Religion And The Greek World Essays

Religion And The Greek World Essays

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Religion in the Greek world has had an interesting history. Like many other ancient religions, the ancient Greek mythology began as a simple animistic faith. The elemental gods were soon perverted into anthropomorphized powers that controlled the mortal world on their own terms. Swayed by their very human whims, the Greek gods ruled over a world of chaos and war, peppered with extravagant arts and luxurious periods of peace. Such was the age of the poets. But soon came the age of the philosophers. Thales predicted the eclipse of 585 BCE and with that came the creation of the philosophic tradition. This new breed of thinkers cast away the old religion, challenging its arbitrary nature and lack of rationality. Philosophers like Xenophanes critiqued the humanness of the gods and others, like Socrates, doubted their irrationality. As the Hellenistic Age dawned before the tragic fall of Greece, these philosophical critiques blended with social and political upheaval to generate new religions. These new religions emerged to meet the new needs of a more diverse, less unified people, providing a sense of brotherhood in secrecy, a mysterious element that had been absent in the previous religion. This newfound form of religion also had a profound effect on Judaism, leading to the generation of its own more secretive, more mystical sects, such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Increased emigration from the far reaches of the world had flooded the Greek world with new peoples. These new people brought with them new ideas, new arts, new languages, and the intellectual world flourished. At the same time, the cohesion of the simple city-state system was dissolving as more and more polis ' came together under larger federations or...


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...itically dynamic world of Hellas, the population of the center of Western life found itself in need of a new faith. Excessive cultural diversity and the dissolution of the small city-state political structure gave rise to a lack of social community. Seeking the reestablishment of the traditional sense of unity, the different cultures fused their religions in syncretism, generating new religions that they could share. The secrecy of these mystery religions allowed for the development of new ideas like the Last Judgment and the holiness of martyrdom, as well as afforded an increased sense of certainty and confidence in life. These new ideas had lasting effects on Judaism and aided in the generation of three new sects, the law-bound Sadducees, the ritualistic Pharisees, and the mystical Essenes. Religion therefore played a fundamental role in the Hellenistic world.

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