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  1. The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations
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Dickie Faraone Gods, Greek. Civilization, Classical. Mythology, Greek. Griechenland Altertum. The Greek gods are still very much present in modern consciousness. Although Apollo and Dionysos, Artemis and Aphrodite, Zeus and Hermes are household names, it is much less clear what these divinities meant and stood for in ancient Greece.

In fact, they have been very much neglected in modern scholarship. Christians, however, accused their pagan adversaries of confusing the two — by taking the material representation as the invisible living god, they worshipped a dead stone, a tree or a beast. Yet the Christians themselves blurred the border between the divine and humankind, since they identified the invisible god with the material and visible man Jesus.

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They developed this notion by looking back to an older discourse on adequate images of divine beings: 1. In this respect the man Jesus Christ is the material visible image of God. Around AD I have to thank Jan Bremmer for inviting me to the conference, Andrew Erskine for a kind reception and for correcting my English paper, brushed up by Dr Tilman Hannemann Bremen , and the Leventis Foundation for providing a comfortable setting for a wonderful conference.

My argument is that not only in theory but also in reality the Olympian Zeus was the model according to which the Pantocrator type also turned out to be the most satisfactory way of representing the Christian God. In the main part of my argument, I will demonstrate that the Christian polemic about pagans, that they confuse the image with the original and identify the signum with the significatum, turns out to be true of the Christians themselves. While they insisted on the identity of the material image of God — that is, the man Jesus Christ — with the immaterial and invisible God himself, the classical handling of the images knew about the difference, despite intellectual caricatures of dim-witted men kissing, washing or getting very close to the statue in order to whisper a wish.

I will also be concerned to outline some theoretical observations that underpin my approach. According to Plato, when artists attempt to represent the world of ideas in inanimate material, they make a major mistake in confusing materiality with ideas. There is, however, one exception: the master-artist might be able to express the living idea through stone or wood or metal.

The first part of this contribution summarizes an argument I have presented elsewhere at length: C. Kreutz and B. In the following example, the Platonic principles were applied to the seated statue of Zeus in the temple of Olympia, the masterpiece of Pheidias. If he were to stand up, he would take the roof off the temple.

And furthermore, the statue only seems to be motion- less. Strabo recalls the famous verses from the Iliad 1. Nearly invisible, by the slightest movement in his face, Zeus could cause an earthquake. This, then, could be applied to the statue at Olympia: it only seems that it does not move, yet every visitor is moved by the impressions of the living statue. As a conclusion, Strabo 8. Schwindt ed. Klauck and B. It takes the form of an apologia pronounced in the context of an imaginary trial, in which Pheidias is charged with fashioning the image of Zeus in the shape of man.

By overstating the pathos, it was the artist and his image that overwhelmed the public, not the god himself Pheidias himself answers these charges: leave aside the sun; it is impossible to represent it. Equally it is impossible to give an image of the mind.

The bodily representation serves merely as a mode of mystagogia spiritual guidance towards the theama, a helpful means to attain the vision of the living god. What he achieves is the impossible: the material cannot represent the ideas, that is to say the immortal gods. None the less he is able to create by material means a representation of the immaterial ideas. The dialogue between the artist and the artefact has to be comple- mented by a third party: the public Fig.


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The model of the cult image To meet the aims of comparative religion, however, the approach has to be complemented by the cultic dimension, which resides on the same level as the public looking at the artefact Fig. It is deeper and more intensive, and it refers to specific intentions: the cult image as a representation of the original god. During the cult, the image becomes the representation of god and so takes on the qualities of a cult image. The aesthetic and emotional impact pathos is not produced by the image but by the original god himself.

But only a creative artist can realize this effect. The attack was because Apollo did not intervene when monster snakes bit one of her sons to pieces. On the vase the remains of the son are shown still lying at the feet of the god, while the snakes are curling around the god.

The living god stands behind that scene. Even if the outraged mother were to destroy the statue, the god himself would not be harmed. The goddess does not dwell in the cult statue. For a view of com- parative religion, see H. The model of Christology In the Christological model there is no human artist needed any more. God himself is the artist who creates men and especially his son. The cult community itself creates the cult image during the cult, which becomes the god himself. Christ, who is addressed in the cult, is the material identity of the immaterial and invisible original god.

