What are Greek sacred laws? The question, asked recently by R. Parker,1 has troubled many and tempted few. Lupu’s book, to be abbreviated NGSL according to the author’s suggestion, makes a significant attempt at clarifying the issue and represents the most valuable treatment of sacred laws in the past 25 years. The author deserves to be praised both for his careful consideration of previously edited documents and for his efforts in bringing recently published evidence to the forefront of the discussion. The objective of the volume is twofold. Part I (pp. 3-112) offers an introduction to the existing volumes of the corpus of sacred laws and attempts to classify the texts according to their subject matter. Part II (pp. 115-387) is an epigraphical dossier which collects 27 sacred laws published since F. Sokolowski’s Lois sacrées des cités grecques (1969), providing translations as well as detailed commentaries. Regrettably, however, NGSL proposes a classification of sacred laws which is thematic and not typological, and it selects new sacred laws with several surprising inclusions and omissions. I suspect that many readers will be left more uncertain about the distinguishing characteristics of sacred laws at the volume’s close than at its beginning.
Ever since the collections edited by Prott, Ziehen, and Sokolowski, the category of inscriptions known as sacred laws has been the object of widespread but by no means detailed criticism.2 The major complaint behind these criticisms is that none of those editors had established firm criteria for the texts they selected. Prott, Ziehen, and Sokolowski’s volumes have certainly proved their utility as reference works for the study of Greek religion but we are still very much in the dark as to why some texts and not others were integrated into the corpus. Part I of NGSL is usefully devoted to a consideration of the texts that have been traditionally included. On the whole, it offers a stimulating and often insightful revisiting of previously edited texts, but not a few of the methodological considerations elaborated are of questionable value.
Sacred laws, as many have noted, do not correspond to an ancient category of inscribed documents but rather to a heterogeneous group of texts codifying religious practice in various locations. Lupu rightly argues that a common term is needed to refer to the documents and that, since ‘sacred law’ is the most accepted and convenient rubric, it ought to be retained. He proceeds to highlight two requirements for inclusion in the corpus: 1) the documents must be prescriptive, 2) the object of the prescriptions ‘must be or pertain to religion and particularly to cult practice’ (pp. 5-6). Lupu himself recognises that these criteria are too imprecise and that marginal cases where ‘religious measures […] occupy a secondary place in the document’ (p. 7) must be excluded from the corpus. Excerpting documents for passages that could qualify as sacred laws is also to be condemned.
In his wide-ranging survey of Prott, Ziehen, and Sokolowski, Lupu concentrates on the ‘range of issues covered by the documents’ (p. 9). He argues that ‘[w]hat links all of these documents together is neither a formal definition, let alone a formal definition of law […] nor of genre. It is rather their subject matter — on the whole sacred — and the means — for the most part of a tangibly legal character — by which it is handled’ (p. 5). Four main themes are highlighted: sacred space, sacred officials, the performance of cult, and religious events. These categories are on the whole too broad and pay little heed to the readily apparent and internally coherent genres of the epigraphical evidence discussed. In any case, the thematic study of the inscriptions is necessarily only a part of a comprehensive analysis of the texts. The study of content cannot be dissociated from that of form.
