The Age of Pericles: A History of the Politics and Arts of Greece from the Persian to the Peloponnesian War - Vol. 2

By William Watkiss Lloyd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLVIII.
THE PROBLEM OF POLITICS IN RELATION TO RELIGION IN HELLAS.

ONE of the most remarkable points of contrast which the politics of Greece present to those of modern states, and indeed of many ancient also, is their immunity from complication by religious difficulties, their exemption from imbroglios of cross influences and interests between the administrators of temporal power and those who claimed to be in command of penalties more than temporal,--between priests and politicians. Evidence is superabundant of the violent interference of religious authorities with state affairs in ancient Egypt, in Judaea, and in countries further eastward; priesthoods were there sufficiently powerful to be the courted allies, the dangerous rivals or actual supplanters of royalty, and the mere quarrels of rival priesthoods were sometimes of such consequence as almost to hustle other politics out of history. In an opposite quarter at republican Rome, it was a constant solicitude of the statesman to check with instant severity any independent religious association, as threatening not only disorder but perilous 1rivalry. Hellas was in immediate contact with regions which were the special forcinggrounds of superstitions, and the very nurseries of fanatics or impostors who best understood how to turn them to account for profit and power; a certain vitality of these

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1
Livy, xxxix. 16.

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