Examples are given in Eur. IT, —5; Cicero, Actio secunda Verr. Laneres, Lharpax de Thrapn ou le digamma dHlne, in M. Hatzopoulos ed. This element can hardly be separated from the name of the goddess Deio, whose name, as Andreas Willi email, 2 June explains, probably is derivative in - like other similar divine sobriquets in - based indeed on Demeters name i. With the - - this may be slightly less straightforward, but on balance I would still think that a connection must have been there at the very least folk- etymologically. Deio looks to me like an artifcial formation anyway, perhaps a poetic or cultic creation; and in such a context, many deviations from the most usual formation patterns are of course imaginable; cf.

Aphrodite 2, ; W. Burkert, Greek Religion Oxford: Blackwell, , pp. Franklin, Cyprus, Greek epic, and Kypriaka, in Y. Maurey et al. F Kannicht; Arr. Corruba, Cario Natri ed egizio n t r dio, in M. Fritz and S. Zeilfelder eds , Novalis Indogermanica Graz: Leykam, , pp. There was probably a hierarchy among Mycenaean divinities, as Poseidon is mentioned most and receives the greatest number of ofer- ings in Pylos. Rather surprisingly, he almost certainly had a wife, Posidaeja PY Tn As in classical times, some of these gods seem to have had an epithet, an important part of the Greek divine personality, which is gradually receiving long overdue attention.

From Homer onwards, these divinities, which remain hardly more than names in the Mycenaean texts, become visible as individual 25 R. Brul, Le langage des piclses dans le polythisme hellnique, Kernos 11 , pp. Parker, The problem of the Greek cult epithet, Opuscula Atheniensia 28 , pp. Parker, Artmis Ilithye et autres: le problme du nom divin utilis come epi- clse, in Belayche et al. A hitherto neglected testimony lends further support to Rutherfords analysis and also allows us to be more specifc. This shows that around BC the idea of a Dodekatheon was already prevalent on Lesbos, an island where Hittite infuence is indeed in evidence.

At around the same time we see the materialization of the concept of the hero as a class of supernatural beings between gods and men, even though some fgures kept hovering 31 See more recently A. Otto and F. Ehrl eds , Echo: Fest schrift J. Alroth, Changing modes in the representa tion of cult images, in R.

Hgg ed. Linant de Bellefonds et al. Grassinger et al. Dowden, Olympian gods, Olympian pantheon, in D. Ogden ed. Pirenne- Delforge ed. Tausend and S. Rollinger and B. Mason, Hittite Lesbos? I have started with this prehistory of the Greek gods, as we hardly realize any more that no modern history of Greek religion contained such an overview before the appearance of Walter Burkerts history of Greek religion in But what did scholars make of the Greek gods in the twentieth century? To answer this question, and thus to situate this book in the historiography of the Greek gods, 39 I will take a brief look at the, arguably, best four histories of Greek religion from the twentieth century: those by Wilamowitz, Gernet, Nilsson and Burkert.

Ulrich von Wilamowitz- Moellendorf , the greatest Hellenist of modern times, 40 wrote an unfnished history of Greek religion in two volumes in the very last years of his life and died while correcting its proofs. Its frst volume is wholly dedicated to the older gods until Homer, 42 but its scheme of pre- Hellenic, old- Hellenic and Homeric gods has become completely outdated through the decipherment of Linear B.

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Yet it remains a lasting insight that Greek religion is strictly local in character, even though it has only recently led to local histories of Greek religion. The chronology has insuf ciently been taken into account in recent studies of the hero cult; cf. Deger- Jalkotzy and I. Flashar ed. Buchner, , pp. Fowler, Ulrich von Wilamowitz- Moellendorf, in W. Briggs and W.

For an excellent discussion of Wilamowitz as historian of Greek religion see A. Calder III et al. Wilamowitz, Glaube, I, p. Parker, Spartan religi on, in A. Powell ed. It is rather striking to see that theology is fully incorporated into his narration, whereas the more recent histories, although paying attention to the religious role of poets and phi- losophers, never give the impression that this is seen as an important part of Greek religion. It is surely symbolic that both Nilsson and Burkert treat them towards the ends of their handbooks.

