ancient greek religion

Ancient Greek or Roman sardonyx cameo depicting a group of Bacchic devotees.  Artist unknown; 1st cent. BCE/CE.  Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Delphic remnants.
The Oracle of Delphi was active for almost 2000 years, its Sanctuary was one of the richest of the ancient world, a small state of intricate structures and innumerable art treasures (coming from every corner of the ancient greek world) that were mostly looted during Roman and Christian times. Home of the worship of the Sun God Apollo and his mantic properties, Delphi was initially a place dedicated to Mother Earth Gaia and her holy female snake. Apollo claimed the Oracle by killing the sacred Pytho(n), a sacrilege…so he got exiled for seven years as punishment for his crime before he could come back as the ruler of Delphi, this was the only way he could become purified again after his terrible act. Even gods need purification and repentance from time to time as it seems. Herakles later on unsuccessfully demanded the Oracle for himself by trying to steal the Delphic tripod from Apollo, Herakles was a prevalent figure of ancient greek religion and not just the big muscular guy our modern times and popular culture believe. Time distorts so many things after all…

The order of the photos follows the actual path of the archaelogical site. Mount Parnassus, a symbol and an actuality, is breathtaking as well as the view from the Stadium.
Photos: Vera Bousiou

As a classics major, I’ve often been asked why I prefer Greek mythology, what makes the Greek pantheon different from the countless other religions that have played their parts in history. And the answer is that I love Greek mythology because the Greeks never claimed their gods were perfect. Most religions rest on the concept of moral superiority, but the Greeks personified the qualities they found in the people around them: love and lust, hatred and fear, wisdom and folly. Organized religion has always been a means of the powerful to control the masses, and I am sick of morality being wielded as a weapon to keep people down. The Greeks worshiped gods, but they celebrated humanity.

In Ancient Greek religion, Hestia (Ancient Greek: Ἑστία, “hearth” or “fireside”) is a virgin goddess of the hearth, architecture, and the right ordering of domesticity, the family, and the state.

Her closest Roman equivalent is Vesta: she is the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. Vesta’s presence is symbolized by the sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples. 

romologist, I was wandering around your blog and that’s it and I don’t know why!

Greek religion was not like Christianity, which elevated belief in a central set of dogmas as a defining characteristic of the religion. There were commonly accepted ideas about the gods and about the appropriate ways of relating to them, but these remained generally inarticulate, the absence of an explicitly formulated and dynamic theology is due partly to the conservative influence of Homer and Hesiod, and partly to the absence of a professionally trained vocational priesthood, which could have developed, internal to the religious system, and explicit ‘creed’….

The common characteristic of the different philosophical schools was rejection of the mythology and theology of Homer and Hesiod. Alternatives to the received position are found in the fragments of work by Xenophanes, at the start of the Greek philosophical tradition in the sixth century. Xenophanes came from Kolophon in Ionia but left there when the Persians came in 546/5 BC, in favour of a wandering life, perhaps mainly in Sicily. Xenophanes’ work was certainly later taken to constitute a radical critique of traditional views of the gods, but this may be a misreading of Xenophanes, and he may only have been raising alternative possibilities. At all events, those alternatives to the received position have two aspects, moral and physical. He claimed that

Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods everything that is a shame and reproach among mortals: stealing, committing adultery and deceiving each other. (fragment 11)

Secondly, he rejected the traditional anthropomorphism of the gods, He noted that different races attributed their own characteristics to the gods:

The Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have light blue eyes and red hair. (fragment 16)

which implies that conventional Greek views of the gods are also culturally relative. He also claimed as a reductio ad absurdum that, if they had the physical capabilities, horses would draw their gods like horses and cattle like cattle (fragment 15). The implication is that the anthropomorphic and demeaning view of the gods in Homer, ‘according to whom all have learned from the beginning’ (fragment 10), should be rejected.

—  Price, Simon. Religions of the Ancient Greeks. Cambridge University Press, 1999, 126-128.

Ancient Greek kyathos (wine-ladle) depicting a Dionysiac procession with dancing maenads and satyrs.  The inscription above names the potter as Nikosthenes.  Attributed to the N Painter; ca. 530 BCE.  Now in the National Gallery Prague -  Kinský Palace.  Photo credit: Zde/Wikimedia Commons.


Samothrace temple complex, also known as the Sanctuary of the Great Gods (Ιερό των Μεγάλων Θεών), one of the principal Pan-Hellenic religious sanctuaries, located on the island of Samothrace within the larger Thrace.
It was celebrated throughout Ancient Greece for its Mystery religion, a Chthonic religious practice as renowned as the Eleusinian Mysteries.Numerous famous people were initiates, including the historian Herodotus – one of very few authors to have left behind a few clues to the nature of the mysteries, the Spartan leader Lysander, and numerous Athenians.The temple complex is mentioned by Plato and Aristophanes. During the Hellenistic period, after the investiture of Phillip II it formed a Macedonian national sanctuary where the successors to Alexander the Great vied to outdo each other’s munifence. It remained an important religious site throughout the Roman period. Hadrian visited, and Varro described the mysteries – before fading from history towards the end of Late Antiquity. (source: Wikipedia)

Photos: Vera Bousiou.

