Ancient Greek Religionrnby Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jonesrn, *S }* -^rn- ‘i”rn• •v , . •rn!^’;.;Jrn’ • . ‘ • » • – ••rn• ^ v ^ ‘ lrn. – . . < • / – .rn – ? ‘ :*=rn>* *””rn, • ‘ • > . • ‘ . ‘rn.rnrrr-rn •>•’rn”‘-‘Nrnit^rn.••?» .•.rn’ “^rn*rn• •rn» *rnA>vrn~rn• . ‘ • • ‘ .rni , “.•”rn!’*”» ^. ‘.rn-‘••t^.v’-rn• > ‘ ‘ Jrnv”, “.rn• .. A^.rn.•**H-“‘ ‘”?””•rn• , > ^ ^ ^ / / ^rn’irni /I ^rnThe religion of the ancient Greeks is startHngly differentrnfrom Christianity. It has been misinterpreted by peoplernwho think that since it is a religion it must be like Christianity,rnand also by people who think that because it is not like Christianityrnit is not really a religion at all. The Greeks had poetryrnthat was thought to contain information about the gods, butrnthey had no sacred books that communicated a divine revelationrnor pronounced dogmas in the authoritative tones of thosernwho claim divine authority for their statements. They had oraclesrnand prophets, official expounders of cult regulations, andrnpriests who were in charge of temples and administered cults,rnbut they had no priesthood in the sense of a clerisy or a churchrnsanctioned by divine authority. In consequence, they had nonernof the theological disputes, schisms, and religious wars whichrnhave been so noticeable a feature of the history of Christianity.rnGods as well as men were ruled by the old Indo-Europeanrnsky-god, whom the Greeks called Zeus. But there were manyrngods, and certain principal ones stood out. During the classicalrnperiod, it became customary to speak of “the 12 gods,” meaningrnthe 12 principal gods. But there were many minor as well asrnmajor ones, and new gods could be added to their number.rnCertain figures of mythology, who were regarded as heroes andrnthought to be descended from gods, were accorded a form ofrnworship different from that of the gods.rnPart of our knowledge of early Greek religion derives fromrnpoetry and art; but another part of it derives from prose texts,rnand in particular from documents relating to cult observancesrnthat have been preserved on stone. These different kinds ofrnSir Hugh Lloyd-]ones was formerly Regius Professor of Greek atrnOxford.rnsources present different aspects of religion, and to a superficialrnview they seem to present different pictures.rnIn the earliest Greek poetry that we possess, the great epicsrnof Homer and the Theogony of Hesiod, which names and describesrnthe gods, the gods live together on Mount Olympus underrnthe presidency of Zeus. These gods have not existed sincernthe beginning of time; the first ruler of the gods, Uranus (Heaven)rnwas displaced by his son Kronos, and Kronos was displacedrnby his son Zeus, who with his brothers, sisters, sons, and daughtersrnwas in historic times held to be supreme. They are distinguishedrnfrom one another by their attributes and functions;rnthus they form a coherent system in which each deity has his orrnher special place and relation to the others. Hera is the consortrnof Zeus and the patroness of marriage; myth portrays her as arnjealous wife, resentful of the many unions with goddesses andrnmortal women which the need for gods and heroes to trace descentrnfrom Zeus compels her husband to contract. She is thernmother of the craftsman god, Hephaestus, and the war-godrnAres; but these two, the one because of his deformity and thernother because of his violence and stupidity, are not as highly regardedrnas some other gods. Hera is not the mother of her husband’srntwo most important children, Athena and Apollo.rnThe virgin Athena is the goddess of wisdom, the patroness ofrnwomen’s work and other crafts, but also a war-goddess more effectivernthan Ares; she was produced by Zeus without a mother.rnShe is the special patroness of Athens, which probably derivedrnits name from her, but she is important in other cities too,rnincluding Sparta. Apollo with his sister Artemis, the virginrnhuntress, is the son of Zeus by Leto, who has no function exceptrnthat of being their mother; both are archers, but Apollo,rnlord of the great shrines of Delphi and Delos, is a god ofrnAPRIL 1996/17rnrnrn