He rejected Christianity Aufarth: Chapter 24 , but had intended to discuss the reasons for its victory. Unfortunately, his death prevented him from completing that part, and we have only a few jottings left which show how interesting this last chapter could have been. Wilamowitz started his study with a long methodological chapter, which in several ways has a surprisingly modern ring. In its very frst sentence, he already reacted against those that saw the Greek gods as unchangeable with fxed characters.

That is why he used the expression Die Gtter sind da, The gods are present that is, in the world of time and place , as a kind of refrain in his introduction. Ottos dictum Die Gtter sind, The gods exist, as the latters Die Gtter Griechenlands, in which he presented the Greek gods as eternal and unchangeable beings, had appeared in , the very year that Wilamowitz had started his own book. As Albert Henrichs email, 2 June comments: What Wilamowitz tried to express is the fact that when seen with the eyes of a cultural historian Greek gods do not live on Olympus or in some kind of dream world or vacuum, but they exist in the historical here and now.

The da in the German phrase is not the equivalent of the Greek ekei, there, but conveys the sense of an identifable presence. Like the German die Gtter sind da, the version the gods are there can also be used in an unmarked sense as an equiva- lent of the gods exist, but it could also mean in a marked sense that the gods are over THERE, i. The translation the gods are present would avoid that ambiguity.

Cohen, For Otto see A. Stavru, Otto, Walter F. For the genesis of Ottos book see A. Stavru, Postfazione, in W. Otto, Gli di della Grecia Milan: Adelphi, 2 , pp. His stress on faith and feeling, Glaube and Gefhl, ftted a time in which the reli- gious experience of the individual became ever more important, 52 but the concept of faith that is part of it is a relatively modern notion. For the history of religion of his time see G. Henrichs, Die Glaube der Hellenen, p. Henrichs, Der Glaube der Hellenen, p. This tendency may well have strengthened Wilamowitzs reliance on K.

Mllers and Welckers vocabulary, cf. Henrichs, Der Glaube der Hellenen, pp. Hall et al. Seebold, Liebe und Glaube, Incontri linguistici 26 , pp. In the end, his book is mostly out of date, even if it remains an inexhaustible treasury of notes, suggestions, source criticism and observations that are the fruit of his long and intimate knowledge of Greek culture, from Homer to late antiquity.

Gernet starts with a discussion of the minor divinities, such as per- sonifcations of the earth Ge , the sun Helios , the Winds, 60 love Eros , 61 but also groups of goddesses, such as the nymphs. Bremmer, Religion, ritual and the opposition sacred vs. Graf ed.

Humphreys, Anthropology and the Greeks London: Routledge, , pp. Gernet and A. Boulanger, Le gnie grec dans la religion Paris: Renaissance du Livre, However, he rated other German historians of Greek religion higher: on ne aurait le [Wilamowitz] mettre en parallle avec un Usener ou un Dieterich, voire avec un Rohde p. It is typical that there is no chapter on the gods in any of his three volumes with collected articles, except for a review of the book on Dionysos by his friend Henri Jeanmaire : L. Halm- Tisserant and G. Some have a cult, others not; some an extensive mythology, others virtually none; some many epithets, others a few or none, and so on.

The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations

This leads Gernet to the argument that a god is a systme de notions. In this system Gernet attaches great weight to the names and epi- thets of the divinities in their cults, as they help to personalize them. But it is their powers that make them into real gods, and not smaller supernatural beings, even though the coherence of those powers is complex and often hard to see for us, as must have been the case for the Greeks. Gods are not limited to their local cult: there is always a kind of divine surplus, so to speak.

Moreover, there is a kind of general quality that remains the same over many centuries: Dionysos who gives the wine, Artemis who helps in childbirth, Hera who pre- sides over the marriage. It is this interaction between the local and the global that makes it so hard to formulate what a god is. Gernet does not discuss the individual gods, but he does pay atten- tion to Zeus, whose power is exalted by poets such as Pindar and Aeschylus Seaford: Chapter 9 but whose presence in cult is highly limited.

In the end, polytheism does not favour a strict organization and there is always something unstable about the pantheon. The gods are there, but they do not really play a very active role in the world. They are more the symbolic guarantees of the social and physical order than active agents in our daily life but see Fowler: Chapter We enter a diferent world with the history of Greek reli- gion by Martin Nilsson , the leading authority in Greek religion during the middle third of the twentieth century.

