Manufacturing the Marvellous: Technology and Divine Presence in Ancient Greek Religion
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Bur, T. (2020). Manufacturing the Marvellous: Technology and Divine Presence in Ancient Greek Religion (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.65080
This is an investigation of the ways that divine presence was manufactured through the technological, and foremost the mechanical, in the ancient Greek world. The dissertation seeks both to expand the existing vocabulary of visual modes of ancient epiphany, and to contribute to the cultural history of the unique category of ancient ‘enchantment’ technologies. A broad chronological scope not only allows for an adequate presentation of the evidence for this previously unidentified phenomenon, but also helps to understand the complex, shifting matrices of agency between technical objects, mechanical knowledge, gods, and mortals from the fifth century BCE to the second century CE. The technological ‘mode’ of epiphany is introduced through a reassessment of the well-known 'deus ex machina' of Greek tragedy. Instead of seeing the god on the machine as a structural device which offered poets an easy solution to bring tragic plots to a close, I consider the mēchanē as an object facilitating divine epiphany. The material—and specifically mechanical—qualities of the mēchanē are highlighted to evaluate how the machine functioned as a religious medium. In the following section, technical texts are made to speak to contemporaneous literature as well as the archaeological record in order to explore the ways that ancient Greek ritual experiences were shaped by technological interventions. Once technical knowledge, artificial aesthetics and manufactured spaces are shown to have been integral in various divinatory contexts, certain theological assumptions about the ways that gods intervene in the human world can be discerned. In a similar manner, objects dedicated to the gods which revel in their status as inventions nuance our understanding of the dynamic between human and supernatural in ancient Greek religion. Furthermore, by looking at the place of large spectacle machinery (automata) in Hellenistic festival processions, I consider how religious technologies were entangled with the political. Finally, Lucian’s 'Alexander' and 'Icaromenippus' are used as springboards to discuss the extent to which technologies become embroiled with fraudulent attempts to ‘create’ the divine raising questions about the authenticity of the mechanical miracle and the threat posed by technical knowledge. The Lucianic texts prove to be useful vantage points from which to look backwards, too, and ascertain a diachronic picture of the phenomenon of technologically manufacturing divine presence in ancient Greek religion.
Greek religion, Ancient technology, Ancient mechanics, Deus ex machina, Epiphany, Automata, Gods, Lucian, Spectacle, Enchantment
University of Sydney Coopers Graduate Travelling Scholarship; Cambridge University Classics Studentship.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.65080
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