Prometheus and the Sacrificial Share
An Attic red figure vase (stamnoi) depicting the post-slaughter portion of the sacrifice. The god’s portion (bones and fat) is burning to the left of the altar. On the right, we see two young splanchoptai – both hold spits. In short, we see a scene in which the human’s portion, the innards (splanchna), is being roast while the god’s portion is being burned. This division is called the sacrificial share.
This subpage endeavors to answer the question posed on the main page: “what stories did the Greeks tell themselves about why they could give junk to the gods and still be engaged in an act of worship”. It presents here an brief analysis the story of Prometheus in Hesiod's epic., which goes like this:
A long time ago, when men sacrificed, the victim was burned entirely. This made sacrifices very expensive, so the poor could never sacrifice. Prometheus, the cunning son of a Titan, decided to use his wits to change all that. Prometheus pleaded with Zeus to let humans keep a portion of the animal. Zeus agreed, but which part of the animal would the gods keep? Prometheus sacrificed an ox and invited Zeus the choice:
In one heap, Prometheus put the bones, covered with shining fat. He then hid the best parts of the sacrifice in an ox paunch. Zeus chose the bones – either he was tricked or, as Hesiod puts it, he let himself be tricked so that he could use the event as an excuse to vent. Both ways, this is one of the few etiological myths we have from the Greeks, and Zeus’s choice here is one explanation for why the gods are given the undesirable part of the animal.
The next question that comes to mind is "How did the Greeks conceptualize tha animals they sacraficed?" Read on to find out.
Sources and Further Reading
Hesiod, and Hugh G. Evelyn-White. "Theogony." Works and Days, Theogony, and the Shield of Heracles. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2006. Web. 1 Nov. 2015. < http://www.theoi.com/Titan/TitanPrometheus.html >
(Full Theogony can be found here)
Burkert, Walter. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Berkeley: U of California, 1983. Print.
T., Van Straten F. "Post Kill." Hierà Kalá: Images of Animal Sacrifice in Archaic and Classical Greece. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995. 114-58. Print.