Jane Harrison examines the festivals of ancient Greek religion to identify the primitive "substratum" of ritual and its persistence in the realm of classical religious observance and literature. In Harrison's preface to this remarkable book, she writes that J. G. Frazer's work had become part and parcel of her "mental furniture" and that of others studying primitive religion. Today, those who write on ancient myth or ritual are bound to say the same about Harrison. Her essential ideas, best developed and most clearly put in the Prolegomena, have never been eclipsed.
A big, bustling cornucopia of facts marshalled into an impassioned argument, Harrison's book offers the pleasures of an intellectual chase, sweeping in all kinds of arcane information along the way. Her mission was to topple the Olympian gods from their pedestal in Greek studies and replace them with a welter of local rituals and mystery cults. This, she argued, was where the Greek ethos came from, not Homer at all. Her book is massive, encrusted with detail, a monument to a forgotten kind of scholarship. (Kirkus UK)