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Household and Family Religion in Antiquity

John Bodel (Editor), Saul M. Olyan (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4051-7579-1
346 pages
June 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
Household and Family Religion in Antiquity (1405175796) cover image
The first book to explore the religious dimensions of the family and the household in ancient Mediterranean and West Asian antiquity.
  • Advances our understanding of household and familial religion, as opposed to state-sponsored or civic temple cults
  • Reconstructs domestic and family religious practices in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Israel, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, Emar, and Philistia
  • Explores many household rituals, such as providing for ancestral spirits, and petitioning of a household's patron deities or of spirits associated with the house itself
  • Examines lifecycle rituals – from pregnancy and birth to maturity, old age, death, and beyond
  • Looks at religious practices relating to the household both within the home itself and other spaces, such as at extramural tombs and local sanctuaries
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List of Figures vii

Notes on Contributors x

Series Editor's Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Map xvi

1 Introduction 1
John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan

2 Theorizing the Religion of Ancient Households and Families 5
Stanley K. Stowers

3 Family Religion in Second Millennium West Asia (Mesopotamia, Emar, Nuzi) 20
Karel van der Toorn

4 The Integration of Household and Community Religion in Ancient Syria 37
Daniel E. Fleming

5 Family, Household, and Local Religion at Late Bronze Age Ugarit 60
Theodore J. Lewis

6 Family Religion in Ancient Israel and its Surroundings 89
Rainer Albertz

7 Family Religion in Israel and the Wider Levant of the First Millennium bce 113
Saul M. Olyan

8 Household Religion, Family Religion, and Women's Religion in Ancient Israel 127
Susan Ackerman

9 Ashdod and the Material Remains of Domestic Cults in the Philistine Coastal Plain 159
Rüdiger Schmitt

10 Household Religion in Ancient Egypt 171
Robert K. Ritner

11 Household and Domestic Religion in Ancient Egypt 197
Barbara S. Lesko

12 Household Religion in Ancient Greece 210
Christopher A. Faraone

13 Family Matters: Domestic Religion in Classical Greece 229
Deborah Boedeker

14 Cicero's Minerva, Penates, and the Mother of the Lares: An Outline of Roman Domestic Religion 248
John Bodel

15 Comparative Perspectives 276
John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan

Bibliography 283

Index 314

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John Bodel is Professor of Classics and History at Brown University. He writes about Roman social and cultural history, Latin epigraphy, and Latin literature of the Empire. His books include Roman Brick Stamps in the Kelsey Museum (1983), Graveyards and Groves: A Study of the Lex Lucerina (1994), Epigraphic Evidence: Ancient History from Inscriptions (editor, 2001), and Dediche sacre nel mondo greco-romano: Diffusione, funzioni, tipologie (edited with Mika Kajava, 2008).

Saul M. Olyan is Samuel Ungerleider Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University. He is the author of Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel (1988), A Thousand Thousands Served Him: Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism (1993), Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult (2000), Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions (2004), and Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences (2008).
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  • Advances our understanding of household and familial religion, as opposed to state-sponsored or civic temple cults
  • Reconstructs domestic and family religious practices in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Israel, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, Emar, and Philistia
  • Explores many household rituals, such as providing for ancestral spirits, and petitioning of a household’s patron deities or of spirits associated with the house itself
  • Examines lifecycle rituals – from pregnancy and birth to maturity, old age, death, and beyond
  • Looks at religious practices relating to the household both within the home itself and other spaces, such as at extramural tombs and local sanctuaries
See More
“While studies on the purpose and place of religion in ancient family life have been a topic of scholarly interest for some decades, this book is unique in both the scope of the papers presented and the underlying theoretical approaeh by which they are linked.” (Journal of World History, December 2009)

“The volume stands as a splendid landmark in opening up comparative discussion about family and domestic religion in the ancient world, and does so with an admirably wide-reaching geographical and chronological scope.” (New England Classics Journal , August 2009)

“This volume will find its place on the bookshelf of anyone looking for an authoritative treatment of religion and society in Mediterranean and West Asian antiquity.” ( The Classical Journal , August 2009)

“As a collection of essays that provides insightful consideration of family or household religious life in many Near Eastern and classical cultures, it has the added benefit of offering a comparative perspective.” (Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Spring 2009)

"[I would] recommend the book as a worthy addition to the field of ancient religious studies and a good read for those interested in the subject." (Scholia Reviews, 2009)

"The methodology of the volume is thus simultaneously contextual and comparative. An introductory essay provides a theorization of 'family,' 'household,' and 'religion' as analytical and comparative categories. A conclusion, written by the editors, offers comparative perspectives and suggests directions for future research. The individual essays provide excellent introductions to family religion in various historical periods, and would work well as introductory readings in undergraduate and graduate courses... .Recommended." (CHOICE)

"[The book] offers a counterpart to text-based religion - which equates to civic, public, state religion - by analysing religious rituals, locations and objects in setting governed more by collective memory than by rules." (The Times Literary Supplement, August 2008)

"This impressive volume constitutes an important contribution to the study of ancient religion and society. It fills a longstanding need for an authoritative overview of domestic religion, and does so in a way that is theoretically sophisticated and fully engaged with recent scholarship. This book will no doubt quickly prove to be an essential point of reference for all those interested in ancient society and ancient religion alike."
James B. Rives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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