Originally published in 1977 in German as 'Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche', in the series Die Religionen der Menschheit, vol 15, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, this English translation was first published in 1985 by Basil Blackwell Ltd, 493pp, ISBN 0631112413. This study by Walter Burkert (translated by John Raffan) is the first major synthesis of Greek Religion to appear for a generation [that is up to 1985]. It provides a clearly structured and readable survey for classical scholars and students; and is an excellent modern account of a polytheistic religious system.
This volume delves back into the Minoan and Mycenaean origins and covers the archaic and classical periods in detail. Professor Burkert describes the various rituals of sacrifice and libation and explains Greek beliefs about purification. He investigates the inspiration behind the great temples - the Acropolis and Olympia, Delphi and Delos - discussing the priesthood, sanctuary, divination and oracles. A major portion of the book is devoted to the origins and importance of individual gods, the position of the heroes, and beliefs about the afterlife. The different festivals are used to illuminate the place of religion in the society of the city state. The mystery cults - at Eleusis and among the followers of Bacchus and Orpheus - are also set in their context. Finally the author turns his attention to the great classical philosophers' attitudes to religion. Drawing upon literature and myth, vase paintings and archaeology, Professor Burkert lets the evidence speak for itself as far as possible. He elucidates the controversies surrounding its interpretation without glossing over the enigmas that remain. While the notes afford the scholar a wealth of further references, the text builds up an impressive and coherent picture of the current state of knowledge about the religion of the ancient Greeks