The Ancient Library

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On this page: Religion (continued)



trite and his son Triton, are Oct&nus and his offspring, Nereus and the Nereids, Pro­teus, Ino (Leucothea),Melicerte's (Pulcemon), Glaucus (Pontius). The gods of the earth are Ocea herself, Rhea (Cybelg), Dionysus, Priapus, Pan, the Nymphs and Satyrs, Dimeter and her daughter Persephone, with her spouse Hades (Pluto). The last two are the rulers of uthe nether world, to which Hecate and the Erinyes also belong.

The number of beings regarded as deities was never clearly denned. From the ear­liest times in Greece we find deities wor­shipped in one place, who were not known in another. But some of these, as Dionysus and Pan, became common property in course of time ; and, the more lasting and more extensive the intercourse became with other peoples, more especially in the colonies, the introduction of foreign deities became greater. Some of these were identified with the gods already worshipped, while others preserved their original attributes, subject, of course, to modifications, to suit the spirit of the Greeks. This aptitude for natura­lising foreign religions declined more and more as Greece ceased to flourish. On the other hand, some original deities lost their independence, and were merged into others, such as Helios and Apollo, Selene and Artemis. In the popular belief of the post-Homeric time, another numerous class of superhuman beings sprang up, which were regarded as being between gods and men, the demons (Gr. DaimOnes) and Heroes (q.v.).

As to their nature and their number, there avcis less uniformity than in the case of the real gods. The Heroes had only local im­portance. Even in the case of the gods uni­versally worshipped, it was by no means all (not even the most important) that had a place everywhere in the public worship. In the case of certain gods, their worship was only exceptional; and those gods who by order of the State were worshipped in any particular place did not necessarily enjoy for ever the position to which they were entitled. Even Zeus, who was universally regarded as the highest of the gods, and figured in the cult of most of the different States was not himself worshipped as su­preme ; but those gods who had always had the first place in the cult of the respective States, took precedence over him, and these were not always divinities of pre-eminent importance. In Athens, Pallas Athene was worshipped as the principal deity, Hera in Argos; among the Dorians, especially at Delphi, Apollo; among the lonians, Posei-

don ; at Rhodes, Helios ; at Naxos, Diony­sus ; at Thespiae, Eros, at Orchomenus, the Charites (or Graces). Even in the case of the same deities, the local customs often differed considerably, in respect of the names that were given to them, their attri­butes, and the form of worship. These differences were due, partly to local causes and local opinions, partly to foreign in* fluence ; and were occasionally so consider­able, that doubts arose whether different deities were not really represented under the same name, as, for instance, Aphrodite. The deities were supposed to be specially-gratified by the careful observance of the traditional ritual. This continued to be carried on according to ancient custom, so that the details of these ancient cults were often curious, and their connexion with the religious ideas on which they rested was often unintelligible. However, with the development of morality the view began to prevail, that the observance of duties towards the State and fellow men was also favoured by the gods as guardians of the providential order of the world; but, in the eyes of the multitude, the principal mean­ing of eusSbeia (piety) was the performance of the ordained worship of the gods. Again, the care of the State was confined to the outward forms of religion, and to the main­tenance of the traditional legal ritual. Alterations in this ritual, and the intro­duction of new cults, were only made by authority of the legislative power, usually after an oracle had been consulted to deter­mine the divine will. Besides the worship of the deities recognised by the State, private objects of devotion were found everywhere. For instance, in the case of foreign deities, at Athens, where there were many strangers, either passing through or permanently resident, foreign religions were tolerated, so long as they did not endanger the traditional worship or excite public disturbance by their outward ritual. Many such cults were naturalised in this way, and became, in course of time, part of the State religion. Conquest, again, con­tributed largely towards the introduction of novelties ; for the acquisition of new terri­tory involved that of the religious rites held therein. And, lastly, old religions, which had been looked upon as supremely holy, even if they were not absolutely superseded in the course of time, became less important in comparison with others of later origin.

Shrines, and the statues of the gods pre­served in them, were the central points of

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.