Controlling Miasma: The Evidence for Cults of Greek Craftspeople from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period (6th - 2nd c. BCE)
Art History and Archaeology
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Chair and Committee
This study addresses a previously neglected aspect of ancient Greek popular religion, the specific practices undertaken by craftspeople to enhance their lives and protect their livelihood. By collecting the archaeological and iconographic evidence of workers' or industrial cult, primarily from the Archaic through the Hellenistic period, I examine beliefs, myths, rituals, and cult figures significant to workers. In chapter one, the gods and goddesses worshipped by craftspeople in civic religion are discussed, in particular Athena Ergane and Hephaistos. Chapter two examines the archaeological remains from workshops for evidence of cult activity, and how this activity differs from civic cult. In chapter three, images of workshops are addressed, particularly those votive objects, plaques, or masks in the background of the action which seem to serve an apotropaic function, an attempt by the workers to protect production processes. Chapter four examines the dedications by craftspeople, which were set up as prayers for future endeavors, or as thank-offerings for past successes. The conclusion discusses the threat of miasma, or pollution, which was a dominating concern for the ancient Greeks. Literary evidence indicates that they believed religious danger was contagious, and thereby always potentially communal, and the consequence of pollution was divine anger. Purification practices were extremely varied, and quite common. Pollution was a particular concern for craftspeople because their jobs brought them into contact with the chthonic deities, demonic spirits who inhabited the underworld and represented for mankind the ultimate form of pollution.
Smith, Christine, "Controlling Miasma: The Evidence for Cults of Greek Craftspeople from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period (6th - 2nd c. BCE)" (2009). All Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). 326.
Permanent URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.7936/K7028PHZ