Walter Burkert

Walter Burkert

Walter Burkert (born Neuendettelsau, Bavaria, February 2, 1931), a scholar of Greek mythology and cult, 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 among 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.

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).

econd 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, followed in 1983 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.

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" (1972, English 1983), "Greek Religion" (1977, English 1985), and "Ancient Mystery Cults" (1982 lectures, published 1987). Burkert still writes on ancient Greece and its religion.

In his preface to the English translation of "Homo Necans" Burkert, who characterised himself on this occasion as "a philologist who starts from ancient Greek texts and attempts to find biological, psychological and sociological explanations for religious phenomena", [Introduction, p. xix. Burkert's stress is actually sociological and scarcely biological.] expressed some of the principles underlying a book that had seemed somewhat revolutionary to German readers in 1972 in its consistent application of inter-relationships of myth and ritual, the application to texts of the kind of functionalism espoused in Jane Ellen Harrison's "Themis" [Harrison's "Themis" is specifically instanced, p. xiii.] and the use of structuralism to elucidate an ethology of Greek religion, its social aspect. Burkert confirmed that an impetus for his book had come from Konrad Lorenz, "On Aggression", "which seemed to offer new insight into the disquieting manifestations of violence." The book argues that solidarity was achieved among the Greeks through a sacred crime with due reparations: "for the strange prominence of animal slaughter in ancient religion this still seems to be the most economical, and most humane explanation" (p. xv). Its first chapter "Sacrifice as an Act of Killing" offers conclusions that are supported in the ensuing chapters through individual inquiries into myth, festival and ritual, in which the role of poetic creation and re-creation are set aside "in order to confront the power and effect of tradition as fully as possible". The term "gods", Burkert concludes, remains fluid, whereas sacrifice is a "fact" (p. xv).

ee also

*Greek religion
*Mystery religion
*Human sacrifice


Books by Walter Burkert

* (1972) [ "Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism"] , Translated by Edwin L. Minar, Jr., Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-53918-4.
*cite book | year = 1972 | title = Homo necans: Interpretationen Altgriechischer Opferriten und Mythen | publisher = De Gruyter | location = Berlin | language = German | id = ISBN 3-11-003875-7
**cite book | year = 1981 | title = Homo necans: Antropologia del Sacrificio Cruento nella Grecia Antica | others = trans. Francesco Bertolini | publisher = Boringhieri | location = Turin | language = Italian | id = ISBN 88-339-5114-6
**cite book | year = 1983 | title = Homo necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth | others = trans. Peter Bing | publisher = University of California Press | location = Berkeley | id = ISBN 0-520-03650-6
*cite book | year = 1979 | title = Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual | publisher = University of California Press | location = Berkeley | id = ISBN 0-520-03771-5
* (1985) [ "Greek Religion"] , Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-36280-2. This has been widely accepted as a standard work in the field.
* (1987) [ "Ancient Mystery Cults"] , Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-03386-8, Based on his Jackson Lectures at Harvard, 1982.
*cite book | year = 1992 | title = The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age | others = trans. Margaret E. Pinder | publisher = Harvard University Press | location = Cambridge, Mass. | id = ISBN 0-674-64363-1
* (1996) [ "Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early Religions"] , Harvard University Press, ISBN: 0-674-17569-7.
* (1998) [ "The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age"] , Translated by Margaret Pinder, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-64363-1.
*cite book | year = 2001 | title = Savage Energies: Lessons of Myth and Ritual in Ancient Greece | others = trans. Peter Bing | publisher = University of Chicago Press | location = Chicago | id = ISBN 0-226-08085-4
*(2004) [ "Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture"] , Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-01489-8.

ome 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.

External links

* [ Walter Burkert, Emeritus Professor for Classical Philology (includes complete bibliography)]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Walter Burkert — (* 2. Februar 1931 in Neuendettelsau) ist ein deutscher Klassischer Philologe und gilt als einer der hervorragendsten Kenner der griechischen Religion und Mysterienkulte. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Werk 3 Literatur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Walter Burkert — Walter Burkert, né le 2 février 1931 à Neuendettelsau, est un chercheur et un universitaire allemand, spécialisé en mythologie et en histoire des religions, et connu pour ses travaux sur la religion grecque antique et les cultes à mystères.… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Walter Burkert — (nacido en Neuendettelsau, Baviera, el 2 de febrero de 1931) es un estudioso de la religión griega. Profesor emérito de cultura clásica de la Universidad de Zúrich (Suiza), también impartió clases en Reino Unido y los Estados Unidos. Es experto… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Burkert — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Marianne Burkert Eulitz (* 1972), deutsche Politikerin (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) und Rechtsanwältin Martin Burkert (* 1964), deutscher Gewerkschafter und Politiker (SPD) Michael Burkert (* ?), deutscher …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Burkert — Burchard Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Burchard (Burkhart, Burkard, Burkhard, Burkert, Burckhardt, Burgheard, Borchardt, évolué en Bouchard en français) est un prénom germanique formé… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Burkert — Bụrkert,   Walter, klassischer Philologe, * Neuendettelsau (Kreis Ansbach) 2. 2. 1931; wurde 1966 Professor an der Technischen Universität Berlin (West), 1969 in Zürich; beschäftigt sich v. a. mit frühgriechischer Religion und Philosophie sowie… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Pythagoras — Herme des Pythagoras (um 120 n. Chr.); Kapitolinische Museen, Rom Pythagoras von Samos (griechisch Πυθαγόρας) (* um 570 v. Chr.; † nach 510 v. Chr. in Metapont in der Basilicata) war ein antiker griechischer …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Pythagoras von Samos — Büste des Pythagoras; Kapitolinische Museen, Rom Pythagoras von Samos (griechisch Πυθαγόρας) (* um 570 v. Chr.; † nach 510 v. Chr. in Metapont in der Basilicata …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Neupythagoreer — Büste von Pythagoras Als Pythagoreer bezeichnet man im engeren Sinne die Angehörigen einer religiös philosophischen Schule, die Pythagoras von Samos in den zwanziger Jahren des 6. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. in Unteritalien gründete und die nach seinem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Neupythagoreismus — Büste von Pythagoras Als Pythagoreer bezeichnet man im engeren Sinne die Angehörigen einer religiös philosophischen Schule, die Pythagoras von Samos in den zwanziger Jahren des 6. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. in Unteritalien gründete und die nach seinem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.