Mejer, Martin P. Nilsson, in Briggs and Calder, Classical Scholarship, pp. Bierl and W. Nilsson on Religionsgeschichte , Eranos 89 , pp. I quote from the second edition of the frst volume, the last edition to be revised by Nilsson himself. This meant that he concentrated on ritual instead of on mythology, but also accepted the evolutionis- tic and comparative approach of Tylor, Frazer and others. As in Gernets study, the major gods appear therefore relatively late in his Geschichte, only on page And like Gernet, Nilsson starts with the niederen gttlichen Wesen, lower divine beings, such as cen- taurs, river gods, nymphs and Muses.

In Nilssons opinion, the Homeric gods belonged more to the Mycenaean than to later times. Moreover, the poets had made the gods human, all too human, so that they could not be real gods. It is precisely their playfulness but also whimsicality that is part of the Greek divine fgure, 72 however much philosophers objected to it Trpanier: Chapter Nilsson starts his discussion of the major gods with a few prelimi- nary observations in which he argues that rites are now much more important than myths. Their archaic character enables us to recognize the meaning of a divinity in older times.

In addition to the major gods, there were the smaller ones, who were, according to Nilsson, much closer to the people than were the major ones, who were closer to the aristocracy. Among the gods Nilsson distinguished the older ones from the younger ones, whom he put in second place. Admittedly some of these were clearly younger, such as Aphrodite and Apollo above , but others, such as Ares and Dionysos, have now been shown to be just as old as Zeus and Hera, whereas, on the other hand, Kronos with his Titans is not old at all above.

In short, the distinction is not helpful. For the ritual turn see Bremmer, Religion, ritual, pp. Geschichte, I, p. I do not think that there has been another historian of Greek religion with such a wide knowledge of all available sources. Yet knowledge is no guarantee for insight. This becomes immediately apparent when we look at Nilssons discussion of Zeus. Although he objected to the nature mythology of his youth, Nilsson did not escape its infuence and promoted Zeus into a weather god, who as such has his throne in heaven or on a mountain.

Here we already see things go wrong. All the gods lived in heaven above , which does not make them all weather gods, and the mountains of his cults often served as a symbolic centre of a region. Moreover, rain is now also invoked to explain the myth of the Golden Fleece because Hellen and Phrixos mother is called Nephele, Cloud, just as the reported human sacrifce to Zeus Lykaios in Arcadia with the concomitant transformation of a youth into a werewolf is explained as Regenzauber, rain magic.

Nilsson clearly could identify with this protector of the farm and the house, but he had less attention for the fact that this Zeus is also the protector of the family as a social group.

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He also extensively discusses the gods representation as a snake, whereas Robert Parker just mentions it: Nilsson was clearly more content with the thought of a theriomor- phic god than the present generation of scholars. Bremmer ed. Parker, Polytheism, pp. But once again Nilsson had no eye for the fact that this Zeus was worshipped not only by individuals but also by groups below the level of the polis, such as demes and families; in fact, the god is especially concerned with bloodshed committed both against the family and by the family.

This is recognized by Nilsson, but it is the much less prominent side of the god as protector of the house that he emphasizes. It is here that he mentions other epithets that point to Zeus connec- tion with politics, such as Boulaios and Polieus, or social groups: Patroios, Phratrios and Apatourios; 80 his association with suppliants, also noted by Nilsson, cannot be separated from Zeus protection of families.

The order is understandable, even if the connection is not immediately transparent. Can it be that divination was seen as one way to create order in the confusion of everyday life? I have chosen Zeus as an example of Nilssons approach because he dedicated the greatest number of pages to this god, but also because his analysis enables us to see best Nilssons qualities and prejudices. Of all the modern authors of a history of Greek religion he is the one who draws upon the greatest variety of sources with an unequalled knowledge of all areas of Greek life.

Yet at the same time, he is also still very much a product of the later nineteenth century with its inter- est in nature, ritual and fertility. In his introduction Nilsson explicitly rejects Durkheim, and it is surely symbolic that immediately after this rejection Nilsson mentions the importance of the invention of agriculture; his comment that Gernet stresses the sociological points of view will have hardly been meant as a compliment.