The first theme, sacred space (pp. 9-40), can only with difficulty be considered as a precise characteristic of sacred laws. Ritual purity, spiritual purity, forbidden items and restricted access are all themes featured in laws regulating entry to sanctuaries (pp. 14-21), but Lupu does little to advance the understanding of the formulaic genre of these texts and how they are structurally similar to laws ‘protecting sanctuaries’ (pp. 21-30). What is needed is a detailed study of the phrases used and of the possible contexts of the documents. It might also be more useful to call this genre of texts ‘disciplinary laws’. Inscriptions regulating priesthoods and the offices of other religious officials are divided notably as ‘comprehensive and specific regulations’ and by ‘mode of acquisition’ (pp. 40-54). This is, in the first case, too vague, and, in the second, only partially reflected in the structure of the documents. Sales of priesthoods (cursorily discussed at pp. 48-49) form a well-defined sub-genre of the documents, but on the whole regulations concerning the responsibilities and perquisites of priests or other officials, whether contracts or enactments (pp. 49-52) — the precise context may vary — are considerably formulaic and deserve to be studied as such. Cult performance (pp. 54-90) is too wide a category, and well-defined genres of inscriptions can be seen to emerge: cult calendars (pp. 65-70, well discussed on the whole), funerary laws (pp. 75-77, a borderline area), and cult foundations (pp. 81-87). There is yet again an excessive particularisation of the issues involved: the sale of sacrificial meat and skins (pp. 71-72), participation in the cult (pp. 72-73) as well as cult expenses (pp. 79-81), are themes in sacrificial regulations but not independent genres in and of themselves. Purification laws (pp. 77-79) are best treated with other disciplinary laws, although cathartic codes form a fairly unusual and peculiar sub-genre. Similarly, decrees of associations can be readily compared with other ‘comprehensive’ cult regulations (pp. 88-90), and one ought to be sceptical about distinguishing a category of ‘state foundations’ (pp. 82-83) which is entirely dependent on reconstructed context and not on form. Lupu’s fourth theme ‘Festivals and ceremonies’ (pp. 90-102) is only tenuously to be distinguished from other cult regulations. Topics such as processions, truces, pre- and post-sacrifice procedures can easily be seen to overlap with the themes of other ‘comprehensive sacrificial regulations’.
The major failing of Part I is therefore that it focuses on the variety in content of the texts and not on their respective genres, perhaps because it ‘was conceived as a practical guide to the corpus of Greek sacred laws for the general classicist rather than a theoretical exposition’ (p. xi). Yet surely the latter needs to be attempted before the former if the corpus is to proceed with a sound methodology. A more rigorous typology of sacred laws is in fact possible, as Parker has recently suggested,1 and it is incorrect to simply state that the evidence ‘characteristically defies clear-cut classification’ (p. 9). Precise types of sacred laws can usefully be identified and objectively categorised: disciplinary laws, sacred calendars, laws governing religious offices (including priesthood sales as a subcategory), festival regulations (comprehensive or arranged in a narrative), funerary laws and private cult foundations.3 Moreover, other types of documents have been identified and could continue to be considered as types of sacred laws: texts governing the cult of the living or of the dead, usually in the form of festival regulations or private cult foundations,4 and oracles recorded as laws defining cult practice.5
The type and form of sacred laws are necessarily influenced by the context of their inscribing, and Part I does include some useful remarks on the reconstruction of the context of sacred laws, in particular the codification, reorganisation, inauguration and refinancing of festivals (pp. 105-110).6 But the treatment of these issues is altogether too brief and could have been applied to other categories of documents. In discussing sacred laws, one should not only examine the codifying or recodifying of ritual practice and the prescription of certain ritual acts, but also attempt to understand religious practice and its sources of legitimacy, both civic and non-civic. The documents can enable the study of local changes in religious policy and, on a wider scale, allow a comparison in the evolution of religious legislation in various Greek communities. The inscriptions ought therefore to be studied by polis and by region, something which NGSL, as a varied supplement to Sokolowski, cannot hope to accomplish.
