Whether or not human sacrifice was practised by the Greeks in Antiquity is a contested topic in modern scholarship. This paper does not seek to add to the abundant scholarship on this debate. Rather, it will discuss the way in which human sacrifice is portrayed and dealt with in Herodotus’ Histories. Thus, this paper will examine three case studies of human sacrifice in connection to the sea from Herodotus’ narrative. I will address Herodotus’ presentation of human sacrifice and its representation in his Histories. These three case studies range from the Archaic to the Classical eras, from times of myth to the Persian Wars, dealing with human sacrifice to the winds, to the gods, and to the sea. First, this paper will discuss Menelaos in Egypt and his mythological sacrifice of two Egyptian children to gain favourable sailing weather. The second case study examines the Tauri tribe, located in Scythia, and their supposed tradition of sacrificing shipwrecked sailors to Artemis. The final case study examines the historical sacrifice of Leon, a great Greek warrior who was sacrificed by the captain of a barbarian ship during the Persian Wars. Through the utilisation of these three case studies, this paper will discuss how Herodotus portrays human sacrifice within the different contexts, contrasting how each sacrifice differed from the others, why they differed, and the overall purpose of the depiction of human sacrifice. 

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity