The temple interiors did not serve as meeting places, since the sacrifices and rituals dedicated to the respective deity took place outside them, at altars within the wider precinct of the sanctuary, which might be large. As the centuries past both the inside of popular temples and the area surrounding them accumulated statues and small shrines or other buildings as gifts, and military trophies, paintings and items in precious metals, effectively turning them into a type of museum.
Some sanctuaries offered oracles , people who were believed to receive divine inspiration in answering questions put by pilgrims. The most famous of these by far was the female priestess called the Pythia at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi , and that of Zeus at Dodona , but there were many others. Some dealt only with medical, agricultural or other specialized matters, and not all represented gods, like that of the hero Trophonius at Livadeia.
The temple was the house of the deity it was dedicated to, who in some sense resided in the cult image in the cella or main room inside, normally facing the only door. The cult image normally took the form of a statue of the deity, typically roughly life-size, but in some cases many times life-size. In early days these were in wood, marble or terracotta , or in the specially prestigious form of a chryselephantine statue using ivory plaques for the visible parts of the body and gold for the clothes, around a wooden framework. The most famous Greek cult images were of this type, including the Statue of Zeus at Olympia , and Phidias 's Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon in Athens, both colossal statues, now completely lost.
Fragments of two chryselephantine statues from Delphi have been excavated. Bronze cult images were less frequent, at least until Hellenistic times. The acrolith was another composite form, this time a cost-saving one with a wooden body. A xoanon was a primitive and symbolic wooden image, perhaps comparable to the Hindu lingam ; many of these were retained and revered for their antiquity, even when a new statue was the main cult image.
Xoana had the advantage that they were easy to carry in processions at festivals. The Trojan Palladium , famous from the myths of the Epic Cycle and supposedly ending up in Rome, was one of these. Many of the Greek statues well known from Roman marble copies were originally temple cult images, which in some cases, such as the Apollo Barberini , can be credibly identified. A very few actual originals survive, for example, the bronze Piraeus Athena 2.
The image stood on a base, from the 5th century often carved with reliefs. It used to be thought that access to the cella of a Greek temple was limited to the priests, and it was entered only rarely by other visitors, except perhaps during important festivals or other special occasions. In recent decades this picture has changed, and scholars now stress the variety of local access rules.
Medicine and psychiatry in Western culture: Ancient Greek myths and modern prejudices
Pausanias was a gentlemanly traveller of the 2nd-century AD who declares that the special intention of his travels around Greece was to see cult images, and usually managed to do so. It was typically necessary to make a sacrifice or gift, and some temples restricted access either to certain days of the year, or by class, race, gender with either men or women forbidden , or even more tightly.
Garlic-eaters were forbidden in one temple, in another women unless they were virgins; restrictions typically arose from local ideas of ritual purity or a perceived whim of the deity. In some places visitors were asked to show they spoke Greek; elsewhere Dorians were not allowed entry. Some temples could only be viewed from the threshold. Some temples are said never to be opened at all. But generally Greeks, including slaves, had a reasonable expectation of being allowed into the cella.
Once inside the cella it was possible to pray to or before the cult image, and sometimes to touch it; Cicero saw a bronze image of Heracles with its foot largely worn away by the touch of devotees. Those who were not satisfied by the public cult of the gods could turn to various mystery religions which operated as cults into which members had to be initiated in order to learn their secrets.
Here, they could find religious consolations that traditional religion could not provide: a chance at mystical awakening, a systematic religious doctrine, a map to the afterlife , a communal worship, and a band of spiritual fellowship. Some of these mysteries, like the mysteries of Eleusis and Samothrace , were ancient and local. Others were spread from place to place, like the mysteries of Dionysus. During the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire , exotic mystery religions became widespread, not only in Greece, but all across the empire. Some of these were new creations, such as Mithras , while others had been practiced for hundreds of years before, like the Egyptian mysteries of Osiris.
Mainstream Greek religion appears to have developed out of Proto-Indo-European religion and although very little is known about the earliest periods there are suggestive hints that some local elements go back even further than the Bronze Age or Helladic period to the farmers of Neolithic Greece. There was also clearly cultural evolution from the Late Helladic Mycenaean religion of the Mycenaean civilization.
