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Lydie Bodiou
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Véronique Mehl
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Jacques Oulhen
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Troisième partie. Vers le polythéisme

τίς ὁ θύων1

Robert Parker

Texto completo

  • 1 Special abbreviations: LSA = F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrées de l’Asie Mineure, Paris, 1955; LSS = id. (...)
  • 2 Mehl V., Brulé P. (éd.), Le sacrifice antique. Vestiges, procédures et stratégies, Rennes, PUR, 20 (...)
  • 3 Bonnechère P., «“La machaira était dissimulée dans le kanoun”: Quelques interrogations», REA, 101, (...)
  • 4 See e.g. the essays in La cuisine et l’autel and Le sacrifice antique; also Henrichs A., «Blutverg (...)
  • 5 «Le hiereion, phusis et psuchè d’un medium», Le sacrifice antique, op. cit., p. 111-138, at p. 111

1The recent collection of studies of sacrifice edited by our honorand and Véronique Mehl has made plain how far we are from having achieved a stable understanding of the phenomenon2. One might think that, in the light of several admirable studies of recent years, the basic procedural facts at least were well known. But such ‘facts’ as the hiding of the sacrificial knife and the victim’s nod of assent to its own sacrifice have been challenged as factoids3. As for interpretation, everything is revisionism and flux4. Pierre Brulé and Rachel Touzé have made the striking observation that there were no victims in Greek sacrifice; the word by which we unthinkingly designate the animal offered is a Latinism that imports an idea quite absent from the Greek vocabulary of sacrifice5. As a small homage to Pierre Brulé’s enormous contributions to the study of Greek religion, I study an issue in the vocabulary of Greek sacrifice which, like that of ‘victims’, has its importance for understanding what, at the metaphysical level, is taking place.

  • 6 «Essai sur la nature et la fonction du sacrifice», L’Année Sociologique, 2, 1899.
  • 7 The activity of sacrifiant and sacrificateur is said to be distinguished by a middle/active distin (...)
  • 8 See Osborne R.G., «Women and sacrifice in classical Greece», CQ, 43, 1993, p. 392-405 (reprinted i (...)
  • 9 E.g. Aesch. Ag. 594; Men. Dysc. 260; Herondas 4. 13.

2At a sacrifice, who sacrificed? What is at issue will become clear at once if we envisage the common case where an individual brings an animal to a public shrine for sacrifice and the ceremony is carried out by the priest of the shrine. In that case, who sacrifices, the private person or the priest? In French it has become customary to follow Mauss and Hubert6 and to distinguish the functions verbally: the person who provides the victim is le sacrifiant, the officiating priest le sacrificateur. That distinction is highly convenient, and I shall make use of it in what follows. But it is useful precisely because it draws a distinction not drawn in Greek7, and we should not simply import it unconsciously into a Greek context and so obscure a real difficulty. The question ‘Who sacrifices?’ is not a trivial or a scholastic one, as a recent controversy about the relation of women to sacrifice makes plain8; since women could certainly pay for sacrifices, since therefore the verb θύω not seldom has a female subject9, the proposition that in some sense women were debarred from full participation in sacrifice lacks even prima facie plausibility unless one identifies actual physical performance of the rite as the core of what it means to sacrifice. If a woman pays for the victim, a male priest prays over it and places the ‘god’s portion’ on the altar, a professional μαγείρος performs the actual kill and subsequent butchery, and the woman’s male relations eat most of the meat, it is neither idle to ask, nor easy to determine, who sacrifices.

  • 10 See below.
  • 11 See e.g. IG II2 1183. 33; SEG 50. 168 A II 1-2, 23 (Attic demarchs); LSS 94, 96, 97, 100-101 (vari (...)
  • 12 For θύω in the sense of ‘kill’ (for which σφάζω is more common), see e.g. Ar. Pax 1021. ἱεροθύτης (...)
  • 13 Peace, 1054.
  • 14 For this and other uses of this word see Jones C.P., «“Joint sacrifice” at Iasos and Side», JHS, 1 (...)

