Hieros Logos to Philosophic Mythos:

Text and Authority in the Ancient Greco-Roman World


                  In the absence of a fixed text, how did certain accounts become authoritative?  What effect did the development of writing and fixed, reviewable texts have on traditional authority?  What new forms of authoritative discourse arose with the development and spread of writing and books in the ancient Greek world?  How has the modern understanding of ancient Greco-Roman culture (e.g., the Orphic "hubbub of books" or the Sibylline books) been skewed by modern bookishness and the Judaeo-Christian idea of Sacred Scripture?



Week I Hieros Logos to Philosophic Mythos: Introduction



From Oral Tradition to the Written Text

Mythos to Logos or Logos to Mythos

Hieros Logos or Sacred Scripture

Text and Authority

Case Study:  "Orphic" Gold Tablets

Choice of Case Studies


Yunis, Introduction: Why Written Texts?

Henrichs, Writing Religion

Morgan, Theoretical Issues,  Myth & Philosophy, ch.2

Vernant, The Reason of Myth

"Orphic" Gold Tablet Texts


Week II Sacred Writings in Greece and Rome



Case Studies & Presentations - introduce your text and the issues involved with its textuality



Genesis 1-3 and Matt. 26:17-30

Hesiod, Theogony

Havelock, Thoughtful Hesiod

Derveni Papyrus - Laks, A Provisional Translation of the Derveni Papyrus

Most, The Fire Next Time

8th Book of Moses – Betz, PGM XIII

Smith, M., The 8th Book of Moses and How It Grew

Daniel, Two Greek Magical Papyri (text and images of P. Leid. J395)

Homeric Hymn to Demeter – Foley, text & translation

Foley, Interpretive Essay

Oracles in Athens – Aristophanes on Oracle Mongers

Smith, N., Diviners and Divination in Aristophanic Comedy

Lex Sacra from Selinous

Jameson, Jordan, Kotansky, pp. 3-7, 14-17, 50-60

Sibylline Books – Hansen, trans. excerpt from Phlegon of Tralles; Orlin appendix

Gordon, From Republic to Principate


Week III Transition from Orality to Literacy



Questions on Case Studies

Plato on Word and Text

Philosophic Mythos


Plato's Phaedrus

Morgan, Plato: myth and the soul, Myth & Philosophy ch. 7


Paper:  4-6 pages comparing your case study with at least two others.  How does this text ground its religious authority?  How does its written form affect its reception and transmission?  How has this text been received - both by its contemporary audience and by modern scholars?




Beard, Mary, "Writing And Religion:  Ancient Literacy and the Function of the Written Word in Roman Religion,"  in Literacy in the Roman World, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series No. 3, ed. Humphrey, Michigan, 1991, pp. 35-58.

Betz, Hans Dieter, "PGM XIII," in The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Chicago, 1986, pp. 172-195.

Brisson, Luc, Plato the Myth Maker, trans., ed., and intro. Gerard Naddaf, Chicago, 1998.

Daniel, Robert, Two Greek Magical Papyri in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Papyrological Coloniensia vol. XIX, Westdeutcher Verlag, 1991.

Foley, Helene, "Interpretive Essay:  Appendix," in The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, ed. Foley, Princeton, 1994, pp.169-178.

Foley, Helene, "Text, Translation, Commentary," in The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, ed. Foley, Princeton, 1994, pp.2-27.

Gordon, Richard, "From Republic to Principate:  priesthood, religion and ideology," in Pagan Priests: Religion and Power in the Ancient World, ed. Beard & North, Cornell: 1990, pp. 179-198.

Griffith, Mark, "Contest and Contradiction in Early Greek Poetry," in Cabinet of the Muses: Essays on Classical and Comparative Literature in Honor of Thomas G. Rosenmeyer, ed. Mark Griffith and Donald Mastronarde, 1990, pp. 188-9.

Hansen, William, trans. Phlegon of Tralles' Book of Marvels, Exeter, 1996, pp. 40-42.

Havelock, Eric, Preface to Plato, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1963.

Havelock, Eric, "The Preliteracy of the Greeks," New Literary History, vol. 8.3 (Spring 1977), pp. 369-391.

Havelock, Eric, "Thoughtful Hesiod," in The Literate Revolution in Greece and Its Cultural Consequences, Princeton, 1982, pp. 208-219.

Henrichs, Albert, "Hieroi Logoi and Hierai Bibloi:  The (Un)written Margins of the Sacred in Ancient Greece," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 101 (2002), pp. 205-266.

Henrichs, Albert, "Writing Religion, Inscribed Texts, Ritual Authority, and the Religious Discourse of the Polis," in Written Texts and the Rise of Literate Culture in Ancient Greece, ed. Yunis, Cambridge, 2003, pp. 38-58.

Jameson, M., Jordan, D., Kotansky, R., A Lex Sacra from Selinous, Duke, 1993,  pp. 3-7, 14-17, 50-60

Janko, Richard, "The Derveni Papyrus (Diagoras of Melos, Apopyrgizontes Logoi?): A New Translation," Classical Philology 96 (2001), pp. 1-32.

Laks, André and Most, Glenn, "A Provisional Translation of the Derveni Papyrus," in Studies in the Derveni Papyrus, Laks & Most, Oxford, 1997, pp. 9-22.

Lincoln, Bruce, Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship, University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1999.

Manetti, Giovanni, "The Language of the Sibyls," Euphrosyne 25 1997, pp. 242 -3.

Morgan, Kathryn, "Plato: myth and the soul," in Myth & Philosophy from the Presocratics to Plato, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 185-241.

Morgan, Kathryn, "Theoretical Issues," in Myth & Philosophy from the Presocratics to Plato, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 15-45.

Most, Glenn, "The Fire Next Time: Cosmology, Allegoresis, and Salvation in the Derveni Papyrus," Journal of Hellenic Studies 117 (1997), pp. 117-135.

Orlin, Eric, "Appendix 2 & 3" in Temples, Religion and Politics in the Roman Republic, Brill, 1997, pp. 203-210.

Rusten, Jeffrey, "Interim Notes on the Papyrus from Derveni," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 89 (1985), pp. 121-140.

Smith, Morton, "P. Leid J 395 (PGM XIII) and Its Creation Legend," in Studies in the Cult of Yahweh vol. 2, ed. Cohen, Brill, 1996, pp. 227-234.

Smith, Morton, "The 8th Book of Moses and How It Grew (P. Leid. J 395)," in Studies in the Cult of Yahweh vol. 2, ed. Cohen, Brill, 1996, pp. 217-226.

Smith, Nicholas, "Diviners and Divination in Aristophanic Comedy." Classical Antiquity 8 (1989), pp. 140-58.

Vernant, Jean-Pierre, "The Reason of Myth," in Myth & Society in Ancient Greece, trans. Lloyd, Harvester Press, 1980, pp. 203-226.

Yunis, Harvey, "Introduction: Why Written Texts?" in Written Texts and the Rise of Literate Culture in Ancient Greece, ed. Yunis, Cambridge, 2003, pp. 1-14.