Saturday, January 21, 2012

Defiling Gore About the Altars

On the other hand, Prof. MacMullen points out that visitors to temple precincts in the Roman empire were apt to encounter less pleasing sights and smells:
[Christians] pointed with elaborate repugnance to "the pollution around the idols, the disgusting smell and smoke of sacrifices, the defiling gore about the altars and the taint of blood from the offerings.  Did they overstate the case?  It was a pagan who described "the priest himself [who] stands there all bloody and like an ogre carves and pulls out entrails and extracts the heart and pours the blood about the altar."  It is clear that the great bulk of meat . . . eaten in the ancient world had been butchered in temple precincts, most of which, ill-supplied with water, could not be swashed down easily, accumulated ugly piles of offal in corners, and supported not only flies but stray mongrels as well.
The Christian criticism quoted by Prof. MacMullen is from the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgos (the Wonderworker) by Gregory of Nyssa.  The "pagan" quoted is the satirist Lucian's De sacrificiis.


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  2. The streets of Rome had to be a place of constant danger, including those ravenous mongrels that fed off of the entrails and flesh bits. I enjoy your blog, I will follow!


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