Both the literary settings of some important myths and many important sanctuaries relate to locations that were important Helladic centres that had become otherwise unimportant by Greek times. The Mycenaeans perhaps treated Poseidon, to them a god of earthquakes as well as the sea, as their chief deity, and forms of his name along with several other Olympians are recognisable in records in Linear B , although Apollo and Aphrodite are absent. Only about half of the Mycenaean pantheon seem to survive the Greek Dark Ages though. The archaeological evidence for continuity in religion is far clearer for Crete and Cyprus than the Greek mainland.
Greek religious concepts may also have absorbed the beliefs and practices of earlier, nearby cultures, such as Minoan religion ,  and other influences came from the Near East, especially via Cyprus. The Great Goddess hypothesis , that a Stone Age religion dominated by a female Great Goddess was displaced by a male-dominated Indo-European hierarchy, has been proposed for Greece as for Minoan Crete and other regions, but has not been in favour with specialists for some decades, though the question remains too poorly-evidenced for a clear conclusion; at the least the evidence from Minoan art shows more goddesses than gods.
However, several of the Homeric hymns , probably composed slightly later, are dedicated to him. Archaic and Classical Greece saw the development of flourishing cities and of stone-built temples to the gods, which were rather consistent in design across the Greek world. Religion was closely tied to civic life, and priests were mostly drawn from the local elite.
Religious works led the development of Greek sculpture , though apparently not the now-vanished Greek painting. While much religious practice was, as well as personal, aimed at developing solidarity within the polis , a number of important sanctuaries developed a "Panhellenic" status, drawing visitors from all over the Greek world.
These served as an essential component in the growth and self-consciousness of Greek nationalism. The mainstream religion of the Greeks did not go unchallenged within Greece. As Greek philosophy developed its ideas about ethics , the Olympians were bound to be found wanting. Several notable philosophers criticised a belief in the gods. The earliest of these was Xenophanes , who chastised the human vices of the gods as well as their anthropomorphic depiction.
Plato wrote that there was one supreme god, whom he called the " Form of the Good ", and which he believed was the emanation of perfection in the universe. Plato's disciple, Aristotle , also disagreed that polytheistic deities existed, because he could not find enough empirical evidence for it. He believed in a Prime Mover , which had set creation going, but was not connected to or interested in the universe. In the Hellenistic period between the death of Alexander the Great in BC and the Roman conquest of Greece BC Greek religion developed in various ways, including expanding over at least some of Alexander's conquests.
The new dynasties of diadochi , kings and tyrants often spent lavishly on temples, often following Alexander in trying to insinuate themselves into religious cult; this was much easier for the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, where the traditional ancient Egyptian religion had long had deified monarchs. The enormous raised Pergamon Altar now in Berlin and the Altar of Hieron in Sicily are examples of unprecedentedly large constructions of the period. New cults of imported deities such as Isis from Egypt , Atargatis from Syria, and Cybele from Anatolia became increasingly important, as well as several philosophical movements such as Platonism , stoicism , and Epicureanism ; both tended to detract from the traditional religion, although many Greeks were able to hold beliefs from more than one of these groups.
Serapis was essentially a Hellenistic creation, if not devised then spread in Egypt for political reasons by Ptolemy I Soter as a hybrid of Greek and local styles of deity. Various philosophical movements, including the Orphics and Pythagoreans , began to question the ethics of animal sacrifice, and whether the gods really appreciated it; from the surviving texts Empedocles and Theophrastus both vegetarians were notable critics.
Although the traditional myths, festivals and beliefs all continued, these trends probably reduced the grip on the imagination of the traditional pantheon, especially among the educated, but probably more widely in the general population. When the Roman Republic conquered Greece in BC, it took much of Greek religion along with many other aspects of Greek culture such as literary and architectural styles and incorporated it into its own.
Some of the gods, such as Apollo and Bacchus , had earlier been adopted by the Romans.
There were also many deities that existed in the Roman religion before its interaction with Greece that were not associated with a Greek deity, including Janus and Quirinus. The Romans generally did not spend much on new temples in Greece, other that those for their Imperial cult , which were placed in all important cities. Exceptions include Antoninus Pius r. It could be said the Greek world was by this time well furnished with sanctuaries. Roman governors and emperors often pilfered famous statues from sanctuaries, sometimes leaving contemporary reproductions in their place.
