Walter Burkert

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Walter Burkert (born Neuendettelsau, Bavaria, February 2, 1931), an eminent scholar of Greek religion and cults, is an emeritus professor of classics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and also has taught in the United Kingdom and the United States. He has influenced generations of students of religion since the 1960s, combining in the modern way the findings of archaeology and epigraphy with the work of poets, historians, and philosophers. He has published books on the balance between lore and science in the followers of Pythagoras, and more extensively on ritual and archaic cult survival, on the ritual killing at the heart of religion, on mystery religions, and on the reception in the Hellenic world of Near Eastern and Persian culture, which sets Greek religion in its wider Aegean and Near Eastern context.


[edit] First academic era

Burkert married Maria Bosch in 1957 and has three children, Reinhard, Andrea and Cornelius. His career as a successful scholar was clearly foreseen in his early years, as a student in higher education. He studied classical philology, history, and philosophy at the Universities of Erlangen and Munich (1950–1954), and obtained his doctorate in philosophy at Erlangen in 1955. He became an Assistant in course teaching at Erlangen for five years (1957–1961) and, following his marriage, returned to his former University as Lecturer for another five years (until 1966). From early 1965 he worked as a Junior Fellow in the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. for one year. The first academic era of his life ended with a placement as Professor of Classical Philology at the Technical University of Berlin (1966–1969), and as Guest Professor at Harvard University for a year (1968).

[edit] Second academic era

The start of a new era began in 1981 when his work of ancient Greek religious anthropology, Homo Necans, was published in an Italian translation. This was followed a year later by an English translation. The book is today considered an outstanding account of concepts in Greek religion. He was Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Zurich (1969–1996); Visiting Professor of Classical Literature at the University of California for two years (1977 and 1988); Lecturer at Harvard in 1982; Dean of the Philosophical Faculty I at Zurich (1986–1988); and presented the Gifford Lectures at the University of St Andrews in Scotland (1989). After holding these posts and receiving numerous honorary awards, he retired as an Emeritus in 1996.

[edit] Academic works

Three of his most important academic works (a selection from seventeen books and two hundred essays, including encyclopedia contributions and memorabilia), which are still at the base of the study of Hellenic religion, are Homo Necans, Greek Religion (1977, English 1985), and Ancient Mystery Cults (1982 lectures, published 1987). Burkert still writes on ancient Greece and its religion.

[edit] See also

[edit] Books by Walter Burkert

  • (1972) Homo necans: Interpretationen Altgriechischer Opferriten und Mythen (in German). Berlin: De Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-003875-7.
    • (1981) Homo necans: Antropologia del Sacrificio Cruento nella Grecia Antica, trans. Francesco Bertolini (in Italian), Turin: Boringhieri. ISBN 88-339-5114-6.
    • (1983) Homo necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth, trans. Peter Bing, Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03650-6.
  • (1979) Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03771-5.
  • (1985) Greek Religion, trans. John Raffan, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-36280-2. This has been widely accepted as a standard work in the field.
  • (1987) Ancient Mystery Cults. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-03386-8. Based on his Jackson Lectures at Harvard, 1982.
  • (1992) The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age, trans. Margaret E. Pinder, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-64363-1.
  • (2001) Savage Energies: Lessons of Myth and Ritual in Ancient Greece, trans. Peter Bing, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-08085-4.
  • (2004) Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01489-8.

[edit] Some articles by Walter Burkert

  • 'Das hunderttorige Theben und die Datierung des Ilias' in Wiener Studien vol. 89 (1976) pp. 5-21.
  • 'Kynaithos, Polycrates and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo' in Arktouros: Hellenic studies presented to B. M. W. Knox ed. G. W. Bowersock, W. Burkert, M. C. J. Putnam (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1979) pp. 53-62.
  • 'Lydia between East and West or how to date the Trojan War: a study in Herodotus' in The ages of Homer: a tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule ed. Jane B. Carter, Sarah P. Morris (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995) pp. 139-148.

[edit] External links

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