The 27 new editions offered in Part II are, on the whole, exemplary. The texts are commendably conservative — most restorations are confined to an apparatus criticus — and, cela va sans dire, represent a substantial improvement on Sokolowski’s editorial standards. The commentaries, with a few exceptions, include rich and detailed notes from which all scholars of Greek religion will benefit. The tone of the notes is refreshingly pragmatic and allows only a few minor quibbles.7 The descriptions of the stones, the measurements and the detailed observations of readings are consummately and scientifically executed. Lupu is particularly deserving of praise for having confirmed readings through autopsy on approximately two thirds of the extant stones.8
Yet the selection of inscriptions betrays the deficient methodology set forth in Part I and demonstrates the basis for the above criticisms. Four of the inscriptions seem questionable inclusions. No.2, ‘Financial Measures Concerning Cult of Herakles in Akris’ at Eleusis is a bipartite document: an honorific decree (lines 1-17) and a misthosis document (lines 18-53: the leasing out of land for increasing cult revenue and performing sacrifices optimally). Neither is a sacred law and Lupu is forced to admit both that ‘[t]he non-religious contents of the inscription have been amply discussed’ (p. 155) and that ‘[t]he religious content of the inscription is unfortunately obscure’ (p. 156). No. 6 (from Tiryns) may not actually be a set of cult regulations, as its title indicates ‘Fragmentary Cult(?) Regulations’. The fragments of the text are notoriously difficult and the mere ‘possibility that they governed actual cult performance’ (p. 191 n. 1) may not seem sufficient ground for inclusion to some. It would have been preferable to list the text as a dubium, perhaps in an appendix, so as not to confuse readers.9 No.12, ‘Regulations [sic] for an oracle’ from Hyettus, may perhaps be some sort of disciplinary law, but the interpretation of the text is so controversial that it would be better to exclude it from the corpus at present. In the same way, no. 15, where the reader is asked to ‘note […] considerable differences’ between two texts, is only hypothetically a sacred law. Lupu gives us the choice between two texts but, as the photograph reveals, many of the readings are uncertain and the text would again have been best relegated to an appendix.10 Appendix A, ‘The Punic Marseilles Tariff’ (pp. 391-396), is another surprising inclusion. Hellenists will benefit from having an accessible translation of this text together with a brief commentary. But while Lupu is right to consider the text a sacred law, it is not clear why it deserves preferential treatment over other non-Greek sacred laws.
Furthermore, the principle of not excerpting documents or including ones which are only partially sacred laws (p. 7) ought to have entailed the exclusion of some of the texts included in NGSL. The well known gymnasiarchal law of Beroia, no. 14, makes a startling appearance in the new corpus. Only a segment of the total regulation (B.45-87) can conceivably qualify as a sacred law. And, no. 26, a decree from Nakone in Sicily, is not stricto sensu a sacred law, although it does contain a brief sacrificial prescription (lines 27-33, a recurrent celebration of civic reconciliation). There is, to my knowledge, at least one unexplained omission from NGSL, a rock-cut law from Andros.11
Some further criticisms on the presentation of the commentaries must be added. NGSL generally follows the ‘Leiden’ system of epigraphical conventions but with the adoption of French line numbering (4, 8 instead of 5, 10). Long texts are printed in excessively small fonts (often smaller than Times New Roman 8 pt) which will plague the eyes of the young and challenge those of the wizened. The reading of the sections of the commentary would also have been greatly facilitated with the use of clear headings (it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the apparatus criticus from the list of restorations or to locate a certain part of the epigraphical commentary at a glance). There are useless cross-references in some of the commentaries: e.g. p. 145 at line 46. NGSL also has a rather unhelpful way of using footnotes instead of parenthetic statements: e.g. the notes on p. 359. There are a series of minor typographical errors and slips.12