3A difficulty confronts us at once: as is well known the semantic field of English ‘sacrifice’ is covered in Greek by a good number of partially overlapping and partially separate terms, the most important of which, θύω, changes significantly in meaning between the 8th century and the 5th. It may be that of these terms some are more naturally applied to the sacrifiant, some to the sacrificateur, or that usage in this regard changed over time. I therefore abandon the question ‘Who sacrifices?’ and substitute for it ‘τίς θύει’, leaving aside the complications that might arise from posing the parallel questions ‘τίς ἐναγίζει, τίς ἱερεύει, τίς σφάζει’, and so on. It emerges at once that θύειν is used both of the sacrifiant and of the sacrificateur: as evidence for the former one can cite its application to the sacrifiant in sacred laws even where the services of a sacrificateur, a priest, are clearly presupposed10; as evidence for the latter, sacred laws which specify the official responsible for conducting, but not paying for, a particular sacrifice, which regularly identify him as the person who θύει11. A little further investigation reveals further complications. The role of the sacrificateur is itself not necessarily single, comprising on the one hand the more honourable and priestly function of ‘beginning [the rite]’ and ‘placing the sacred portions on the altar’, on the other the more menial chores of killing the animal and preparing the meat. If the work of the sacrificateur is thus divided between priest and chef, one may again ask ‘τίς θύει’ and again the answer appears to be that both can be said to do so. The verb θύω perhaps tended to be reserved for the priest or equivalent, but the noun θύτης is applied to a functionary with bloody hands12. A quite different possible usage is revealed by the question put by the greedy oracle-peddler Hierocles when he interrupts a sacrifice in progress in Aristophanes: ‘Who are you (plural) sacrificing to?’13. There is, then, a sense in which all the participants at a sacrifice are sacrificing. συνθύται accordingly was one word for members of a religious society14.

4To our question, ‘τίς θύει’ the answer may appear to be, ‘everybody’. In different contexts, it will be entirely natural to apply the verb to persons involved with sacrifice in very different ways, ‘involvement with sacrifice’ being the only constant. But one may wonder whether, amid this swarm of claimants to the title of sacrificer, some are better qualified than others, whether, that is, criteria can be found to establish that one usage of the verb is basic or general and others secondary or special. Unfortunately there appears to exist no body of principles agreed among theoretical linguists that one can bring to the task. As a rough working procedure, since the most important ambiguity in the usage of the verb is that between its application to the sacrifiant and the sacrificateur, one might investigate what happens in contexts where sacrifiant and sacrificateur are distinct persons and have both to be described. To apply the verb θύω to both would be confusing: the speaker will have to make a choice, and here perhaps a sense of who in the word’s truest meaning performs the sacrifice will be revealed. Two sacred laws, one from Oropos and one from Chios, deal with a relevant situation. That from Oropos prescribes that:

  • 15 LSCG 69. 25-34.

‘When he is present, the priest is to make prayer over the offerings and place (portions) on the altar; but when the priest is not present the person bringing the sacrifice (ὁ θύων) is to do so, and each person is to make prayer over the sacrifice for himself, but the priest is to pray over public (ones)….. it shall be permitted to sacrifice (θύειν) whatsoever an individual wishes, but the meat may not be taken out of the precinct. Those bringing sacrifice (οἱ θύοντες) shall give the priest the shoulder from each victim, except at the time of the festival15…’

5The text from Chios is not dissimilar:

  • 16 LSCG 119. 11-14.

‘When the genos sacrifices, there shall be given to the priest of Heracles tongues and entrails and the pieces put in the hands and a double-meat portion and the skins. But when a private person sacrifices there shall be given to the priest tongues and entrails, the portions put in the hands and a double-meat portion. Let the person bringing the sacrifice (ὁ θύων) summon the priest; and if the priest is not present let one of those to whom the shares (?) belong act as priest (προιερητευέτω), and let the person bringing the sacrifice give what accrues from it to the priest16.’

6Both these texts present us with a sacrifiant and a sacrificateur side by side; and in both the verb θύειν is reserved for the sacrifiant, the sacrificateur being simply known as ‘the priest’. It may seem that these texts unmask the pretensions of the sacrificateur and establish that, when choices have to be made, it is the sacrifiant alone who sacrifices.

7Yet a doubt remains. Is this linguistic choice unquestionably an index of fundamental assumptions? Might it not be just a matter of convenience, there being no term available to designate the sacrifiant in this context as convenient as ὁ θύων, whereas the sacrificateur can readily be spoken of as ‘the priest’? At least one Attic text goes the other way. Apollodorus in the speech against Neaera (116) tells how the Eleusinian hierophant Archias was punished because:

‘he sacrificed (θύσειεν) for the courtesan Sinope at the Haloa on the eschara in the court at Eleusis when she brought a victim (προσαγούσῃ ἱερεῖον), though it was illegal to sacrifice victims on this day and the sacrifice didn’t belong to him but to the priestess (οὐδ’ ἐκείνου οὔσης τῆς θυσίας ἀλλὰ τῆς ἱερείας)’.

