Greek prayers are requests. As such they are speech acts marked off from everyday language by performance conditions on which their effectiveness depends. Inscribed Greek prayers, left in sanctuaries, provide information about these conditions. But inscribed prayers are more than memorials of an original act of praying. When read out loud, they were meant to re-enact and re-perform the prayer to which they refer. Inscriptional and other evidence suggests that eventually inscribed prayers were even meant to be read by the gods to whom they were addressed, who were judged likely to be present in the places where these inscriptions were erected or placed. Votive reliefs are an additional source of information about Greek prayer. They provide visual evidence about the sending of prayers and about their reception by the gods, who are portrayed as attending to the speaker and in that very act, answering his or her prayer. Votive reliefs, that is, are typically representations of successful interchanges with a god, and, as such, are fitting gifts to gods for prayers answered. Like inscribed prayers, subsequent acts of viewing votive reliefs stimulate re-performance of the act of gratitude to which they refer. The gift is on such occasions re-given. A votive relief from the late fourth century B.C.E., now in the Louvre (755), provides visual evidence of these interpretations. In this relief, Hygieia is represented as resting her right hand on a disc or plaque that lies on top of a pillar. I argue that this object is a representation of a votive disc, and that Hygieia's pose signifies acknowledgment of such a gift-offering.
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Mary Depew; Reading Greek Prayers. Classical Antiquity 1 October 1997; 16 (2): 229–258. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/25011064
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