Greek Piety

Greek Piety

Greek Piety

Greek Piety

Excerpt

The ancient religion of Greece has been portrayed by eminent investigators, who have thrown light on it from different angles. Some have directed their attention to the lofty religious ideas of the great poets and the deep thoughts of the philosophers concerning gods and the life of men. But the poets were makers of poetry, not religious reformers; what a Pindar or an Aeschylus says of gods and divine governance left hardly a trace in the religion of their own day or of later times. The philosophers were seekers after truth and men of science, and while certain movements within philosophy did much in classical times to break down religious belief, a matter to which we will return later on, philosophy did nothing to construct belief or religious opinion until the Hellenistic age. That is true especially of Stoicism, but even for the Stoics religious speculation was far from being the principal task, although they were more and more inclined to explain and defend religion and its forms. Plato was one of the greatest religious geniuses of all time, but he regarded himself, and was regarded by his contemporaries, as a philosopher, a seeker after truth, and a man of science. The view he took of the religion of his day, as expressed by him in his work on laws, is strictly conservative; the old religion is to be kept and regulated in the interests of the State. The profound religious content of Plato's world of Forms was not perceived until five hundred years after his death, and from then on it left its mark all the more strongly on religious thought. Since then no religion has neglected Plato.

Herodotos, the Father of History, has a passage to this effect:

As to the origin of each of the gods, or whether they all had always been, and what their appearance was, they (the Greeks) had no . . .

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