Religion in classical history
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18-08-2014, 10:10 AM
Religion in classical history
I'm pretty new on this forum and am going to start a course on classical civilisations at university next month. It has come to my attention that I am not very comfortable discussing religion in classics because of my lack of knowledge in the subject area! Is there any experts or experienced lovers of classical religion? I'd like to have a list of active religions in Ancient Greece and Rome. The type of religions that they are, the political relationship with religion etc etc.. Any help would be highly appreciated. Also, I read somewhere a while ago that Christianity in ancient Rome had more in common with pagan and polytheistic religions than neo-Christianity. Does any body have any sources for this truth? Thanks a lot! If I did something wrong here (as this is the first time I've ever been on a forum) just let me know.

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18-08-2014, 12:02 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
What do you mean by "ancient religion?" And when?

Religion in Rome morphed from a more or less standard agrarian "pray for rain" thing in the early Iron Age to a pantheistic world-bestriding cult which absorbed local gods/goddesses by the Imperial period.

Among the Greeks the forms of state cults revolved around the Olympian gods and many of these temples remained in operation until destroyed by xtian thugs in the 4th and 5th centuries. But the elites had moved on to platonism and neo-platonism. Just like now, the simple stories were left for the commons while the intellectuals looked down on them!

Check this out.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/celsus.html

Quote:Celsus ridiculed Christians because they advocated blind faith instead of reason.


And they still do!

Atheism is NOT a Religion. It's A Personal Relationship With Reality!
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18-08-2014, 12:29 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
Buy this book:
Religions of the Ancient World.

It's the best single overview I've come across for the role and nature of religions in the major near-east and mediterranean civilisations.

In any case, the pax romana doubled down on the cultural exchange sparked by the original hellenic conquests. By the early AD years most religion was a very fuzzy, syncretic thing.

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18-08-2014, 01:03 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
Thank you both for your input! You will surely be very helpful for my academic Endeavours. Also, I don't believe I said "Ancient religions"... I mean the religions in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Again, thank you both very much!

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18-08-2014, 01:15 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
(18-08-2014 01:03 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  Also, I don't believe I said "Ancient religions"... I mean the religions in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

Well, sure, but that still covers a thousand years of exchange with all of the neighbouring cultures as well.

The core of the Greek pantheon was kind of autochthonous, but even then it's a descendent of the ur-mythology of the original Indo-European peoples - and that's an influence that goes from the Celts on one side to the Aryan half of Hinduism on the other.
(cf Greek Zeus, Vedic Dyaus, Latin Jupiter via Deus-Pater... there's a reason the interpretatio graecia found so many simple parallels. Of course in between there's the old Semitic influence through the fertile crescent, which is the other huge myth cycle...)

Er, but anyway, while it's quite possible to have differing emphases, it's not really possible to study these things in isolation.

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18-08-2014, 02:21 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
I've always been concerned with the relationship that the Greek Pantheon has with other beliefs. It seems to me that religion is just constantly being plagiarized through history, such as the example of the similarities between Jesus and Horus.

Were there any major type of monotheism practiced by the Greeks at all? I know Hinduism, having many nondualist worshipers, is probably not polytheistic though it could have been different in the Hellenistic age.

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18-08-2014, 02:30 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
(18-08-2014 02:21 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  I've always been concerned with the relationship that the Greek Pantheon has with other beliefs. It seems to me that religion is just constantly being plagiarized through history, such as the example of the similarities between Jesus and Horus.

That's actually a connection that doesn't exist!

(18-08-2014 02:21 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  Were there any major type of monotheism practiced by the Greeks at all? I know Hinduism, having many nondualist worshipers, is probably not polytheistic though it could have been different in the Hellenistic age.

The "ground of all being" concept in Christian theology was in fact stolen wholesale from the Greeks. That was already a common idea among more educated people in the first and second centuries...

But certainly people could and did adopt specific patron gods for various reasons. The modern term is henotheism, and it was basically standard practice back in the day.

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18-08-2014, 03:18 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
Well I'm not discussing the truth in that or not right now though I'm open to an explanation. I just took one of my old tutors word on it, though I never really delved into it myself.

How did the Greeks steal the "ground of all being" concept from Christian theology when ancient Greece happened to exist BEFORE Christianity? I'm pretty confused on that part. It's also a debate going on that Christianity is henotheistic as in the ten commandments the second commandment (I think the second) insists on having no other gods. The debate is whether this could be perceived as god acknowledging the existence of other gods with the insistence that only he should be worshiped.

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18-08-2014, 03:45 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
(18-08-2014 03:18 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  Well I'm not discussing the truth in that or not right now though I'm open to an explanation. I just took one of my old tutors word on it, though I never really delved into it myself.

How did the Greeks steal the "ground of all being" concept from Christian theology when ancient Greece happened to exist BEFORE Christianity? I'm pretty confused on that part. It's also a debate going on that Christianity is henotheistic as in the ten commandments the second commandment (I think the second) insists on having no other gods. The debate is whether this could be perceived as god acknowledging the existence of other gods with the insistence that only he should be worshiped.

This is what I backhand the abrahamic, monotheistic, anthropocentric based (Islam/Xtianity and Judaism faiths) believers with when they say there is only one god.

King James version

Psalms 82.1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

note gods plural. Smartass

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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18-08-2014, 04:00 PM
RE: Religion in classical history
(18-08-2014 03:18 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  How did the Greeks steal the "ground of all being" concept from Christian theology when ancient Greece happened to exist BEFORE Christianity? I'm pretty confused on that part.

That's because you read it wrong.

(18-08-2014 02:30 PM)cjlr Wrote:  The "ground of all being" concept in Christian theology was in fact stolen wholesale from the Greeks.

And,
(18-08-2014 03:18 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  It's also a debate going on that Christianity is henotheistic as in the ten commandments the second commandment (I think the second) insists on having no other gods. The debate is whether this could be perceived as god acknowledging the existence of other gods with the insistence that only he should be worshiped.

There's no serious debate on the subject. All ancient religion was henotheistic!

Not that modern Christianity is really monotheistic by any honest definition anyway.
(cough Satan cough cough)

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