings of the Thesmophoria and Kabeirion, I strive to delineate some of the religious practices taking place in the polis of Thebes during the Classical age. While the Theban tragedies provide a view of religion from a broader perspective, the material evidence of the festival of the Thesmophoria and the rites to the Kabeiroi provide a glimpse into the practices of Theban religion that lie outside the traditional, Olympian pantheon. I argue that studying Theban literature and votive offerings in tandem can provide a perspective at the micro-level of Greek religion that can be expanded in order to understand the religious landscape of ancient Greece on a much deeper and richer level.
General Audience Abstract
My thesis focuses on Thebes, a city-state in Ancient Greece famous for being the setting of the tragic stories of Oedipus and his family. Many historians focus on this literary tradition or the ways in which Theban military exploits affected their position of power in the Greek world; however, I center my study on the religious landscape of this particular city-state between the years of 510 BCE and 323 BCE. My first chapter takes a step back, outlining the way in which religion is presented to an audience at this time through the plays Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Seven Against Thebes. In the next two chapters, I turn to look at items housed in the Archaeological Museum of Thebes regarding two specific religious events that took place in and around ancient Thebes: The Thesmophoria and the initiation into the rites of the Kabeiroi. The material evidence that I survey in these two chapters provide a glimpse into the practices of Theban religion that lie outside the traditional practices and participants. I argue that studying these particular pieces of written and material evidence in combination with one another provides a perspective at the local level of Theban religion that can also be expanded in order to under the religious landscape of ancient Greece on a much deeper and richer level.
- Masters Theses