Verres , governor of Sicily from 73 to 70 BC, was an early example who, unusually, was prosecuted after his departure.
After the huge Roman conquests beyond Greece, new cults from Egypt and Asia became popular in Greece as well as the western empire. The initial decline of Greco-Roman polytheism was due in part to its syncretic nature, assimilating beliefs and practices from a variety of foreign religious traditions as the Roman Empire expanded. Graeco-Roman philosophical schools incorporated elements of Judaism and Early Christianity , and mystery religions like Christianity and Mithraism also became increasingly popular.
Still, in Greece and elsewhere, there is evidence that pagan and Christian communities remained essentially segregated from each other, with little cultural influence flowing between the two. Urban pagans continued to utilize the civic centers and temple complexes, while Christians set up their own, new places of worship in suburban areas of cities.
Contrary to some older scholarship, newly converted Christians did not simply continue worshiping in converted temples; rather, new Christian communities were formed as older pagan communities declined and were eventually suppressed and disbanded. The Roman Emperor Julian , a nephew of Constantine who had been raised Christian, initiated an effort to end the suppression of non-Christian religions and re-organize a syncretic version of Graeco-Roman polytheism which he termed "Hellenism". Julian's Christian training influenced his decision to create a single organized version of the various old pagan traditions, with a centralized priesthood and a coherent body of doctrine, ritual, and liturgy based on Neoplatonism.
Western Empire Emperor Gratian , under the influence of his adviser Ambrose , ended the widespread, unofficial tolerance that had existed in the Western Roman Empire since the reign of Julian. In AD, Gratian appropriated the income and property of the remaining orders of pagan priests, removed altars, and confiscated temples. Despite official suppression of the ancient Graeco-Roman religion by the Roman government, its practice may have persisted in rural and remote regions into the early Middle Ages.
A claimed temple to Apollo, with a community of worshipers and associated sacred grove, survived at Monte Cassino until AD, when it was forcefully converted to a Christian chapel by Saint Benedict of Nursia , who destroyed the altar and cut down the grove. Greek religion and philosophy have experienced a number of revivals, firstly in the arts, humanities and spirituality of Renaissance Neoplatonism , which was certainly believed by many to have effects in the real world.
During the period of time 14th - 17th centuries when the literature and philosophy of the ancient Greeks gained widespread appreciation in Europe, this new popularity did not extend to ancient Greek religion, especially the original theist forms, and most new examinations of Greek philosophy were written within a solidly Christian context.
Early revivalists , with varying degrees of commitment, were the Englishmen John Fransham — , interested in Neoplatonism , and Thomas Taylor — , who produced the first English translations of many Neoplatonic philosophical and religious texts. More recently, a revival has begun with the contemporary Hellenism , as it is often called a term first used by the last pagan Roman emperor Julian. Modern Hellenism reflects Neoplatonic and Platonic speculation which is represented in Porphyry , Libanius , Proclus , and Julian , as well as classical cult practice. However, there are many fewer followers than Greek Orthodox Christianity.
According to estimates reported by the U. State Department , there are perhaps as many as 2, followers of the ancient Greek religion out of a total Greek population of 11 million;  however, Hellenism's leaders place that figure at , followers. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Arete Hubris Xenia. Daphnephoria Dionysia. Sacred places. Mycenaean gods Decline of Greco-Roman polytheism Julian restoration.
Further information: List of Greek mythological figures. In the Greek climate, the human is so overwhelmed by the presencing of what presences, that he is compelled to the question concerning what presences as what presences. Nature in these parts also stirs me more powerfully the more I study it. Storms, not just in their greatest manifestation, but seen as power and figure, among the other forms of the sky, the effect of the light, shaping nationally and as a principle and destiny, so that something is holy to us, the intensity of its coming and going, the characteristics of the woods and the coincidence in one region of different qualities of nature, so that all the holy places of the earth are together in one place, and the philosophic light at my window, they are now my joy.
