Tuesday 16 March 2004

Nanno Marinatos
University of Illinois at Chicago

Who sees the Gods and why on Minoan gold rings
There is a body of Minoan gold rings that depict divine epiphanies. The divinity arrives from the sky in rapid motion, and the epiphany is witnessed by one single person, a woman or a man.
Fr. Matz was the first to draw attention to the extraordinary character of Minoan epiphany. He connected it to the absence of cult images in Minoan palatial Crete and saw epiphany as a substitute. He also defined the experience as ecstatic. But is really the phenomenon so extraordinary or is it part of a larger Near Eastern tradition?
In order to understand the scenes, their syntax must first be analyzed in the tradition established by Ch. Sourvinou-Inwood and W.-D. Niemeier. This will be the first methodological tool of the analysis and it may be termed the establishment of a vocabulary. The second tool is the establishment of a frame through the use comparative religion. This frame will not be based on anthropological models constructed by 19th century scholars, such as Frazer, or models constructed by twentieth century theorists of culture. It will rather be images and texts from the Near East, namely from cultures that shared in the same broad tradition as Minoan Crete. Models cannot be avoided altogether in any kind of reasoning, but they need to be constantly checked by the evidence.
The final aim of the presentation is to define the social identity of the visionaries and their role in Minoan society. A few concluding remarks about the purpose of the imagery on the rings will be made.
Three major questions shall be asked, all of which concern the issue of social identity. First: What is the status of the persons who see the god? Second: is the location where the epiphany occurs of any significance? Third: Why are the scenes engraved on gold rings?


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...