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Book: Theorizing Religion in Antiquity

Chapter: 10. Manipulating "Religion": The Egyptian ‘Theologoumena’ in Diodorus Siculus

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27970


In the first book of his Library of History Diodorus presents a panorama of ideas and practices that dominated the Egyptian everyday practices and customs during his own life time (1st century BCE). Diodorus lived in an unstable and constantly changing world where everything was challenged. The information that he provides regarding the religious practices of Egypt is of particular importance since it adds to the knowledge about Egypt in general. This approach of the Egyptian theologoumena by Diodorus Siculus may provide further confirmation regarding the encouragement, especially in the case of examining mythical narrations, which could be considered as ideological, that is an ongoing process of constructing, authorizing, and reconstructing social identities and/or social formations. In Diodorus’ work there are constant innuendos regarding the oppositions between the local and ecumenical character of the cults of the Egyptian deities. The priests of Egypt who remained loyal to religious traditions represent the first tendency. The second one is exemplified by the ecumenical and syncretistic character that is adopted in the worshipping of these deities already from the beginning of the Hellenistic era. The tendency towards ecumenism is directly related to the Ptolemaic attempts for a renewal of the traditional character of the Egyptian religion.

Chapter Contributors

  • Panayotis Pachis ( - ppachis) 'Aristotle University'