The Routledge Companion to Ecstatic Experience in the Ancient World 

Eds Diana Stein, Sarah Kielt Costello, Karen Polinger Foster

To be published: November 30th, 2021

For millennia, people have universally engaged in ecstatic experience as an essential element in ritual practice, spiritual belief and cultural identification. This volume offers the first systematic investigation of its myriad roles and manifestations in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East.

The twenty-nine contributors represent a broad range of scholarly disciplines, seeking answers to fundamental questions regarding the patterns and commonalities of this vital aspect of the past. How was the experience construed and by what means was it achieved? Who was involved? Where and when were its rites carried out? How was it reflected in pictorial arts and written records? What was its relation to other components of the sociocultural compact? In proposing responses, the authors draw upon a wealth of original research in many fields, generating new perspectives and thought-provoking, often surprising, conclusions. With their abundant cross-cultural and cross-temporal references, the chapters mutually enrich each other and collectively deepen our understanding of ecstatic phenomena thousands of years ago. Another noteworthy feature of the book is its illustrative content, including commissioned reconstructions of ecstatic scenarios and pairings of works of Bronze Age and modern psychedelic art.

Scholars, students and other readers interested in antiquity, comparative religion and the social and cognitive sciences will find much to explore in the fascinating realm of ecstatic experience in the ancient world.

Table of contents

List of figures
List of contributors
Preface, Jeffrey J. Kripal


Introduction, Diana L. Stein, Sarah Kielt Costello and Karen Polinger Foster

Part One: Setting the Stage
1. Contextualizing the Study of Ecstatic Experience in Ancient Old World Societies, Sarah Kielt Costello
2. Not Only Ecstasy: Pouring New Concepts into Old Vessels, Etzel Cardeña
3. From Shamans to Sorcerers: Empirical Models for Defining Ritual Practices and Ecstatic Experience in Ancient, Medieval and Modern Societies, Michael J. Winkelman

Part Two: Psychoactive Substances Past and Present
4. Psychoactive Plants in the Ancient World: Observations of an Ethnobotanist, Giorgio Samorini
5. Ecstasy Meets Paleoethnobotany: Botanical Stimulants in Ancient Inner Asia, Alison Betts
6. Caucasian Cocktails: The Early Use of Alcohol in ‘The Cradle of Wine,’ Stephen Batiuk
7. Mind-altering Plants in Babylonian Medical Sources, Barbara Böck
8. Plant-based Potions and Ecstatic States in Hittite Rituals, Rita Francia
9. Forbidden at Philae: Proscription of Aphrodisiac and Psychoactive Plants in Ptolemaic Egypt, Riccardo Andreozzi and Claudia Sarkady
10. The Ring-Kernos and Psychotropic Substances, David Ilan

Part Three: Ecstatic Experience and the Numinous
11. Beer, Beasts and Bodies: Shedding Boundaries in Bounded Spaces, Anne Porter
12. Lament, Spectacle and Emotion in a Ritual for Ishtar, Sam Mirelman
13. Writing for the Dead, Welcoming the Solar-Eye Goddess and Ecstatic Expression in Egyptian Religion, John Coleman Darnell
14. Altered States on Prepalatial Crete, Emily Miller Bonney
15. Bodies in Ecstasy: Shamanic Elements in Minoan Religion, Christine Morris and Alan Peatfield
16. The Mycenaeans and Ecstatic Ritual Experience, Susan Lupack
17. Emotional Arousal, Sensory Deprivation and ‘Miraculous Healing’ in the Cult of Asclepius, Olympia Panagiotidou
18. Ecstasy and Initiation in the Eleusinian Mysteries, Alice Clinch
19. Apolline and Dionysian Ecstasy at Delphi, Yulia Ustinova
20. Communing with the Spirits: Funeral Processions in Ancient Rome, Maik Patzelt

Part Four: Expressions of the Ecstatic Mind
21. Ecstatic Experience and Possession Disorders in Ancient Mesopotamia, Ulrike Steinert
22. Ghosts In and Outside the Machine: A Phenomenology of Intelligence, Psychic Possession and Prophetic Ecstasy in Ancient Mesopotamia, John Z. Wee
23. Ecstatic Speech in Ancient Mesopotamia, Benjamin R. Foster
24. Ecstatic Experience: The Proto-Theme of a Near Eastern Glyptic Language Family, Diana L. Stein
25. Understanding the Language of Trees: Ecstatic Experience and Interspecies Communication in Late Bronze Age Crete, Caroline J. Tully
26. Psychedelic Art and Ecstatic Visions in the Aegean, Karen Polinger Foster
27. Sight as Ecstatic Experience in the Ancient Mediterranean, Nassos Papalexandrou


