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Sharing with the Gods: Aparchai and Dekatai in Ancient Greece




This book provides a comprehensive account of the offering all over the Greek world of so-called ‘first-fruits’ (aparchai) and ‘tithes’ (dekatai) from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period (c. 700 to 31 B.C.). Existing studies of Greek religion tend to focus on ritual performance, but this book investigates questions of religious belief and mentality: why the Greeks presented these gifts to the gods, and what their behaviour tells us about their religious world-view, presuppositions, and perception of the gods. An array of ancient sources is exploited to examine the diverse nature of aparchai and dekatai, the complexity of the motivations underlying the practice, the role of individuals in shaping tradition, possible interactions between individual and communal practices, the deployment of this religious custom in politics, and the transformation of a voluntary practice into a religious obligation. Contrary to traditional interpretations of gift-giving practices in terms of do ut des and da ut dem, which emphasize the reciprocal, obligatory, and sometimes commercial aspects of gifts, this book argues that reciprocity is a relevant but insufficient explanation of gift-giving in ancient Greece, and considers hitherto neglected notions such as gratitude and thanksgiving. Drawing on comparative materials and current anthropological approaches to gift-giving, particularly the French anthropologist Godelier’s idea of ‘debt’, this book argues that aparchai and dekatai both constituted a means of settling men’s debts to the gods, who could dispense both goods and evils, and an expression of human dependence on them.


JIM, T. (2014). Sharing with the Gods: Aparchai and Dekatai in Ancient Greece. Oxford: Oxford University Press (OUP).

Book Type Authored Book
Publication Date 2014
Deposit Date Sep 25, 2020
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Series Title Oxford classical monographs
ISBN 9780198706823
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Jim, T. S. F. (2014). Sharing with the Gods. Oxford University Press.