Usos y abusos del medio natural, by Santiago Montero and María Cruz Cardete (ed.)
Reviewed by Marietta Horster
The volume under review is the result of the fifth Italo-Spanish workshop on religion (“V Seminario hispano-italiano de Historia de las Religiones”), which took place in 2008. The preceding workshops, all of which have been published, each treated a different, broadly defined topic related to ancient religions. In this case, the subject is nature, naturalness and religion – the use and abuse of the natural environment. For exact titles and page-numbers see the contents list given at the end of the review.
The book starts with a paper by N. Spineto that addresses the well established subject of Dionysus and vinegrowing. The harvest and pressing of the grapes are presented as the violent aspects of Dionysus’ story and are equated with his dismemberment and death. Spineto argues that these central elements of wine-production are one aspect of what is remembered and ritualised at the Athenian Lenaia festival. In the second paper of this collection, M. Tozza concentrates on snakes as a symbol of rebirth and renewal in pre-Hellenic religion (Mycenae, Knossos) – an unfamiliar subject to the reviewer. “One swallow doesn’t make a summer” is the heading of O. Romeras presentation on the swallow as an animal and symbol (esp. for light) in Greek literature and in the few visual representations. He stresses the polysemantic use made of the swallow in augural techniques.