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The (Ancient Greek) Subject Supposed to Believe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-88
Number of pages33
JournalNUMEN. International Review for the History of Religions
Issue number1
Early online date19 Dec 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Nov 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 19 Dec 2018
DatePublished (current) - 4 Jan 2019


This article discusses the challenges facing scholars exploring the nature of belief in ancient Greek religion. While recent scholarship has raised questions about individual religious activities, and work on ritual, the body, and the senses has broadened our methodological palette, the nature and dynamics of generally held “low intensity” beliefs still tend to be described simply as “unquestioned” or “embedded” in society. But examining scholarship on divine personifications suggests that ancient beliefs were — and our perceptions of them are — more complex. This article first explores the example of Tyche (“Chance”), in order to highlight some of the problems that surround the use of the term “belief.” It then turns to the theories of “ideology” of Slavoj Žižek and Robert Pfaller and argues that these can offer provocative insights into the nature and dynamics of ritual and belief in ancient Greek culture.

    Research areas

  • ancient Greek religion, belief, ideology, Pfaller, ritual, Tyche, Žižek



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