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Sacrifice at the Bridge of Arta: Sex Roles and the Manipulation of Power Ruth Mandel Eliade writes If we remember, too, that the traditional societies saw the human dwelling as an imago mundi, it becomes still clearer that every work of foundation symbolically reproduces the cosmogony. (Zalmoxis the Vanishing God, 184) This paper will try to demonstrate how the story of the woman sacrificed and immured in the foundation of the bridge of Arta symbolically reproduces Greek cosmogony and notions of culture and nature. This will be made evident by examining the gender-linked concepts of nature and culture, which form the background for the sacrifice that takes place. Ultimately it will be shown how the woman's role as a mediator between households and the worlds of the living and dead imbues her with an essential liminality to the extent that she concurrently is the instantiation of both nature and culture.* The Greek woman has been perceived by scholars in many different lights. She is the idealized mother-Panama (Virgin Mary) figure, the wife-sister-daughter repository of male honor, and the sister or daughter who is a financial burden requiring a substantial dowry, to name but a few. Most of the roles she assumes and is assigned implicitly identify the woman in relation to her male kin. Using a symbolic approach,1 an examination of the ballad "The Bridge of Arta" pro- *This paper has benefited from the comments and criticism of several people. I would like to thank Michael Herzfeld, Kostas Kazazis, Gail Kligman, and Dan Segal for their helpful suggestions at various incarnations of the paper. At an early stage Jane Cowan's research and insights were important influences. The responsibility for its present form remains my own. 'This approach follows David Schneider's theory of culture as that integrated system of symbols and their meanings. See especially Schneider, American Kinship, and "Notes Toward a Theory of Culture." 173 174 Ruth Mandel vides an excellent vehicle for exploring the various roles and meanings of woman, and woman-as-sacrificial-victim, as they unfold in the song.2 Drawing also on the theoretical contributions of structuralism and ritual analysis, I will focus upon, first, the basic opposition of inclusivity vs. exclusivity expressed in Greek by the terms dikós and henos (insiders-outsiders)3 and second, the notion of liminality. The dikósks énos opposition as discussed by Vassiliou and Vassiliou (Philotimo, passim), Campbell (Honour, passim), and Herzfeld ("Segmentation," passim) is understood to be pervasive and central to the Greek cosmology as a salient distinction that Greeks make in the course of meaningful social action. As might be expected, the category of dikós is often congruent with the "family" (delimited in varying ways) but in many instances, as will become clear below, it is important to discern between the two terms, dikós and family, as they are each context-dependent, relative, and therefore not isomorphic categories. The dikós-ksénos opposition proves particularly useful when a meaningful distinction emerges between consanguines or blood relations, and affines or relatives by marriage. In light of the importance of the distinction between the categories dikós and ksénos, the nebulous territory lying between the two emerges as equally important. Many anthropologists have explored this territory, referring to it as ambiguous, marginal, or liminal. It is often addressed in the domain of the sacred. For instance, in Durkheim 's discussion of the nature of the sacred, he distinguishes between two opposed sorts of sacredness, the propitious and the unpropitious. He describes this in terms of purity, positing that the pure and the impure are not two separate classes, but two varieties of the same class, which includes all sacred things. . . . The pure is made out of the impure, and reciprocally. It is in the possibility of the transmutations that the ambiguity of the sacred consists (Elementary Forms, 458). It is this same ambiguity that Victor Turner addresses. Liminality was first propounded as such by Turner, who, drawing on Van Gennep's Rites of Passage, developed his theory. Briefly, it speaks to what Mary The passages cited in this paper were selected because of their relevance to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 173-183
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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