This article argues that claims of divine kinship play a central role in the Bacchic gold tablets of the late classical period. While many scholars have interpreted these tablets in reference to the Orphic Zagreus myth, I contend that key details of their texts are better understood as assertions of a familial link with the gods that assured postmortem happiness. The tablets develop the Hesiodic idea of human-divine fellowship, expanding this theme to include claims of identity or kinship with the gods through a variety of narrative strategies. This aspect of the tablets finds a parallel in Empedocles, who (under Orphic-Pythagorean influence) elaborates traditional human-divine fellowship into a claim that humans are exiled gods who can hope to rejoin divine society. Following this interpretive approach, I suggest that the puzzling expression “I/you fell into milk” in some tablets expresses a symbolic relation to the gods via divine breast milk.
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Research Article| April 01 2023
“You Fell into Milk”: Symbols and Narratives of Kinship in Bacchic Mysteries
Mark F. McClay
Mark F. McClay
Hillsdale College email@example.com
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Classical Antiquity (2023) 42 (1): 121–158.
Mark F. McClay; “You Fell into Milk”: Symbols and Narratives of Kinship in Bacchic Mysteries. Classical Antiquity 1 April 2023; 42 (1): 121–158. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ca.2023.42.1.121
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