Through the Looking Glass: Perspectives on the Interaction Between ‘Politics’ and ‘Religion’ in Ancient Greece

Miranda Schonbrun

Through the Looking Glass: Perspectives on the Interaction Between ‘Politics’ and ‘Religion’ in Ancient Greece

February 22, 2022 / 5:00 pm / Add to Google

This hybrid event will be held in person at Social Science Matrix, 820 Social Sciences Building, on the UC Berkeley campus. Physical attendance will be limited to 35 guests. The event will also be available online via Zoom. Registration is required here

Josine Blok, Professor of Ancient History and Classical Civilization, Utrecht University

Looking for ‘politics’ and ‘religion’ in the past, we tend to see reflections of ourselves, of what we unintentionally assume the two spheres of life to be. Taking ‘we’ to be citizens of present-day western democracies, we are deeply familiar with how in the last two centuries ‘politics’ and ‘religion’ have shaped our societies and us. When looking at ancient Greece, an entirely different society, we must make an effort to go though this mirror image, to see and understand what the two spheres of life and the relationship between them were like. ‘Politics’ and ‘religion’ reflect the relationship between human and divine worlds, which in Greece was based on reciprocity, albeit of vastly unequal partners. In this talk, we shall examine how this relationship was embedded in religious-social life and how it worked at the institutional level. Our attempt to get through the looking glass will involve close reading of the evidence, mainly from Athens but also from elsewhere in the Greek world.

Prof. Dr. J.H. (Josine) Blok is Professor Emerita of Ancient History and Classical Civilization at Utrecht University. Her expertise is the history of archaic and classical Greece. Special areas of her interest include the political, religious and social history of ancient Greece in the widest sense. Her present research revolves around the theory and practice of citizenship in the ancient Greek world, especially in classical Athens. She is the author of Citizenship in Classical Athens (Cambridge, 2017), which interprets the Athenian practice of citizenship as inextricably bound up with religious rituals and laws that sought to construct and maintain a particular relationship between the Athenian citizen body and the gods it worshipped. She is also interested in a comparative analysis of ancient Greek citizenship and politics with present-day democracies, notably in the use of sortition in this context. Besides antiquity itself, she is interested in the study of antiquity in later times, especially the nineteenth century. Since 2001, she has served as Chair of the European Network for the Study of Ancient Greek History. She has served as Chair of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Humanities at Utrecht University since September 1, 2020.

Presented by the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion with generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation