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School of Classics > Events > Conferences > 2013-2014 > Sacred animals and monsters

Sacred Animals and Monsters in Greek and Near-Eastern Religions

A two day conference, to be held  in the School of Classics, University of St Andrews. on 23rd to 24th January 2014.

Organisers: Dr Samantha Newington (University of Aberdeen) and Dr Sian Lewis (University of St Andrews)

The role of animals in ancient religion is large – as objects of sacrifice, as sacred creatures, incarnations of the gods, instruments of divination or healing, and as metaphors and symbols. This includes living animals, and also imaginary ones, animal/human hybrids and monsters: such anomalous beings challenged and transcended normal categories, allowing people to explore the religious, social and cultural ordering of their world. 

This workshop gathers scholars from the fields of Classics, Biblical Studies and Near Eastern Studies, to examine the significance, role and symbolism of sacred animals and monsters in ancient religions. Drawing on archaeology, theology, history and literary studies, we aim to identify links and comparisons between the conception and treatment of sacred animals and monsters in Near Eastern, Jewish, Egyptian and Greek cultures, across a period from the Bronze Age to the Roman Empire. 

Confirmed speakers:

  • Dr Emma Aston (Reading University)
  • Dr Michael Beer (University of Exeter)
  • Prof Kristin de Troyer (University of St Andrews)
  • Dr Matthew Goff (Florida State University)
  • Dr Zohar Hadromi-Allouche (University of Aberdeen)
  • Dr Sian Lewis (University of St Andrews)
  • Dr Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (University of Edinburgh)
  • Ms Fiona Mitchell (University of Bristol)
  • Prof Robert Segal (University of Aberdeen)
  • Prof Karen Sonik (Brown University)
  • Dr Diana Rodriguez Perez (University of Edinburgh)
  • Dr Lorenz Winkler-Horocek (Freie Universitat Berlin)

The workshop is generously funded by the School of Classics, University of St Andrews and the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen.

Thursday 23rd January 2014

  Cosmic Hybrids: Panel Chair - Dr Sam Newington
09:30 - 10:10 Dr Matthew Goff (Florida State University)
Giants, Monsters and Demons in Enochic Literature.
10:10 - 10:50 Ms Fiona Mitchell (University of Bristol): Monstrous Hybrids in the Primordial Cosmos
10:50 - 11:00 Discussion
11:00 - 11:20 Coffee
  Animals in Greek Religion: Panel Chair – Dr Ralph Anderson
11:20 - 12:00

Dr Michael Beer (University of Exeter): ‘The superstitious believe of the Syrian goddess that if anyone were to consume small fish or sardines, she will eat through his shins, burn his body with ulcers and melt his liver’: a consideration of the role of dietary abstention from fish, and fish veneration, in the religious life of the Greek communities of the ancient Aegean

12:00 - 12:40 Dr Sian Lewis (University of St Andrews): ‘And beneath the altars white mice make their nests’: Temple Animals in Ancient Greece.
12:40 - 13:00 Discussion
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch
  Comparative Traditions: Panel Chair – Dr Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
14:00 - 14:40 Prof Kristin De Troyer (University of St Andrews): Crocodiles in Judaism and Egyptian Religion
14:40 - 15:20 Dr Zohar Hadroumi-Allouche (University of Aberdeen): Demon or the Egg: the hermaphrodite Satan in Muslim tradition
15:20 - 15:30 Discussion
15:30 - 15:50 Coffee
  Keynote Speaker: Chair - Dr Sian Lewis
15:50 - 16:30

Prof Karen Sonik (Brown University): Mounted Gods: Anthropomorphic Deities and Sacred Creatures in the Ancient Near East

16:30 - 17:00 Discussion
  Followed by drinks reception and dinner

Friday 24th January 2014

  The Monstrous versus the Divine: Panel Chair - Dr Sam Newington
09:30 - 10:10 Dr Lorenz Winkler-Horocek (Freie Universitat Berlin): Monsters versus Gods and Demons
10:10 - 10:50

Dr Sam Newington (University of St Andrews and University of Aberdeen): Cosmic Monsters in Hesiod's Theogony

10:50 - 11:00 Discussion
11:00 - 11:20 Coffee
  The Horse as Sacred Creature: Panel Chair - Dr Sian Lewis
11:20 - 12:00

Dr Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (University of Edinburgh): The Horse in Achaemenid Persian Culture, Ritual and Thought

12:00 - 12:40

Dr Emma Aston (University of Reading): The Place of the Horse in Thessalian Religion

12:40 - 13:00 Discussion
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch
  Snakes in Biblical Narratives and the Ancient Greek World: Panel Chair – Dr Matthew Goff
14:00 - 14:40 Prof Robert Segal (University of Aberdeen): Talking Snakes: the Case of the Garden of Eden
14:40 - 15:20 Dr Diana Rodriguez Perez (University of Edinburgh): Serpents, heroes, maidens and trees. On the guardian snake in the Ancient Greek World
15:20 - 15:30 Discussion
15:30 - 15:50 Coffee
15:50 - 16:30 Round-table Discussion


Bookings should be made using the online shop.

Registration costs for £15 for the two days, including tea, coffee and lunches.

The conference dinner will be held on 23rd January in a local restaurant; the cost is £26.

Further enquiries to

Bed and breakfast accommodation in the town may be found on the VisitScotland website.


Events Enquiries


Research Seminars

Please direct enquiries to

Tom Geue, 
School of Classics,
University of St Andrews,
St Andrews KY16 9AL.


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Maps & directions

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