Professor Robert Parker (University of Oxford), “New Discoveries and New Problems in Greek Religion”
There are always ‘New Discoveries and New Problems’ in Greek Religion, but the two discoveries presented in this lecture are exceptional. In 2013 a large new cache was published of the lead tablets on which enquirers at Zeus’ oracle at Dodona wrote their questions. They extend our knowledge of the very down-to-earth problems that consultants took to the oracle, and they also reveal for the first time one of the ways in which the oracle answered those questions. Secondly, a large stele of the 2nd c. BCE found dumped at a roadside near Marmarini in Thessaly and first published in 2015 contains extensive regulations for the cult of a goddess who is not named in what survives but whose name (still unknown) would almost certainly be a surprise, because two of her festivals, which are named, are Nisanaia and Eloulaia, so derived from month names not of the Greek but of the ‘standard Mesopotamian’ calendar. And male initiates in her cult had to shave their heads… If dated to the 2nd c CE this would still be a remarkable find: in the 2nd c BCE it is a bombshell.
This British School at Athens Virtual Friends' Lecture was recorded 8 December 2020.