The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies


de George Boys-Stones (Sous la direction de), Barbara Graziosi (Sous la direction de), Phiroze Vasunia  (Sous la direction de)


The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies is a unique collection of some seventy articles which together explore the ways in which ancient Greece has been, is, and might be studied. It is intended to inform its readers, but also, importantly, to inspire them, and to enable them to pursue their own research by introducing the primary resources and exploring the latest agenda for their study. The emphasis is on the breadth and potential of Hellenic Studies as a flourishing and exciting intellectual arena, and also upon its relevance to the way we think about ourselves today. The book provides comprehensive guidance in areas such as epigraphy, numismatics, and manuscript studies.

(Text by the editors)




Front Matter

The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies



List of Contributors



Part I – Hellenes and Hellenisms


Hellenism and Modernity – James I. Porter

Indigenous Hellenisms/Indigenous Modernities: Classical Antiquity, Materiality, and Modern Greek Society – Yannis Hamilakis

Near Eastern Perspectives on the Greeks – Robert Rollinger

Colonies and Colonization – De Angelis Franco

The Athenian Empire – Low Polly

Alexander the Great – Briant Pierre

Hellenistic Culture – Susan Stephens

Roman Perspectives on the Greeks – Barchiesi Alessandro

Greece and Rome – Whitmarsh Tim

Hebraism and Hellenism – Gruen Erich S.

The Greek Heritage in Islam – Strohmaier Gotthard

Hellenism in the Renaissance – Celenza Christopher S.

Hellenism in the Enlightenment – Cartledge Paul

Ideologies of Hellenism – Canfora Luciano


Part II – The Polis


The Polis – Redfield James

Civic Institutions – Forsdyke Sara

Economy and Trade – Von Reden Sitta

War and Society – Hunt Peter

Urban Landscape and Architecture – Osborne Robin

The City as Memory – Ma John

Ancient Concepts of Personal Identity – Gill Christopher

The Politics of the Sumposion – Hobden Fiona

Coming of Age, Peer Groups, and Rites of Passage – Calame Claude

Friendship, Love, and Marriage – Cantarella Eva

Sexuality and Gender – McClure Laura

Slavery – Dubois Page

Ethnic Prejudice and Racism – Isaac Benjamin

Maritime Identities – Ayodeji Kim

Travel and Travel Writing – Pretzler Maria

Religion – Kindt Julia

Games and Festivals – König Jason

Just Visiting: The Mobile World of Classical Athens – Dougherty Carol

Greek Political Theory – Rowe Christopher


Part III – Performance and Texts


Performance and Text in Ancient Greece – Nagy Gregory

Books and Literacy – Rösler Wolfgang

Epic Poetry – Haubold Johannes

Lyric Poetry – Capra Andrea

Tragedy – Taplin Oliver

Comedy – Konstan David

Historiography – Dewald Carolyn

Oratory – Rubinstein Lene

Low Philosophy – Desmond William D.

High Philosophy – Baltzly Dirk

Magic – Collins Derek

Medicine – Holmes Brooke

Music – Rocconi Eleonora

The Exact Sciences – Netz Reviel

Hellenistic Poetry – Sens Alexander

Biography – Pelling Christopher

The Novel – Nimis Stephen A.

Performance, Text, and the History of Criticism – Ford Andrew L.


Part IV – Methods and Approaches


Comparative Approaches to the Study of Culture – Lloyd G. E. R.

Postcolonialism – Greenwood Emily

Demography and Sociology – Scheidel Walter

Myth, Mythology, and Mythography – Bremmer Jan N.

Gender Studies – Skinner Marilyn B.

Comparative Philology and Linguistics – Probert Philomen

Epigraphy – Rhodes P. J.

Archaeology – Whitley James

Numismatics – Meadows Andrew

Manuscript Studies – Tchernetska Natalie

Papyrology – Armstrong David

Textual Criticism – Battezzato Luigi

Commentaries – Graziosi Barbara

Psychoanalysis – Bowlby Rachel

Translation Studies – Lianeri Alexandra

Film Studies – Michelakis Pantelis

Reception – Leonard Miriam


End Matter

Name Index

Subject Index