Neda and Franz Leipen Fellow

Katerina Apokatanidis
(September 2021 to May 2022)

Katerina Apokatanidis is a PhD candidate in Classical Archaeology at the University of Toronto, under the supervision of Prof. Sarah Murray. Her thesis, entitled “Greek Religion and Funerary Culture in the Archaic and Classical Periods: The Case-Study of the Worshippers of the Orphic Dionysos,” focuses on the tomb assemblages that yielded the Orphic Gold Tablets.

The Orphic Gold Tablets are thin, gold inscriptions that point to the existence of a Bacchic-Orphic religious group. The Bacchic-Orphic cult seems to have operated on the periphery of public religious practice. The texts record what each deceased initiate should do to be free of the cycle of reincarnation on earth and enter the Elysium Fields, previously reserved for descendants of the gods. This cult is visible to us only via these tablets as well as the Derveni papyrus. Such textual references enable us to detect this unusual religious practice and identify key aspects of the worship of a different Dionysos, one more intimately connected with death and the afterlife.

With the generous support of the Canadian Institute in Greece and the Neda and Franz Leipen Fellowship, Ms. Apokatanidis wishes first to assemble the funerary context of the Orphic Gold Tablets that have not been adequately situated in material cultural perspective to date. Second, she wishes to assess the objects of the tomb assemblages of each worshipper both as isolated cases and as they compare to others of the same and subsequent periods. To accomplish these objectives, a hands-on study of the archaeological material from these tombs will be carried out at museums in Greece and Italy. This project will fill several gaps in our knowledge of the Bacchic-Orphic cult by interpreting the tablets within a robustly archaeological framework, considering issues of production, material properties, and assemblage.