Part II is followed by a set of helpful appendices (pp. 397-404). Appendix B.1 is a checklist of new sacred laws from Asia Minor and Appendix B.2 fulfils the same function for new Koan texts. The latter can be used with confidence but the former ought to be employed with caution and is already out of date (I reserve criticism of it for a later date). The valuable Appendix B.3 ‘significantly expanded or improved texts’ from Sokolowski’s collections shows notably how beneficial revisions of the original corpus can be. It would have been useful to include as a further section in this appendix a list of sacred laws which did not find their way into Sokolowski’s corpus, as well as a list of sacred laws which have been announced but not yet published.13 The concordances (pp. 405-422) are valuable, although the ten modes of convergence employed will require much shuffling through the pages. One cannot help but wonder whether a unified concordance would not have been preferable, even if more cumbersome for the printers. Many who look to this book as an epigraphical guide to Greek religion will view the bibliography (pp. 423-433) as disappointingly short.14 It is also to be regretted that the author has not been able to take into account some of the most recent scholarship on various parts of the corpus.15 The copious indices (pp. 435-499), however, are superb and alone suffice to make the book worth its price. The Greek word index in particular will repay the curiosity of any reader. The photographic plates (34 figures in total) are generally of professional quality.16
In short, NGSL is an effective research tool with many sound commentaries on new sacred laws, but one which disappoints by its lack of rigorous classification and of typological study. To ask the question ‘what are Greek sacred laws?’, as Lupu does, entails not only enquiring into what texts have traditionally been considered leges sacrae but also reevaluating how successful the collections have been as a corpus. Lupu’s aim is understandably limited and cannot address the necessary task of revising Prott, Ziehen, and especially Sokolowski. Yet it will be clear from his survey and its gaps that no amount of work on new Greek sacred laws can eliminate the need of recommencing work on the corpus ab ovo. Sokolowski’s efforts largely ignored genres as well as the advantages of local and regional groupings.17 NGSL, while a welcome addition, does not innovate in this regard and operates essentially on the same vague principles which guided Sokolowski. It is time to take some pause and wonder whether the corpus is heading in the right direction. Sacred laws, to my mind, need to be collected regionally and studied typologically.
I append specific comments on some of the inscriptions included in Part II:
No. 1. This comprehensive edition of the Thorikos sacrificial calendar will especially be of lasting value and includes a few noteworthy observations. First, the suggestion by K. Clinton that the back of the stone was originally inscribed (p. 125) makes sense of the problematic entries on the sides of the stone. Second, the difficult expression
No. 4. A good edition of the disciplinary law of the cave of Pan. The note on
No. 5. This commentary on the statutes of an eranos is usefully detailed but a bit disconcerting. One major crux is the clause in lines 16-20, which Lupu translates as relating to the sale of priesthoods (p. 180) but then goes on to state, contradictorily, that while ‘[t]his appears to be the first case [of priesthood sales] from mainland Greece’, the reference may actually be ‘to buying priestly prerogatives’ (p. 185). Indeed, one hardly sees how a set of regulations for a singular eranos could possibly deal with the purchase of ‘priesthoods’ (plural). The purchase of priestly perquisites, hierosyna, is surely to be regarded as more credible.
No. 7. The text of these ‘sanctuary regulations’ from Megalopolis, in fact a disciplinary law, could be improved in a few ways. Te Riele’s reading of
No. 11. The text is termed a ‘Decree on cult’ from Haliartos. The rubric is unhelpful and reminiscent of Sokolowski’s disappointingly vague ‘Règlement cultuel’. The text ought properly to be classified together with other comprehensive festival regulations. The number of missing letters in the lacuna at line 6 of the text needed to be indicated or estimated in the text. The common phrase
No.14. The translation of
No. 19. The text could be seen as a problematic inclusion. If it is from Erythrai, as Lupu seems to suggest (p. 300), then it ought to have been excluded and treated as a text from Asia Minor. In any case, it ought at least to have been relegated to an appendix until its attribution is more certain. In line 2, one would very much expect to read
No. 20. At line 8
No. 23. Lupu offers here a cautious commentary on the fragmentary sacrificial calendar from Eleutherna. My only quibble is with the restoration
1. R.C.T. Parker, ‘What are sacred laws?’ (pp. 57-70) in: E. M. Harris and L. Rubinstein eds. The Law and the Courts in Ancient Greece (London 2004). Lupu was unfortunately not able to take this fundamental article into account before the publication of NGSL.
2. H. von Prott and L. Ziehen, Leges graecorum sacrae e titulis collectae, 2 volumes (Leipzig 1896-1906); F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrées d’Asie Mineure (Paris 1955 =
3. Lupu only once allows himself to speculate about a similarly ideal classification: ‘Even if ideally one would identify documents according to their respective genres…’ (p. 5). On the benefits that can be derived from studies of formulae and of genres in sacred regulations see most recently M.K. Dickie, ‘Priestly Proclamations and Sacred Laws,’ CQ 54 (2004) 579-591.
