Religion in ancient Greece

Religious Subjects Portrayed on Pottery

These mostly appear in the form of sacrifices, either before a simple altar, or before the statue of some deity, a cult-image, or terminal figure. Thus we have representations of the offering of a bull to Athena, sacrifices to a primitive image of Dionysos or to a terminal figure of Hermes, or a sacrifice or libation to Persephone, Apollo, or other deities. A procession of six maidens carrying chairs and a boy with game is probably in honour of Artemis; and in another scene we have the Dioskuri coming to the Theoxenia or feast prepared in their honour. Many other examples may be found under the heading of the various Olympian deities. In other instances we see the preparations for a sacrifice, or a procession of figures with victims and sacrificial implements; the victims are either rams,bulls, goats, or pigs. Other scenes of sacrifice represent the roasting of a piece of meat held on a spit over a blazing altar; or two men stand over a large krater on a stand, accompanied by a flute-player. In many cases the sacrifice is doubtless intended to celebrate a dramatic, agonistic, or other victory.

Among other religious scenes we have the dedication of a tripod, religious festival dances,praying figures, men or women burning incense over an altar or incense-burner; or scenes of libation, a Metragyrtes or mendicant priest praying before devotees, and a priest examining the entrails of a ram. An ephebos is initiated and purified by the Διὸς κῴδιον; oaths are taken over a tomb, or omens from birds on a tumulus; and here perhaps may be mentioned a man making a gesture against the evil eye. There is also a scene illustrative of the Πιθοίγια, an Athenian feast; and a possible representation of the feast of Adonis, and the “gardens” or pots of flowers exhibited on that occasion. Lastly, there are scenes relating to votive offerings, such as a figure of a child on a column offered to Athena, a youth carrying a votive tablet, and others in which similar votive tablets occur. The number of scenes which can be shown to relate to Athenian festivals, or bear on Greek religious belief and ritual, might be greatly expanded and multiplied, but at present little has been done in this direction.