Chapter 2- Ancient Religions

Chapter 2- Ancient Religions - Chapter 2: Religions of the...

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Chapter 2: Religions of the Ancient World
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Overview None of the ancient peoples had a single- word equivalent to the term ‘religion’. The word ‘religion’ comes from the Latin religio. Some claim this word is derived from religare (‘to bind’), as in the unbreakable bond between humans and gods. Others claim it is derived from relegere (‘to go over again’), as in the meticulous repetition of a sacred ritual. These two notions were, in fact, complementary: The community sought to ensure the continuing support of its gods by faithfully adhering to ancestral customs.
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Overview, cont’d. A Roman grammarian of the second century CE defined religion against superstition. Superstition was ‘irrational’ behaviour This could include intentional disregard of standard state practices It could also include improper pursuit of secret knowledge, placation of gods based on fear of their malevolence rather than trust in their beneficence, or overly emotional engagement with a particular god When Christians adapted the term religio in the fourth century CE, they redefined it to refer solely to their own ‘true’ faith in a single god. They then reclassified the old traditions as false—not religion but superstition.
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Antiquity Geographically, ‘antiquity’ encompassed a vast territory centered on southwestern Asia, southern Europe, and North Africa. The varied landscape supported three basic types of communities: 1. Desert or highland pastoralists tending herds, 2. agriculturalists in rural villages, and 3. concentrated urban centers. Over time, communities were organized on incrementally larger scales: urban states, territorial states, and, eventually, universal states/empires. The end of antiquity was marked by continuing antagonism between Western and Eastern spheres.
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Antiquity, cont’d. The earliest historically documented civilization was that of the Sumerian people of southern Mesopotamia. There, identity was a matter of place; one became a Mesopotamian by moving into the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. In the later empires, such as the Greeks, one was a Greek wherever Greeks lived. By the Roman empire, identity was classified as citizenship. At the heart of every empire was a constellation of cities. Urbanites considered themselves superior to rural dwellers (the paganus in Latin). It was the association of the rural with cultural inferiority that would eventually lead the triumphant Christian church to disparage the practitioners of traditional religions as unsophisticated, uneducated ‘pagans’.
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Antiquity, cont’d. Prehistoric Beginnings Three sited in southwestern Asia offer some evidence of symbolic behaviour in the period from approximately 9,500 to 5,000 BCE 1. Gobleki Tepe in eastern Turkey represents the period of transition from hunting–gathering to agriculture. Excavations have uncovered no evidence of residential
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This note was uploaded on 01/29/2012 for the course RELI 1001 taught by Professor Eaglen during the Fall '08 term at University of Georgia Athens.

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Chapter 2- Ancient Religions - Chapter 2: Religions of the...

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