4. The exclusion from the corpus of texts governing the cult of the living or dead persons or rulers, albeit traditional, is particularly problematic when private cult foundations, usually entailing the establishment of heroic cult, are to be included (cf. p. 8).
5. Lupu prefers to exclude oracles governing cult practice since ‘direct control over the performance of cult is not self-evident’ (p. 35 n. 162, and cf. p. 9). One may well wonder what other reasons could lie behind the recording of such oracles on stone.
6. Contrary to what Lupu seems to suggest, one ought to be sceptical about reading any ‘resuscitation’ of festivals except where it is explicitly stated that they had declined or been neglected (pp. 107-108). Note also that both the festival of Artemis Leukophryene at Magnesia on the Maeander and of Artemis Kindyas at Bargylia are treated under the rubric ‘New festivals’ (p. 107) but it is unlikely that either was truly ‘new’. Recent and recurrent epiphanies provided the impetus for the reorganisation and amplification of preexisting celebrations.
7. E.g. on sacrifices ‘as to the immortals’, Lupu writes: ‘this designation does not necessarily express the divine status of the recipient but merely describes the type of ritual to be performed’ (p. 382). This implies that there is a difference between divine status and worship, whereas the prevailing assumption of Greek religion is that divine status is the precondition for any sort of sacrificial worship. In other words, no ‘equation’ of the elasteroi with the Erinyes or any other deities is strictly necessary; they may be considered as divine beings in their own right because they receive sacrifice ‘as to the immortals’. The choice of non-Greek comparanda employed in the notes may also be seen as problematic. Jewish comparanda are generally preferred over other sources, even where they are only loosely illustrative: pages 12 n. 45, 169, 174 n. 19, 276 n. 28, 375, 380. It might have been preferable to reserve such comparisons for future work, after the complete revision of the corpus, even though they are in a few cases particularly fruitful and pertinent: pages 334 and 369 n. 39.
8. Non vidit : nos. 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20, 22, 23, 25 and 27. No. 26: photograph only.
9. The text, as Lupu at one point suggests (p. 203), may be concerned with cultic finances rather than form a sacred law per se. The only reference to sacrificial activity is the mention of a cult table (restored in fragment 14.3) for which the context is lost. Lupu indicates the small fragments and uncertain texts which were excluded from his collection at pp. xi-xxi nn. 2-3, but these would have been more easily consulted in an appendix.
10. The text as established by Solomonik is not a sacred law. As read and liberally restored by Makarov, however, it becomes a sacred law, an oracle prescribing sacrifices. Even in that case, ought it not to have been excluded according to Lupu’s principle that oracles do not usually directly govern cult practice (see note 5 above)?
11. The text is a prohibition against defecating, probably in a sanctuary of Demeter, published by L. Palaiokrassa-Kopitsa,
12. 4: ‘religieuses’ for ‘religieux’; 80 n. 416: ‘invaluble’ for ‘invaluable’; 136: ‘scribe’ probably for ‘stonecutter’; 162: ‘Thesomophoros’ for ‘Thesmophoros’; 163 n. 11: ‘see above all idem forthcoming’ is confusing; 179: ‘Heraclistai’ for ‘Heracliastai’; 292: ‘responese’ for ‘response’; 311: ‘these cult personnel’ for ‘the cult personnel’; 344-345: ‘seems to antedate currency’ where surely what is meant is ‘seems to antedate this form of currency’; 347 n. 4: ‘occidental’ for ‘occidentale’; 348 n. 7: ‘is’ for ‘was published’; 357: ‘run’ for ‘ran’; fig. 24: a space is needed between ‘Greek’ and ‘Inscriptions’; 425: ‘gréco-romain’ for ‘gréco-romaine’; 426: ‘La dokimasia des victims. Note sur un inscription d’Entella’ for ‘La dokimasia des victimes. Note sur une inscription d’Entella’.
