Emplotting: the Divine Epiphanic Narratives as Means of Enhancing Agency
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Within the wider methodological framework of the 'Lived Ancient Religion' (henceforth LAR) approach, narratives are thought of as the literary 'emplotment' of events, and as fundamental in the dialogical and interpersonal constitution of 'agency' and collective identity. This paper examines the emplotment of the 'epiphanic schema' in narratives, largely dated to the second century CE. In particular, it looks at both literary sources and inscriptions (I. Miletos 481 = I. Didyma 496; Syll. 725 = I. Lindos II, 2), which feature divine epiphanies to a rather limited number of people – who, unsurprisingly enough, happen to be identical to the members of the socio-political and/or religious elite of the respective communities. The divine epiphanies featured here enhance the agency of a very small minority consisting of a handful of privileged individuals (especially members of the priestly personnel) and invest them with power, prestige and authority, and often with power to deliver the whole community out of imminent danger. Epiphany provides a minority of privileged individuals with the essential god-sent prestige and validity to resolve certain crises and essentially becomes an effective mechanism of perpetuating or, alternatively, challenging current socio-political formations and power-structures. In that sense, epiphany nuances the formation of both basic societal values and socio-economic stratification in Greco-Roman antiquity.