Religious Studies

Jan N. Bremmer

Becoming a Man in Ancient Greece and Rome

Essays on Myths and Rituals of Initiation

[Mannwerdung im antiken Griechenland und Rom. Mythen und Rituale der Initiation.]

2021. XXVIII, 267 pages.
99,00 €
including VAT
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-159008-5
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Published in English.
In this work, Jan N. Bremmer demonstrates the importance of initiation as a key to understanding some of the most celebrated Greek myths. He elucidates the background of the Trojan War, but also illuminates other famous myths, such as Oedipus' defeat of the Sphinx, Dionysus' effeminate appearance and the education of Achilles by the Centaur Chiron.
In this work, Jan N. Bremmer brings together articles on Greek and Roman myths and rituals of male initiation, which have all been updated and, where necessary, revised and translated into English. The preface sketches the rise of the initiatory paradigm within a wider anthropological and Indo-European perspective and discusses the problem of noting ritual elements in mythical reflections. The first of two following sections concentrates on initiatory motifs in a series of famous myths, such as education by shepherds and 'wild men' (Heracles, Centaurs), travesty (Dionysos and Kaineus), the defeat of a monster (Odysseus vs. the Cyclops, Oedipus and the Sphinx) and warring and wandering groups of young men (the Trojan War, Meleager, Orpheus, Theseus and Peirithoos). The second section focuses on historical rituals, beginning with pederasty and the symposium. The author then moves on to the importance of the maternal family and fosterage in the initiatory process before ending with an archaic Latin inscription that reveals the contours of a group of young men in action in the full light of history.

Jan N. Bremmer Born 1944; 1979 PhD; 1978–90 Associate Professor for ancient history at the University of Utrecht; 1990–2009 Chair of Religious Studies at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen; 2019–20 Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies »Beyond Canon,« Regensburg.


The following reviews are known:

In: Biblische Notizen — 196 (2023) (Tommy Woodward)
In: — Greece & Rome, 69 (2022), pp. 171–178 (Andrej Petrovic)
In: New Testament Abstracts — 67 (2023), p. 316
In: Review of Biblical Literature — (12/2023) (Jeffrey M. Tripp)
In: Kernos — 36 (2023), pp. 282–283 (Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge)