Monday, July 1, 2013

Religious Belief of Ancient Greek People

           The history of Greece can be traced back nearly 4,000 years ago. The Greek Empire was most powerful between 2000 BC and 146 BC. They developed new ideas for government, science, philosophy, religion, and art. Ancient Greece was split into many different states but the two most important city states were Athens and Sparta. 

Each state had its own laws, government and money but they shared the same language and religion. Today I am going to concern about religious belief of Ancient Greek People and its relation with mythology. 

Like many other ancient religions, Greek religion was a predominant form of early Paganism and was polytheistic in nature. It was mostly ritual based, practicing a flexible set of beliefs. It was unlike many modern religions, because it made no claims of universality, they did not proselytize, they did not participate in regular clergies, no hierarchical system, no sacred texts or moral code that is backed by religious beliefs.

To some modern scholars Greek religion simply consisted of an abundant treasury of legendary tales or mythology told by Greek authors, such as Homer (Odyssey and Iliad) and Hesiod (Theogony).
    The most integral part of Greek religion and their society was the Divine. It entered all parts of Greek society, domestic affairs, civic organization, agriculture and war. Ancient Greeks believed that their Gods had enormous powers, and that they were able to control nature in all its forms.

 The Greeks attempted to please the Gods, fearing that they could upset them with insolence and impiety. The Greeks also placed an immense faith in the idea that an afterlife awaited them after their death. They firmly believed that this life was not the only reality in which the soul lives, but after this lifetime, a whole new and different one awaited them. 

    The Greeks worshipped many Gods, creating a polytheistic society. They placed great importance on twelve Pantheon Gods. The Greeks believed that the Gods resided on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in mainland Greece. 

The Gods were admired and feared, being distinguished from man by their immortality. Whilst being immortal, the gods were not all powerful. They had to obey fate, which overrode all. The gods acted like humans, they had interaction with humans, sometimes even spawning children with them. 

At times certain gods would be opposed to another, and they would try to outdo each other. Zeus was the king of the gods, having a level of control over all other gods. 

Among Twelve Pantheon Gods, foremost was Zeus Whose symbol was the thunderbolt and others were Hera(goddess of women and marriage), Poseidon(sea-god), Demeter(goddess of the harvest), Athena(goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill), Hestia (the virgin goddess of the hearth, architecture, and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family), Apollo(god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, poetry, and more), Artemis(goddess of the hunt, wild, wilderness, childbirth, virginity, bringing and relieving disease in women), Ares( Greek god of war), Aphrodite(goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation), Hephaestus(god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes.) and Hermes(messenger, of the gods to humans) and Dionysus( god of the grape harvest, wine making and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy). They also worshiped other deities such as oracles, lesser divinities, semi Gods and Heroes. 

      Greeks built large and beautiful temples in every town for one god or goddess. Among all these temples the most notable were the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, and the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena upon the Acropolis in Athens. These temples were not like modern places of worship where ordinary people went to pray in. 

They were homes for statues of gods, which were cared for by priests, important people in the community. Religious ceremonies and festivals went on outside the temple under the supervision of priests. During religious ceremonies Greeks were especially likely to sacrifice animals in honour of the gods. The festivals included plays, music, dancing, and then a parade to the temple where they made their sacrifices and had a feast. 

    Beside temples the other holy places where Greeks used to go was Oracles. Here the Greeks and the priest of the temple would pray to the gods and ask a question about their futures. They believed the gods answered their questions using signs in nature. For example, at the oracle of Zeus at Dodona, you would write your question on a slab of lead then give it to the priest, who listened to the rustling leaves of sacred oak trees to tell you the god's answer. The most important Greek oracle was the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, though there were many others. 

    It is obvious that the Greeks shared many common aspects with other forms of Paganism. The only contrast between Greek religion and other forms of Paganism can be seen through their differing beliefs about the after-life. Whilst most Pagan religions hold the belief that their spirit was passed on from one body to the other, Greek religion centered on the belief that the soul moved onto another life, such as Heaven or Hell. 

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