13. The following were, as far as I can tell, missed by Sokolowski: a fragmentary Corinthian text, probably a sacred calendar (various editions: Corinth 8.1.1, AJA 46 (1942) 69-72, LSAG 131.18, IG IV 1597, ca. 575-550 BCE; this text is discussed by Lupu at pp. 65-66); a decree from Lebena involving sacrificial prescriptions to the Nymphs and to Acheloos (IC 1.17.7); and the sacred law of the Epilykoi from Knossos (originally published by N. Platon, KRHTIKA XRONIKA 2 (1948) 93-108 and reedited by O. Masson, BCH 109 (1985) 189-194 (= SEG 35.989), to be read with the comments of P. Perlman, ZPE 100 (1994) 124-125). Other possible fragments of sacred laws include: a text from Phleious (LSAG 150.1a-g, SEG 11.275-276, ca. 600-550 BCE, a text from Eretria mentioning sacrifices, a Roman consul and Artemis (IG XII 9.233, 2nd c. BCE, and a fragmentary regulation for an Athenian festival of Eirene (cf. L. Robert, Arch. Eph. (1977) 211-216). Texts announced as sacred laws: a lead plaque from Corinth with a sacrificial calendar (H.S. Robinson, AD 30 (1975) B.61, and BCH 100 (1976) 600-601, both with a photograph but no text was ever given); a sacrificial calendar from Athens to be published by K. Clinton (SEG 47.71); a sacred law from Kleonai/Kolonai (L. Robert, OMS 3.1465); and at least two sacred laws from Olympia (SEG 42.373 and SEG 47.448).
14. There are a few shortcuts and mistakes in the bibliography. Many series titles and numbers are not cited. Titles of books and articles often do not include subtitles, e.g. Graf 1996 reads ‘ Pompai in Greece’ whereas the actual title is ‘ Pompai in Greece: Some Considerations About Space and Ritual in the Greek Polis’. Nilsson 1906 is cited as Griechische Feste von religiöser Bedeutung, not mit Ausschluss der attischen (and surprisingly the fundamental Geschichte is not cited here). Graf 1992 has no page numbers (read: 159-199).
15. E.g. at p. 49 n.237 Lupu cites (without having read) B. Dignas’ Economy of the Sacred in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor as having been published in 2003, when it in fact appeared in 2002. He is regrettably unaware of the most recent scholarship on sales of priesthoods, notably H.-U. Wiemer, ‘Käufliche Priestertümer im hellenistischen Kos,’ Chiron 33 (2003) 263-310 and B. Dignas, ‘ “Auf seine Kosten kommen” — ein Kriterium für Priester? Zum Verkauf von Priestertümern im hellenistischen Kleinasien,’ (pp. 27-40) in: H. Heedemann and E. Winter eds., Neue Forschungen zur Religionsgeschichte Kleinasiens, Elmar Schwertheim zum 60. Geburtstag gewidmet, Asia Minor Studien 49 (Bonn 2003). Other notable absences include S.D. Lambert, ‘The Sacrificial Calendar of Athens,’ ABSA 97 (2002) 353-399, the work of G. Ekroth on hero-cults (noted at p. xiii n. 4), and C. Chandezon, L’élevage en Grèce (fin Ve s.-fin Ier s. a.C.): l’apport des sources épigraphiques (Bordeaux 2003), who discusses extensively the protection of sanctuaries involved in disciplinary laws.
16. Insufficient focus or lighting: figs. 8, 9, 11, 25 and 29. Fig. 21 is virtually useless as a photographic reference, only providing an impression of the stone on which the text was inscribed.
17. It may additionally be instructive to note that collections organised according to genre had originally been planned by Prott and Ziehen, but were never carried through (p. 3), and that G. Rougemont’s collection of Delphic sacred laws, Lois sacrées et règlements religieux, CID I (1977), is generally regarded as a model for the regional study of religious regulations.