For an excellent study of the god see M. Jameson et al. Jameson, A Lex Sacra from Selinous, p. It is in this respect that modern scholarship has perhaps made most progress in its study of the gods. Whereas the nineteenth century debated the priority of monotheism over polytheism or vice versa Konaris: Chapter 25 , Burkerts handbook of Greek religion is the frst to look at polytheism as a system with its own characteristics. Which gods are paired and which are opposed to each other? What is the precise mode of intervention?

What logic governs their being? Yet the family model only goes so far, as it does not explain, for example, the antago- nism between Apollo and Poseidon or the coupling of Poseidon and 84 Fine examples of this approach are Robert Parkers books Athenian Religion and Polytheism. I quote from the English translation: Burkert, Greek Religion. On Burkert see F. Paradiso, Jean- Pierre Vernant, Belfagor 56 , pp. Vernant frst exposed his views in ; cf. Euler, Gab es eine indogermanische Gtterfami lie, in W.

Meid ed. As we noted, the pattern of an Olympian family of gods related by kinship is clearly not suf cient, but the sociological approach to Greek religion has not yet shed any light on the sys- temic aspects of Greek polytheism either. The most promising way for exploring cultic connections and interrelationships between gods is probably the study of regional cults, but until now not enough regional pantheons have been explored to draw more general infer- ences on a Panhellenic scale.

Yet, in the end, the polyvalent nature of the Greek gods and their historical developments will always oppose an all too strictly systemic analysis. Which gods are more important, why and how do we know? This is of course a complicated question, but it is clear that Artemis, for example, was more important than Hephaistos or Themis.

Here we have to look at the location of sanc- tuaries, the nature of the sacrifces Georgoudi: Chapter 5 , the myths, the iconography and the divine relationship to the social and political order. It is also important to realize that the Greek gods are not just persons. In fact, the cerebral Frenchman Vernant has even denied that the Greek gods were persons, whereas the Romantic German Burkert sees them as human almost to the last detail.

Plas ed. Vernant and M. Detienne, Les ruses dintelligence Paris: Flammarion, , pp. For a fne recent example of this approach see A. Vernant, Figures, idoles, masques Paris: Julliard, , pp. Zeitlin Princeton: Princeton University Press, , pp. The same is true for his followers: L.

Bruit Zaidman and P. Cartledge Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , pp. Kratz and H. When Athena defeats Poseidon in a contest for Attica, the gods are represented as persons by authors and artisans, but an Athenian would not have failed to notice also that intelligence defeats brute power.

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There is often an abstract quality to the Greek gods, which must have made it easier to divinize and personalize abstract qualities and allegories, such as Themis, Dike, Eirene and Demokratia. This organization is hardly satisfactory. The distinction between Olympian and chthonic gods has been crumbling for a while now, as it is increas- ingly realized that this is a late antique categorization, which, at least in its extreme form, hardly fnds support in the literary and archaeo- logical sources.

Finally, in his often brilliant analyses of the individual gods Burkert can build on previous collections of material, but has the advantage of the decipherment of Linear B as well as the progress in new texts and archaeological excavations of the decades since Nilsson wrote his handbook. Yet his own voice is often very audible in these investi- gations. There is now much attention to the prehistory of the gods. For example, in the case of Artemis we hear of her as Mistress of Animals and as goddess of hunting and hunters, a theme dear to Burkerts heart.

Moreover, he now pays full attention to her ties with Asia Minor, where she later developed into a city goddess Petrovic: Chapter 11 , the Near Eastern infuence on Greek religion being another favourite theme of his. Hgg and B. Casadio, Ex oriente lux? Riedweg ed. In addition, the complicated relationship of some divinities with heroes or heroines Calame: Chapter 13 , as of Artemis with Iphigeneia, is, less persuasively, explained on the basis of sacrifce, another favourite theme of Burkert.

In other words, his is in many ways also a very personal, sometimes idiosyncratic approach. It is time to come to a close. It has been a long road since the Renaissance rediscovered the Greek gods. Just to mention one more topic that deserves more attention than it has received in this volume: gender. Why did so many more Greek males receive theophoric names, such as Apollonios or Herodotos, than did women?

One of these would be the problem of ruler cult and its relationship to the worship of the gods Erskine: Epilogue. Burkert ends his handbook with a study of Platos Laws, which means that he does not discuss the hymn that the Athenians composed for Demetrios Poliorketes. In this hymn the Macedonian king is pictured as present, joyous as befts the god, beautiful and smiling.