Ancient Greek and Mesopotamian Religions - a Comparison

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Ancient Religions By: MLB

As civilization has progressed through the ages, many religions have arisen and taken hold around the world, two if the most interesting, being the religious beliefs of the ancient Mesopotamian and the Greeks. These two religions were practiced in different areas and at different times and, therefore, show that religion has played a critical role in every society and civilization. No matter how it is organized or what type of god is worshiped, a society would be nothing without some kind of deity to organize it. In comparing the religious beliefs of the Mesopotamian and the Ancient Greeks religious components highlighted including the style of worship, the temples or places of worship, and the nature of the god or gods.

Both ancient religions had various ideas how to worship their god or gods. In the Mesopotamian religion, worship was very straight forward and casual. They would give daily offerings of food and drink with sacrifices during special monthly and annual feasts. The most celebrated of these feasts was the New Year's festival. These worship events were held by the priest and priestesses who also took care of the great wealth believed to be stored in the Mesopotamians temples. The director of the temple cults was the Sheshgallu: and all the sacrifices were performed by the Shangu priests. All other classes of priests dealt with the rest of the lesser rituals. The priestesses varied from the Entu, the consort of god, all the way down to the Temple Harlots (Garber, p204). The Greeks on the other hand, had done most of their worship in private. They also had festivals and rituals, but their worship was much less organized. If any individual wished to pray to a god, or invoke the god's intervention, he would simply go to one of the shrines or temples to the god of their choice and leave a small gift. These gifts included such offerings such as frankincense, a cake, or even a large sacrifice of animals. There were also dedications of small statuettes or even large painted vases (Webster, p79). Unlike the Mesopotamians there was no class of priests nor any real religion teachings or texts. Also, no large gathering festivals took place; however small groups in recognition of the gods were common. For example, the Olympic Games began as a festival to honor the god Zeus (Walker, p131). These religions had vast differences in ideas of how to worship their god or gods and often this affected other areas of their religion.

Because of the different styles of worship, each religion needed a completely different place to worship. As mentioned earlier, the Mesopotamians stored great wealth inside their temples. The temple itself was thought of as the house of god and, therefore, the structure itself needed to be worthy. It was finished in precious stones and the finest timber available. The original design itself was simple; the temples were built around a rectangular chamber with a statue of the god in one of the short sides (Garber, p204). The outside of the temple was massive and were called Ziggurats (Millard, p14). The Ziggurats were like step pyramids with large steps of stairs leading to the multiple entrances. There were many levels and walkways that ran around it. The temple itself was actually a shrine located on the top of the Ziggurat, but the entire thing was considered the gods worldly home. Although the interiors of the Greek temples were much like that of Mesopotamia, there were a number of exterior differences. Greek temples were also very elaborate and beautiful. Inside there was an alter, as well as a large statue of the god to whom the temple was dedicated. Outside the temples were amazing that had one or two rings of tall and impressive columns going all the way around the outside that were topped by fancy carvings of marble. The entire thing was built of marble and cost a fortune. There were a...
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