|About the Book|
This well-illustrated book thoroughly investigates the relations between East and West in the Ancient world as seen through the lens of ancient religious practices. The author has concentrated on one aspect of the cult, the ritual drama, and its setting, the cultic theatre. The point of departure is the presence of a great amount of theatrical structures in the sanctuaries in Greece and Italy. Many of these structures were not proper theatres in the modern sense of the word, but rather primitive rows of seats, a place to watch from. These structures have never before been examined from a functional viewpoint, and the author proposes that their primary raison detre was the performance of ritual dramas at the great seasonal feasts. For various reasons, which she describes, the author points to the relative obscurity of this religious institution in the Greek and Roman world, and notes that as a result, it has received scant attention from scholars. In contrast, it is well known that ritual dramas had been performed in the distant past at the great seasonal feasts of the Orient, and the book includes an excellent overview of the development of this institution as well as the setting chosen for it in the Egyptian, Syrio-Phoenician and Anatolian cults, both in their homelands and in their new host countries in the West. This is a fascinating book for archaeologists and classicists, as well as for anthropologists and historians of religion, but it also gives food for thought for those who simply want to learn more about Oriental religious practices and the origins of theatre.