Verdichtung und Erweiterung von Traditionsgeflechten
Reviewed by Peter Van Nuffelen
This volume is the result of a seminar held in Bochum in the context of a research project on the history of religion in Asia and Europe. If the brief introduction (7-10) pays lip service to this wider framework and asks a few questions about the development of the hellenistic cult as a Greek or oriental phenomenon, this perspective disappears in the rest of the volume and little attempt is made to bring the various studies together. This is, then, not more (but also no less), than a series of interesting studies on the Hellenistic ruler cult.
The volume sets off with a very good start. Robert Rollinger reviews the evidence for ruler cult in the Achaemenid empire, and does so with full mastery of the Greek and Persian sources and of the methodological issues involved. Besides discussing all the evidence, he makes three important points. First, proskynesis for the Persian King did involve prostration, and not just the blowing of a kiss. In other words, there is substance to Greek reports (e.g. Herodotus 1.134), although their interpretation of it as divine honour is not correct. Second, there is evidence for cult acts performed for deceased rulers. Whether it was a form of ‘hero-cult’ or of divine honour cannot be established. Third, an unpublished tablet (BM 72747) refers to sacrifice performed before a status of Darius in a Babylonian temple. The tablet dates from the first year of Xerxes: this renders it plausible that the sacrifice had also been performed during Darius’ life-time. This is very important new evidence, which should re-open debate about the origin of the Hellenistic ruler cult. If the evidence is too slight to return to the thesis of an oriental origin that was subsequently merely adopted by the Hellenistic rulers, it does demonstrate that ruler cult in a strict sense of the word (cultic acts performed for the ruler) was much more widespread in the ancient world at large than often assumed.