The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations

The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations

The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations

The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations

Synopsis

Greek mythology still grabs the modern consciousness. Apollo and Dionysos, Artemis and Aphrodite, Zeus and Hermes-but what exactly did these divinities stand for? A team of international scholars offer fresh insight into the making and meaning of Greek mythology. They recount the stories and significance of individual gods and ask to what extent cult, myth, and literary genre determine the nature of divinity. How do Greek gods function within a polytheistic pantheon, and what is their connection to the heroes of their myths? What is the influence of philosophy and in what way do the gods of late antiquity differ from those of classical Greece? This volume presents a synchronic and diachronic view of these characters in the decades before Christianity.

Excerpt

The Greek gods are still very much present in modern consciousness, whereas the ancient rituals have been long forgotten. Yet even though Apollo and Dionysos, Artemis and Aphrodite, Zeus and Hermes are household names, they have hardly been at the centre of the modern study of Greek religion. From the most influential and innovative students of Greek religion of the last half of the twentieth century, Walter Burkert concentrated on myth and ritual, and Jean-Pierre Vernant made his name with studies of the psychological and sociological aspects of Greek culture. The gods were never the real focus of their attention. In fact, their lack of interest continued a situation that had already begun at the start of the twentieth century when classical scholars started to turn their attention to ritual rather than myth and the gods.

It is clear that a century of scholarly neglect of such an important area of Greek religion cannot be remedied by the appearance of a single book. That is why we have brought together a team of international scholars with a view to generating new approaches to, rather than providing a comprehensive survey of, the nature and development of the Greek gods in the period from Homer until late antiquity. Moreover, we have tried to go beyond the usual ways of handbooks which traditionally concentrate on the individual divinities. Naturally, the contributors look at specific gods, but they also pose questions about the gods more generally: what actually is a Greek god? To what extent do cult, myth and literary genre determine the nature of a divinity? How do the Greek gods function in a polytheistic pantheon? What is the influence of philosophy? What does archaeology tell us about the gods? In what way do the gods in late antiquity differ from those in classical Greece? In short, the aim of this volume is to present a synchronic and diachronic view of the gods as they functioned in Greek culture until the triumph of Christianity.

The chapters that make up the volume have their origins in . . .

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