  • 17 LSS 77 and 129.

8The contextual pressure that led Apollodorus to this linguistic choice is clear. The sacrifiant is spoken of merely as ‘presenting a victim’ and θύω is reserved for the sacrificateur because the charge is that Archias has acted as sacrificateur illicitly: that, therefore, is the stressed function in this context. But perhaps the choice is always determined contextually rather than by an intrinsic prior claim of one or the other. In two sacred laws from Chios it is again the priest who θύει, whereas the activity of the sacrifiant is described periphrastically as ποιεῖν τὰ ἱερά17; note that one of the texts cited earlier that applied θύειν to the sacrifiant was also from Chios. These latter two texts stipulate, in a formula constantly recurrent on the island, that the priest is to receive certain perquisites ‘from whatever he sacrifices’ (ἀπ’ ὧν ἂν θύηι), and the presence of the formula may be the contextual determinant that casts the priest as the ‘sacrificer’ in these cases.

  • 18 Hdt. 6.111.2; cf. Theopompus, FGrH 115 F 104 on reciprocal prayers of Athens and Chios; more in Pu (...)
  • 19 See Jacquemin A., «La participation in absentia au sacrifice», Le sacrifice antique, op. cit., p. (...)
  • 20 Hom. Od. 3. 32-50.
  • 21 Hippocr. Aer. ch. 22, p. 74.17-20 Diller; cf. Plat. Resp. 364b-366b, 390e.
  • 22 Lysias 2. 39; cf. Pulleyn, Prayer, ch. 2 ‘Reciprocity and Remembrance’.
  • 23 On which see the sage remarks of Veyne P., Annales, 2000, p. 21-22.

9One may reasonably ask whether anything emerges from all this apart from an observation about the usage of one Greek verb. One implication, that relating to women and sacrifice, has already been mentioned. Perhaps the analysis can also bring out part of the complexity of what happened at a sacrifice. A sacrifice was on the one hand a gift to a god, a surrender of property by its individual owner, the sacrifiant. It was on the other hand a collective ritual action presided over by the sacrificateur. Sacrifice was intended to bring benefit to those involved with it, and to some extent there were two channels of benefit corresponding to its double aspect as gift and as ritual action. Every sacrifice had designated beneficiaries, those ‘for whom’ (ὑπέρ) it was made; they were identified in the prayers that accompanied it. All those participating in the rite would be mentioned in the invocation, but absentees too could be included; Herodotus tells how ‘when the Athenians bring offerings in the great assemblies that occur at five-year festivals, the Athenian herald prays that the blessings should come both to the Athenians and the Plataeans18’. This shared participation in the benefits of the sacrifice was expressed by sharing in the sacrificial meat, portions of which could be dispatched to absent friends19; when, in the Odyssey, Telemachus arrives during a sacrifice to Athena, Nestor hospitably invites him to take a portion of entrails and make a prayer to the goddess20. Seen as ritual action, sacrifice benefits all participants equally. But seen as a gift it was felt to benefit the giver above all; the rich could expect to fare well from the gods because they sacrificed richly21, and when one engaged in ‘reminding of sacrifices’ (θυσιῶν ἀνάμνησις)22 it was sacrifices that one had brought, not that one had attended, to which appeal was made. The point, however, is that in distinguishing sacrifice as individual gift from sacrifice as collective ritual action one is unravelling the threads of a tightly-woven rope: the two aspects were not experienced as distinct (any more than many other elements that made up the total experience of sacrifice). The linguistic intertwining of sacrifiant, sacrificateur and the participants at large (the συνθύοντες) through the ambiguities of the single term θύω is an aspect of the irreducible complexity of sacrifice itself23.

Notas

1 Special abbreviations: LSA = F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrées de l’Asie Mineure, Paris, 1955; LSS = id., Lois sacrées des cités grecques, supplément, Paris, 1962; LSCG = id., Lois sacrées des cités grecques, Paris, 1969.

