Title

"Sacrifice, an Ancient Mediterranean Ritual

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

Any examination of sacrifice must reckon with the variety and complexity of sacrificial activities and the problems that consequently attend sacrifice employed as an analytical category. Approached as ritual and placed in full context, sacrifice reveals rich connections with the key social structures and cultural values of the ancient Mediterranean world. Sacrifice established and maintained the social status and location of participants in it, and in many situations it defined kinship ties and identities. It also constituted a component in the reciprocal exchange between human beings and their ancestors and god(s), an exchange in which sacrifice signified gift giving. Sacrificial gift-giving sustained the patron-client relations that denizens of the Mediterranean supposed they had with their superiors—ancestors and god(s). It did so by serving as a gesture of gratitude to one's patrons; it was the primary means of honoring them.