Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928) was a pioneer in the academic study of myth in its historical and archaeological context, and was also one of the first women to make a full-time career as an academic. In her introduction to this book (1903), making the point that 'Greek religion' was usually studied using the surviving literary retellings of myths and legends, she states: 'The first preliminary to any scientific understanding of Greek religion is a minute examination of its ritual'. Using the then emerging disciplines of anthropology and ethnology, she demonstrates that the specific mythological tales of the Greeks embody systems of belief or philosophy which are not unique to Greek civilisation but which are widespread among societies both 'primitive' and 'advanced'. Her work was enormously influential not only on subsequent scholars of Greek religion but in the wider fields of literature, anthropology and psychoanalysis.
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