Keywords: Honey, ancient Egypt, Hittites, Crete, ancient Greece, kingly authority, chthonic ritual, evocatio of gods, curses, normal and abnormal ritual


This is a comparison between the uses of honey in ritual contexts in the cultures of ancient Egypt, Hatti and Greece. Strong differences are illustrated. In Egypt, more particularly Lower Egypt, honey plays an important role in royal rituals linking the power, health and fertility of gods and pharaohs. By contrast among the Hittites honey, though involved in important rituals, especially those intended to ‘sweeten’ gods and make them appear amongst the gods or men, is only one ingredient among many. In Greece there appears to be a difference between Mycenaean times, when as far as the sparse evidence allows us to see honey was not restricted to particular types of god, and the Archaic and Classical periods, when it was very substantially confined to rites of an abnormal kind, rites evoking past ages and rites concerning the Underworld and the dead. The article ends with reflections on the limitations of such a comparison as this, and speculation on the reasons for the differences noted. Though the evidence must perforce be laid out very selectively, a range of original sources is quoted.


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Author Biography

ANGUS BOWIE, University of Oxford The Queen’s College

University of Oxford The Queen’s College


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