2 Mehl V., Brulé P. (éd.), Le sacrifice antique. Vestiges, procédures et stratégies, Rennes, PUR, 2008.

3 Bonnechère P., «“La machaira était dissimulée dans le kanoun”: Quelques interrogations», REA, 101, 1999, p. 21-35; Georgoudi St., «“L’occultation de la violence” dans le sacrifice grec: données anciennes, discours modernes», Georgoudi St., Koch Piettre R., Schmidt F. (éd.), La cuisine et l’autel. Les sacrifices en questions dans les sociétés de la Méditerranée ancienne, Turnhout, 2005, p. 115-147; eadem, «Le consentement de la victime sacrificielle: une question ouverte», Le sacrifice antique, op. cit., p. 139-154; Naiden F. S., «The Fallacy of the Willing Victim», JHS, 127, 2007, p. 61-73.

4 See e.g. the essays in La cuisine et l’autel and Le sacrifice antique; also Henrichs A., «Blutvergiessen am Altar», Seidensticker B., Vöhler M. (éd.), Gewalt und Ästhetik, Berlin, 2006, p. 59-87.

5 «Le hiereion, phusis et psuchè d’un medium», Le sacrifice antique, op. cit., p. 111-138, at p. 111.

6 «Essai sur la nature et la fonction du sacrifice», L’Année Sociologique, 2, 1899.

7 The activity of sacrifiant and sacrificateur is said to be distinguished by a middle/active distinction in Vedic (Casabona J., Recherches sur le vocabulaire des sacrifices en grec, Aix-en-Provence, 1966, p. 85), but Casabona has shown that this is not the difference between θύομαι and θύω (op. cit., p. 85-94).

8 See Osborne R.G., «Women and sacrifice in classical Greece», CQ, 43, 1993, p. 392-405 (reprinted in Buxton R. [éd.], Oxford Readings in Greek Religion, Oxford, 2000).

9 E.g. Aesch. Ag. 594; Men. Dysc. 260; Herondas 4. 13.

10 See below.

11 See e.g. IG II2 1183. 33; SEG 50. 168 A II 1-2, 23 (Attic demarchs); LSS 94, 96, 97, 100-101 (various priests or officials, at Kamiros). Innumerable decrees honour priests for their conduct of sacrifices.

12 For θύω in the sense of ‘kill’ (for which σφάζω is more common), see e.g. Ar. Pax 1021. ἱεροθύτης is a more dignified position and often a magistracy, which was sometimes eponymous. On these and other terms (καθημεροθύτης, περιθύτης, προθύτης) see Berthiaume G., Les rôles du mágeiros, Leiden, 1982, p. 20-23. Berthiaume seems to assume (p. 21) that a priest or magistrate who is assisted at a sacrifice by a θύτης or μάγειρος has the role of a sacrifiant, since the θύτης is clearly the sacrificateur. But a priest or magistrate who sacrifices on behalf of the city is only paratially equivalent to an individual sacrificing for his family, since in the former case the city, not the priest or magistrate, provides the victim. Thus the sacrifiant is the city; and cities are indeed said to sacrifice, if rarely (LSA 37.9; IOropos 304.13). It seems to me rather that in such a case the role of the sacrificateur is sub-divided.

13 Peace, 1054.

14 For this and other uses of this word see Jones C.P., «“Joint sacrifice” at Iasos and Side», JHS, 118, 1998, p. 183-186.

15 LSCG 69. 25-34.

16 LSCG 119. 11-14.

17 LSS 77 and 129.

18 Hdt. 6.111.2; cf. Theopompus, FGrH 115 F 104 on reciprocal prayers of Athens and Chios; more in Pulleyn S., Prayer in Greek Religion, Oxford, 1997, p. 14-15.

19 See Jacquemin A., «La participation in absentia au sacrifice», Le sacrifice antique, op. cit., p. 225-234, with my comment ibid. p. vi.

20 Hom. Od. 3. 32-50.

21 Hippocr. Aer. ch. 22, p. 74.17-20 Diller; cf. Plat. Resp. 364b-366b, 390e.

22 Lysias 2. 39; cf. Pulleyn, Prayer, ch. 2 ‘Reciprocity and Remembrance’.

23 On which see the sage remarks of Veyne P., Annales, 2000, p. 21-22.

Autor

Wykeham Professor of Ancient History, New College, Oxford

© Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2009

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