May I keep in mind how I have come to where I am now! Daily we made splendid excursions with Heidegger in this country. Char led us to the most out-of-the-way and secret places. Was it what made our interiority tolerable? And what will we do without it, when what the poets have founded no longer endures? But now those men are gone to Indians, there at the airy headland of the vine hills, where the Dordogne descends and together with the glorious Garonne the stream flows out ocean-wide.
The sea takes away remembrance and also gives it back, and love too lifts up the eyes assiduously, but what endures, poets found. Alpers, P.
What Is Pastoral? Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Find this resource:. Auerbach, E. Romantic Constructions of Childhood and Hellenistic Poetry. Badiou, A. Being and Event. London: Continuum Press. Brague, R. Bremer, J. Bulloch, A. Buxton, R. Imaginary Greece: The Contexts of Mythology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cole, S.
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Berkeley: University of California Press. Cusset, C. Descola, P. The Ecology of Others. Elliger, W. Die Darstellung der Landschaft in der griechischen Dichtung. Berlin: De Gruyter. Fantuzzi, M. Furley, D. Gourgouris, S. Does Literature Think? Stanford: Stanford University Press. Placing Modern Greece. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hadot, P. Plotinus, or The Simplicity of Vision. Heidegger, M. Four Seminars. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Essays and Letters. London: Penguin. Holmes, B. The Symptom and the Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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Ancient Greek religion
Kirk, G. The Presocratic Philosophers. Lamberton, R. Marion, J. Being Given. The Reason of the Gift. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Mauduit, C. Paris: Diffusion de Boccard. Meillassoux, Q. After Finitude. Meijering, R. Literary and Rhetorical Theories in Greek Scholia. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In an innovative sequence of topics, Ken Dowden explores the uses Greeks made of myth and the uses to which we can put myth in recovering the richness of their culture.
Most aspects of Greek life and history - including war, religion and sexuality - which are discernable through myth, as well as most modern approaches, are given a context in a book which is designed to be In an innovative sequence of topics, Ken Dowden explores the uses Greeks made of myth and the uses to which we can put myth in recovering the richness of their culture. Most aspects of Greek life and history - including war, religion and sexuality - which are discernable through myth, as well as most modern approaches, are given a context in a book which is designed to be useful, accessible and stimulating.
Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 9. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Uses of Greek Mythology , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Uses of Greek Mythology. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. May 17, Jan-Maat added it Shelves: 20th-century , greece , myths , non-fiction , ancient-history.
I heard a little girl and her mother asking a bookseller for a book on the Greek myths for a school project the other day. I had one of those inward shudders. Murder, incest, rape, pederasty, driving into extinction rare monsters - the Greek myths have it all. What ever happened to teaching small children about nice things?
When I went to school we were taken to the local cemetery, but at least we didn't run into Hades there, nor Hercules with knowing leer keen to integrate the prettiest boys in I heard a little girl and her mother asking a bookseller for a book on the Greek myths for a school project the other day. When I went to school we were taken to the local cemetery, but at least we didn't run into Hades there, nor Hercules with knowing leer keen to integrate the prettiest boys into adult society view spoiler [ instead it was full of upright and possibly uptight Victorians like Mrs Beaton hide spoiler ].
The uses of mythology prompts the question whose uses. The uses of those who first told those stories, those who repeated them, the scholars who have debated them? There is a geology whose rocky outcrops once or twice burst out of subtext and into the sentences of this book that underlies the whole endeavour and make it clear that the uses are as unclear, muddy, and debatable as origins. Helpfully , Dowden gives a discussion of approaches to myth. Dowden's sympathies are with the modern myth-ritual school of thought which traces its academic roots back to Jane Harrison in the Cambridge School at the beginning of the twentieth century who felt, among other things, that ritual and myth shared the same concerns.
We then get into the issue of how did we get to be here - myths about the past and the creation of the people. The Maya apparently believed that they had been made out of Maize by the gods, in contrast the Greeks generally seemed to be believe that they were new comers. The myths that Dowden mentions all feature other people who were born from the earth - autochthonous - with the Greek ancestors coming into replace them, as though in their self-conception they were always colonists even in their native land.
Occasionally though they were guided to their homeland by a snake.