Reciprocity and Ritual: Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State

Paperback | April 30, 1999

byRichard Seaford

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This is an exciting and entirely new synthesis, combining anthropology, political and social history, and the close reading of central Greek texts, to account for two the most significant hallmarks in Homeric epic and Athenian tragedy: the representation of ritual and codes of reciprocity. Both genres are pervaded by these features, yet each treats them in entirely different ways. In this book, Dr Seaford shows that these differences cannot be accounted for in merely literary terms, but require a historical explanation. Homer in its final form is a product of the city state at anearlier historical stage than is tragedy. It is the growth of the city-state and its concomitant developments - in particular of law and of money, as well as in the practice of ritual - that provide a key to the crystallization of the Homeric narrative tradition, to the specificity of tragedy, andto certain features of the thought of the period. In the case of reciprocity, again - whether the positive reciprocity associated with gift-giving or the hostile reciprocity of revenge - the systematic distinctions between Homer and tragedy can be explained only from a historical perspective. Inits characteristic movement tradegy reflects and confirms the transition from one kind of society towards another: from a network of reciprocial relations, characteristic of societies where the state is weak or absent, to the organization of citizens around a single centre or series of centres, theinstitutions and cults of the city-state. Challenging, thoroughly lucid, and at times controversial, this lively and original work is the first to attempt to understand the development of early Greek literature from the perspective of state-formation. It should interest all serious students and scholars of both the literature and thehistory of classical Greece.

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This is an exciting and entirely new synthesis, combining anthropology, political and social history, and the close reading of central Greek texts, to account for two the most significant hallmarks in Homeric epic and Athenian tragedy: the representation of ritual and codes of reciprocity. Both genres are pervaded by these features, y...

Formerly at the National Humanities Center, North Carolina. he is the author of Euripides: Cyclops (pb edition with commentary and introduction, 1988, OUP).

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:474 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 1.1 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198150369

ISBN - 13:9780198150367

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`Readers of the book will undoubtedly profit from and be impressed by S's vast and thorough knowledge in the field of ritual, cult and myth, and their innumerable variants in all parts of the Greek world ... the book is immensely learned.'Mnemosyne