Chapter 6.docx - Chapter 6 The nature of the gods and Greek...

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Chapter 6: The nature of the gods and Greek religion Anthropomorphism o By now the nature of the anthropomorphic conception of deity that evolved among the Greeks and the Romans should be evident The gods are generally depicted as human in form and character; but although they look and act like humans, very often their appearance and their actions are to some extent idealized Their beauty is beyond that of ordinary mortals, their passions more grand and intense, their sentiments more praiseworthy and touching; and they can embody and impose the loftiest moral values in the universe These same gods can mirror the physical and spiritual weaknesses of human counterparts: they can be lame and deformed or vain, pretty and insincere; they can steal, lie, and cheat, sometimes with a finesses that is exquisitely divine o A very important distinction, is to be made between those deities of the upper air and the upper world and those of the realm below, appropriately named chthonian o The gods eat and drink, but their food is ambrosia and their wine nectar o Ichor is the substance that flows in their veins in the place of blood o Gods are seldom omnipotent, except possibly Zeus himself, and even Zeus may be made subject to Fate or the Fates o Omniscience is most often reserved as a special prerogative of Zeus and Apollo, who communicate their knowledge of the future to mortals o Very often one or more animals are associated with a particular deity For Zeus, it is a eagle For Hera, it is a peacock For Poseidon, it is a hose For Athena, it is an owl For Aphrodite, it is a dove, sparrow, or goose For Ares, it is a bear The divine hierarchy o Of a different order are the divine spirits who animate nature These beings are usually depicted as nymphs, beautiful young girls who love to dance and sing and, in some cases are extremely amorous The Muses are a kind of nymph, and so are the Nereids and Oceanids, although some of them assume virtually the stature of deity More typically, nymphs are rather like fairies, extremely long-lived but not necessarily immortal o Demigods are another class of superhuman beings, or better, a superior kind of human being - that is, supermen and superwomen They are the offspring of mixed parentage, the union of a god with a mortal, who may or may not be extraordinary o Although individual gods and goddesses may be especially honored in particular places, in general the major divinities were universally recognized throughout the Greek world At the top is Zeus himself, the king, the father of both gods and mortals, the supreme lord o Polytheism for the Greeks, however, could also be quite expansive It usually could make room for new divinities without shock or strain
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Zeus and Monotheism o We have already seen the popular anthropomorphic conception of Zeus as the father, husband, and lower; and we know too the primary sphere of his power: the sky and the upper air, with their thunder, lightning and rain o
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  • Winter '14
  • P.O'Cleirigh
  • The Bible, Zeus, Greek religion

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