Classics (Classical Civilisation) MA/MA(SocSci)

The Material World in Greek Religious Thought and Practice CLASSIC4083

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

The course explores the importance and changing role of objects in Greek religion from the archaic to the Hellenistic period. Although several religions draw a divide between the spiritual and the material, Greeks seem to have done things differently and attributed to objects a special role in their religion. We will explore this distinctively Greek perspective, as is demonstrated in a variety of phenomena: for instance the consistent association of gods with particular objects, their role in cosmogonic narratives, the existence of various 'talismanic objects' or the rite of dedication. We will also discuss modern theories of materiality, which explore the importance of the material world in shaping our understanding of human identity and structuring human relationships.


10x1 hour lectures; 8x1 hour seminars per week over 8 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus, and 2x1 hour workshops. This is one of the Honours options in Classics and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Excluded Courses





Essay (3,500 words) - 60%

Presentation (12 minutes) plus (1,000 words) handout/ PowerPoint - 40%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course will provide an opportunity to:


■ Study a variety of aspects of Greek religion with a material dimension, such as temple economies, dedication, sacred space and objects in mythological narratives

■ Engage closely with a variety of primary material, such myths, inventory lists, sacred laws, coins, and archaeological material

■ Reflect on the relationship between Greek religion and the perception of the physical environment and material world

■ Study modern theories about the importance of stuff in the construction of human identity

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, students will be able to:


■ Describe a variety of religious practices and institutions

■ Analyse the importance of these practices and institutions in the broader context of Greek society through time

■ Analyse and combine a variety of primary sources

■ Summarize, evaluate and criticize modern scholarly works on materiality and religion

■ Produce sustained arguments based on their own interpretation of the primary and secondary sources

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.