In the beginning, the cults centered upon the sanctuaries ofrnthe gods seem to have been under private control, in the handsrnof certain families. In historic times, they belonged to the community,rnwhose welfare was thought to depend on them.rnMonotheism may well be older than polytheism; it seems thatrnto begin with each community tended to have its special deity.rnThus Hera was the great divinity of Argos and of Samos, just asrnApollo with his sister Artemis was the great divinity of the sanctuariesrnof Delphi and of Delos; Athena was the great divinity ofrnAthens, though she had a strong rival in Poseidon. But graduallyrncertain gods acquired an importance that went beyond thernlocalities in which their cults had first developed; thus the eariyrnpoets depict the gods as living together on Mount Olympus,rnwhere each had his or her separate dwelling.rnThe gods of heaven are distinguished from the gods of earth;rnin Homer there is very little about Demeter and other earthrndeities, and offerings to them took a different form from thosernmade to the gods of heaven. Zeus is the father of Demeter’srndaughter Persephone, but there is mention of a Zeus of thernunderwodd, who is equated with Hades. Originally Demeterrnthe mother and Persephone the daughter were only differentrnforms of the same being; originally the great god of the underwoddrnwas the consort of the earth goddess. Demeter’s templernat Eleusis near Athens was the center of the earliest and mostrnimportant mystery cult; those who were initiated into her mysteriesrnwere believed to obtain certain privileges in the world ofrnthe dead. During the sixth century B.C., we first hear of Orpheus,rnthe mythical poet who was supposed to be the author ofrnpoems that told a strange story of the birth of Dionysus. He wasrnthe child of Persephone by her father Zeus, but was capturedrnand eaten by evil spirits belonging to an eadier generation ofrnthe gods, the Titans. But his heart was rescued by Athena andrngiven to Zeus, who then had intercourse with Semele and afterrnher incineration himself gave Dionysus a second birth. The Titansrnwere consumed by fire, and men sprang from their ashes;rnthey were thus a mixture of the evil nature of the Titans and therndivine nature of Dionysus. Through Dionysus initiates in thernmysteries could attain not eternal life, but a privileged existencernin the grave. But it is essential to remember that this kind of beliefrnwas current only within a restricted circle, and its theologyrnnever became generally accepted. Nor is there any evidence forrnthe once-prevalent belief that the worship of the deities of earthrncame earlier than that of the deities of heaven, or that a matriarchalrnphase preceded a patriarchal phase.rnThe worship of the gods was closely bound up with the socialrnstructure of all early Greek communities. Often they were worshipedrnin splendid temples, some of which, like those atrnAthens, Delphi, and Olympia, have left notable remains. Festivalsrnin their honor were observed at regular intervals, and playedrnan important part in the life of the communities; people camernfrom far off to visit great religious centers, like the sanctuaries ofrnZeus and Olympia in the Peloponnesus and Dodona in Epirus,rnof Apollo at Delphi and in the island of Delos, of Athena atrnAthens. The four great contests in which athletes from allrnGreek cities competed were celebrated every four years atrnOlympia and Delphi, and every two years at the shrine of Zeusrnat Nemea in the Argolid and at that of Poseidon at the Isthmusrnof Corinth.rnReligious dissent found expression as eady as the sixth centuryrnB.C., when the poet Xenophanes of Colophon wrote that ifrnanimals were to worship gods, they would worship gods with thernshape oi animals, and complained of the immoral behaviorrnwith which the gods were credited in myth. Eady philosophicalrnthinkers tended to monotheism, perhaps under the influencernof the monotheistic religions of Asia Minor. But persecutionrnfor blasphemy or heresy was rare; prosecutions for atheism wererngrounded on the danger that it might alienate the gods whornprotected the community, and such prosecutions usuallyrnoccurred only when the persons prosecuted had given offensernin other ways. The Greek gods, unlike some other gods, couldrntake a joke; in the special context of the comedies produced inrnfifth-century Athens, gods could be made fun of without anyonerntaking offense. Poets occasionally read the gods, and Zeusrnin particular, a lecture regarding their injustice in failing to rewardrngood and punish evil.rnBut after the fifth century, philosophy distanced itself morernand more from traditional religion. Plato denounced the immoralityrnof the gods portrayed by Homer and the other poets;rnrevolting against the traditional view that a man proved himselfrnby his ability to benefit his friends and harm his enemies,rnhe created an ethics that had much in common with that ofrnChristianity. He did not wish to suppress the worship of therntraditional gods, but they played no part in his philosophy.rnAristotle’s ethics had more in common with traditional Greekrnviews than those of Plato, but even to Aristotle the traditionalrngods meant little more than they would later mean to Epicurus.rnTo highly educated people, philosophy came to take much thernkind of place that religion occupied for such people before thern19th century. But the worship of the gods and the observationrnof their cults continued for 800 years after Plato, and were terminatedrnonly by the barbarous Christian emperor TheodosiusrnI, at the end of the fourth century after Christ. •£rnOut of Tune with the Starsrnby X.J. KennedyrnOur stars today forecastrnA doleful horoscope:rnTo dwell on sorrow past.rnDenied all hope of hope.rnBut blood in us demurs.rnWe opt for ecstasy.rnOut of tune with the starsrnAnd well content to be.rnAPRIL 1996/19rnrnrn