Violent Commensality:
Animal Sacrifice and its Discourses in the Ancient
Friday, May 11th 2007
Department of Classics
University of Reading

Animal-sacrifice was the central activity of ancient
Greek religion, as well as the other religions of the
ancient Mediterranean. It is attested through texts of
various sorts (epigraphy and literature) and through
material culture, especially zoo-archaeology. Some of
the most provocative discussions by scholars of ancient
religion over the last few decades have been about
sacrifice, e.g. Walter Burkert's Thesis of ritual
violence, or the Paris Schools stress on the social
("commensal") function of sacrifice.

This conference will provide a unique opportunity for
these issues to be discussed afresh by an international
team, including both established experts and junior
scholars, who will look at a wide range of evidence,
including both texts and material culture. The aims of
the conference are to examine both the reality of
animal sacrifice, as revealed by archaeology and
epigraphy, and also discursive representations of
sacrifice in literature; to explore the relationship
between literary representations and reality; and to
test the evidence against the prevailing theories of

The confirmed list of speakers and titles is as

Mathieu Carbon: "The Equal and Unequal Division of
Sacrificial Animals"
Gunnel Ekroth: "Bare Bones"
Barbara Kowalzig: "Fish Sacrifice"
Alice Mouton: "Sacrifice in Hittite Anatolia"
Fred Naiden: "Sacrifice and Self-Interest"
Robert Parker: "Eating Unsacrificed Meat"
Richard Seaford: "Aeschylus' Septem 32-45"
Oliver Thomas: "When is a Sacrifice not a Sacrifice?
The Case of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes"
Respondents: Emily Kearns, Robin Osbourne and Scott

For a full programme,

This conference will be open to the public. To
register, contact Sarah Hitch at
s.s.hitch AT
There will be a registration fee of £10 to cover
refreshments and lunch.