Greek Folk Religion

Greek Folk Religion

Greek Folk Religion

Greek Folk Religion

Excerpt

This book contains lectures which were delivered in 1939-40 at many points in the United States, that on the Religion of Eleusis being under the auspices of the Norton Lectureship of the Archaeological Institute of America and the rest being under those of the American Council of Learned Societies. Appearing in 1940 (under the title Greek Popular Religion ), it at once took its place as something unique in the extensive literature relating to ancient religion. It has been translated into French and modern Greek, and after twenty years it retains all its freshness.

A Swedish proverb speaks of placing the church in the middle of the village, and that is precisely what Nilsson has here done. Homer and Hesiod formed the basis of the traditional education of the Greeks in general, and the great gods and goddesses as they appear in art show at all times the formative influence of the epic tradition. Nevertheless, the hard core of Greek religion is to be found in its observances: these took their shape among men whose focus was first the hearth and then the city-state, men moreover whose life and livelihood were tied to crops and herds and the annual cycle of nature. Urbanization brought changes, but we must not make too much of them, for in Greece proper there never was a cosmopolitan city like Alexandria and even the Athenians did not wholly lose touch with the good brown earth.

Furthermore, the adventures of ideas which mark the second half of the fifth century B.C. and which so profoundly . . .

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