GREEK THOUGHT AND RELIGION

 

Because ancient Greek religion had no priesthood exercising control and ancient Greek government didn't have god-kings exercising divine and absolute authority, Greeks had unusual freedom of thought.  Greek culture emphasized both practical and speculative reason and the active investigation of the material world while ultimately de-emphasizing the influence the gods had on everyday life.

 

Greek religion:  paganism, polytheism, no special priesthood, no special sacred scriptures, no one human revealer or prophet.

 

Greek mythology:  Continual allusions even in today's culture to its gods.

 

The Pantheon:  The most powerful gods and goddesses.  Lived on Mount Olympus.

 

*Zeus (Jupiter):  The king of the gods, god of thunderbolt and power.

 

Chronos:  The previous king of the gods Zeus overthrew; Zeus's father.

 

Hera (Juno):  The wife of Zeus, goddess of marriage and domestic tranquility.

 

*Poseidon (Neptune):  The god of the sea and earthquakes.

 

Demeter (Ceres):  Sister of Zeus, goddess of agriculture;  mother of Persephone.

 

Hades (Pluto):  God of underworld, married to Persephone.

 

*Pallas Athena (Minerva):  Goddess of wisdom, planned warfare, arts and crafts.

Apollo (Sol):  Sun god, archer, musician; god of truth, light, and healing; represents the principle of intellectual beauty.

 

Aphrodite (Venus):  Goddess of love, physical beauty.

 

Hephaestus:  God of fire and metal working, cuckolded husband of Aphrodite.

 

Ares (Mars):  God of unplanned war.

 

*Dionysus:  The god of wine, theater, ecstatic pleasure.

 

Hermes (Mercury):  The messenger for the gods; god of commerce, traders, travelers, and thieves.

 

*Hesiod, poet:  Works and Days and Theogony.

 

Patricians vs. peasants

 

*Homer, poet:  The Iliad and The Odyssey;  Very influential on and personifying ancient Greek culture's values.

 

*Athens:  The cultural and economic center of ancient Greece.

 

Reformers who developed Athenian direct democracy:

 

*Draco (fl. 621 b.c.):  Published harsh law code.

 

Solon (ca. 640-558 b.c.):  Freed slaves with unredeemed land; encouraged commerce; established jury duty and Council of Four Hundred.

 

Pisistratos (ca. 605-527 b.c.):  Land reform program, broke up large landed estates.

 

*Cleisthenes (fl. 507 b.c.):  Established demes (like city wards) to be "ten tribes" to add to four old aristocratic tribes.  Council of Five Hundred.  Nominations, drawing for offices by lot.

 

Wars versus Persian Empire:  Preserved independence of Greece's uniquely pro-reason, anti-authoritarian culture.

 

*Marathon (490 b.c.):  Athens beats the Persian hordes of Darius. (round one)

 

*Thermopylae (480 b.c.):  Spartans lose to Persia, but inflict heavy casualties (round two).

 

*Salamis (480 b.c.):  Athens and other Greek city states defeat Persian navy. (round two)

 

The Beginnings of Greek Philosophy:  Pro-reason, naturalistic, systematic thought tendencies.

 

Thales (ca. 636-546 b.c.):  World made from water.

 

*Heraclitus (ca. 535-475 b.c.):  Skeptical empiricist, can't step in the same river twice; fire the essence of all being; logos concept.

 

*Pythagoras (ca. 582-507 b.c.):  Mathematical nature of reality; found relationship between musical harmonies and math; systematic approach to studying math and ultimately science; founder of religious/philosophical group.

 

*Orphism:  Pagan mystery religion of Greece, different from public/civic Olympian religion.  Worshippers of Dioynsus sacrifice living bull and eat it raw.

 

Key Greek moral concepts/values:

 

Ananke:  "What has to be;" natural laws governing both nature and moral decisions.

 

*Hubris:  Overweening pride that inevitably brings doom.

 

Nemesis:  Revenge of the gods.

 

Moira:  Pattern of life; not known in advance.

 

Arete:  The quality or condition of something that enables it to function well; virtue.