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Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice$
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Jennifer Wright Knust and Zsuzsanna Varhelyi

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738960

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738960.001.0001

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Bonds of Flesh and Blood

Bonds of Flesh and Blood

Porphyry, Animal Sacrifice, and Empire

(p.214) 11 Bonds of Flesh and Blood
Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice

Philippa Townsend

Oxford University Press

Philippa Townsend places the theories of sacrifice put forward by the Neo-Platonic philosopher Porphyry within a complex of ethnic tradition, sacrificial ritual and imperial rule developed during the consolidation of the Roman Empire. Porphyry’s own critique of sacrifice, which included an extension of shared kinship to all of humanity and to non-human animals as well, attenuated boundaries based on birth or race even as conventional distinctions remained. To Porphyry, blood ties were at best insignificant, and at worst detrimental, because they bound one more securely to the material order. As such, his writings are marked by an anxiety about the disjunction between one’s true self and one’s contingent identity, an anxiety that can be securely linked to the social transformations brought on by the universalizing impetus of third-century imperial rule.

Keywords:   sacrificial theology, Neo-Platonism, Porphyry, Roman empire, ethnicity

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