Practitioners of the Divine: Greek Priests and Religious Officials from Homer to Heliodorus

  Dignas, Beate, and Kai Trampedach, eds. 2008. Practitioners of the Divine: Greek Priests and Religious Figures from Homer to Heliodorus. Hellenic Studies Series 30. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.


From an idea to organize a symposium to welcoming participants and ultimately holding a book in our hands … in our case, none of the steps in this process would have been possible without the Center for Hellenic Studies. When we were both junior fellows at the Center in the academic year 2001–2002, we soon found out that we shared a strong interest in Greek religion. Our projects for the research fellowship in Washington differed widely with regard to their themes, temporal scope, and source material. Both of us, however, were addressing the forms and dynamics of religious authority, and the frequent opportunity to exchange ideas became a challenge as well as an integral part of the research we conducted at the Center. It was not long before our casual daily conversations on aspects of our work sparked the idea of jointly organizing a conference. There was no doubt that Greek priests would be a topic that offered a multitude of opportunities.

While still agonizing over the practical aspects of our enterprise—not least the complex issue of joint funding by the University of Michigan and the Universität Konstanz—Greg Nagy, the director of the Center for Hellenic Studies and our host for the year, asked us if we wanted to hold the symposium there at the Center in Washington, DC. He was as serious as we were enthusiastic, and a year later the three of us together welcomed a group of fifteen scholars. The three-day international symposium, Greek Priests from Homer to Julian, took place from August 25–28, 2003. Prior to the meeting, the Center helped us establish a conference Web site, which enabled us to circulate all the papers promptly and facilitated communication between participants at all stages. Advance reading of all the contributions took place, and participants presented short summaries of their main arguments rather than full papers. Accordingly, there was ample time for discussion, and lively and fruitful discussions we had indeed. We would like to use this opportunity to once more thank all participants for their papers, ideas, and company. Special thanks go to Riet van Bremen, John Dillery, Jon Mikalson, and Anders Holm Rasmussen, who participated in Washington but whose papers do not form part of this book.

The beautiful setting of 3100 Whitehaven Street, the generosity and considerate arrangements of our hosts Greg Nagy and Doug Frame, and the skills and kindness of the Center’s librarians and administrative staff all contributed to the success of our symposium. Thank you!

All of us enjoyed the days in Washington tremendously, all of us learned a great deal and left even more convinced that our topic was an important and fascinating one. As we had envisaged, an ongoing exchange of ideas among participants has continued to take place beyond the meeting. While from the beginning we had intended to present the conference and its insights to a wider audience, we did not like the idea of “conference proceedings,” but wanted to work instead toward a volume of essays that would digest and accentuate the common theme of the meeting. As editors we are grateful to all of the contributors for the willingness and good spirits with which they responded to our invitation to rethink and reshape their ideas. Not least, our warmest thanks go to Christian Seebacher, who skillfully and cheerfully helped the two of us deal with many aspects of editing the volume. Finally, we are indebted to Stephen Lake for translating two chapters, improving the English of translated contributions and for his vital support during the copyediting stage.

For reasons beyond our control, this final stage has taken much longer than anticipated, and neither we nor our contributors have been able to incorporate scholarship published after the date given below. Since then, works central to our topic have appeared, among other titles J.B. Connelly’s Portrait of a Priestess (2007). We are, however, no less grateful to both Lenny Muellner and Ivy Livingston for their thorough technical and editorial support.

Albert Henrichs’ essay What Is a Greek Priest? forms such an appropriate introduction to this volume that we have decided to present our own more general thoughts in the form of an epilogue. May the reader enjoy this book as much as we have enjoyed sharing in its genesis over the past three years.

Beate Dignas and Kai Trampedach
Oxford and Konstanz, November 2006