Much recent scholarship on "thysia" sees the meaning and function of the rite for the ancient Greeks to stem partly or largely from the beliefs and emotions surrounding the slaughter of the victim. Scholars have proposed that the Greeks experienced fear and awe when they killed animals for food, and that the source of these feelings was a perception of the slaughter of liverstock as akin to murder. This paper considers evidence for the ancient Greek experience of the rite of "thysia", with the ultimate aim of shedding light on current theories of sacrifice. My source is the extensive system of imagery of "thysia" in Attic vase-painting. I view this imagery not as a series of illustrations of the way "thysia" was performed but rather as a map of the way it was conceptualized. Analyzed in this way, the iconography of "thysia" yields information on the degree to which "thysia" was identified with slaughter, and on the emotions inspired by the rite. The visual terms of definition of "thysia" in this repertory are not slaughter and burnt offerings but rather edible animals and the preparation of meat in the context of feasts and festivals. The semantic range of this imagery is the basis for conclusions about the emotional connotations of "thysia". The depiction of slaughter and of unwilling victims may be associated with the iconography of revelry and appears in some scenes to be the focus of humor. Most significant are the employment of "thysia" in the depiction of victory and the development of several important scene types of "thysia" as subsets of the iconography of Dionysian symposion and kōmos. In these contexts, the imagery of "thysia" appears as a visual metaphor denoting joy and celebration.
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