Pallas Athena/Minerva with her aegis.  Roman mosaic (3rd cent. CE), surrounded by a modern (18th century) mosaic depicting celestial bodies and geometrical patterns.  Now in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican City.

anonymous asked:

Is it okay to believe in the gods but also science? Like human evolution, the tilt of the earth causing seasons etc? The way I think of it is that thats how the world works but the gods have kind of guided it that way, made that happen. I don't know, I just want to make sure I'm not causing any offense as that's the last thing I want to do....

The ancient Greeks loved wisdom and technology, the godly patrons of which are Athena and Hephaestus respectively. Like many ancient peoples, including the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Romans, Greek philosophers and scientists used logic and mathematics to understand the world. Thales of Miletus is regarded as the “father” of science in the West. 

Aristotle wrote:

Either then the earth is spherical or it is at least naturally spherical. And it is right to call anything that which nature intends it to be, and which belongs to it, rather than that which it is by constraint and contrary to nature. The evidence of the senses further corroborates this. How else would eclipses of the moon show segments shaped as we see them? As it is, the shapes which the moon itself each month shows are of every kind straight, gibbous, and concave-but in eclipses the outline is always curved: and, since it is the interposition of the earth that makes the eclipse, the form of this line will be caused by the form of the earth’s surface, which is therefore spherical. 

Again, our observations of the stars make it evident, not only that the earth is circular, but also that it is a circle of no great size. For quite a small change of position to south or north causes a manifest alteration of the horizon. There is much change, I mean, in the stars which are overhead, and the stars seen are different, as one moves northward or southward. Indeed there are some stars seen in Egypt and in the neighbourhood of Cyprus which are not seen in the northerly regions; and stars, which in the north are never beyond the range of observation, in those regions rise and set. All of which goes to show not only that the earth is circular in shape, but also that it is a sphere of no great size: for otherwise the effect of so slight a change of place would not be quickly apparent. 

- On the Heavens, Book 2, Chapter 14 (X)

Some of the other ancient Greek scientists known to history are Eratosthenes, Anaximander, Archimedes, Hippocrates, Theophrastus, and Dioscorides.

While it’s true that some ancient Greek scientists and philosophers were charged with “impiety”, the accusations seem to have been related more to personal vendettas or political instability than to any inherent irreverence in scientific inquiry. (X

tl:dr: science and critical thinking is not incompatible with belief in and reverence for the gods. Please continue to learn about the universe and to love the gods!


In Ancient Greek religion, Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds, flocks, rustic music, and is often accompanied by forest nymphs. He has the hindquarters and horns of a goat, similar to that of a faun or satyr. His home is Arcadia, and Pan is associated with fertility and Spring. From one aspect of Pan’s nature Greek authors derived the word panikon, meaning “sudden fear”. Pan’s angry voice was so frightening, that it caused panic to anyone who was unlucky to be close enough to hear it.

Panic Phenomena 

Legend has it that one of Pan’s favourite diversions was to torment ancient Greek travellers traversing the byways of that once-forested land. Pan would lie in wait, concealed in the bushes, awaiting his unwitting victims. When a traveler passed by his hiding place, Pan would gently rustle the bushes, engendering a sense of apprehension in the person walking by. The traveler would pick up his pace, and Pan would then scurry ahead through the forest to intercept his quarry at the next dark turn of the path. There, he would rustle some more vegetation, and the traveler would make even greater haste as Pan’s amusement grew.

By this time, the traveler would begin to breathe heavily, and his heart would begin to pound, and the sounds of his own quickening footsteps would be magnified in the stillness of the forest to resemble those of a pursuing wild animal. One more rustle of the bushes from Pan and the traveler would be hurtling as fast as he could run along the dark and narrow forest path. It took no more provocation from Pan to keep the human interloper in Pan’s forest kingdom from fleeing as quickly as possible. Never would the unsuspecting traveler re-enter the forest without experiencing a wave of apprehension. Thus did the term panic originate.

Many people describe a dreadful atmosphere that suddenly approaches them when walking alone through the forest - at first everything becomes deadly silent before a strange fear starts to rise, which is then followed by an unusual buzzing sound - similar to that when one’s ear rings

In the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), it is said that Pan inspired panic in the hearts of the Persians, allowing the Athenians, whom he favoured, to gain the upper hand. Pan was also considered responsible for causing individual, possession-like disruptions of the psyche, or panolepsy. In addition, Pan was later known for his music, which was capable of arousing inspiration, sexual desire, or even panic itself, depending upon the god’s intentions.

That we’ve broken their statues,
that we’ve driven them out of their temples
doesn’t mean at all that the gods are dead.
O land of Ionia, they’re still in love with you,
their souls still keep your memory.
When an August dawn wakes over you,
the atmosphere is potent with their life
and sometimes a young ethereal figure
indistinct, in rapid flight,
wings across your hills.
—  C.P. Cavafy, “Ionic,” from Selected Poems (translated from the Greek by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)