Greek Mythology: How it Relates to Greek Religion and Culture
Ancient Greeks believed in a series of myths, which explained nature, set the moral code for the Greek people, and some were just entertaining stories. These myths turned the Greek world from a world of fear into a world of wondrous beauty. Many of these gods and goddesses were associated with a particular task or activity (Buxton). The Greek people believed that the gods were incorporated into every aspect of their lives.
The Ancient Greeks, being a polytheistic culture, created many extravagant myths regarding 12 gods and goddesses that they believed to rule all aspects of their lives. These myths were an early science. They were the result of the Greeks trying to explain the world around them. The Greek people created their gods in their own image, naturally making heaven an enjoyable and familiar place (Hamilton). In Greek mythology the Gods did not create the universe, but instead, the universe created the gods. The mythology of the people of Greece begins with Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey. It is in these epic poems that Homer tells the stories of the many gods and hero’s of Greece. We now know who and what the Greek gods were, but how are they relevant to the Greek Religion? It is important to know that the Greeks did not have a word for religion. Also they did not have any written text or scripture. When we talk about Greek religion we mean their ritual behaviors and their beliefs in sacred items, beings, and places (Cline). We also must remember that Greek mythology is not the same as Greek religion, though they are closely intertwined. The only requirement of the Greeks for their religion was to believe in the gods and perform sacrifices to them. These sacred acts, sacrifice and festivals, were the root of the Greek religion (Buxton). This seems to be a rather relaxing way to carry on in life, but not so. The Greeks attributed anything good happening to the gods being happy with them, also when something bad happened, for example, an earthquake, famine, or the loss of a battle, it was attributed to the gods being displeased with the Greeks (“Ancient Greece”). The Ancient Greeks were an extremely religious people, who spent their lives trying to please the gods through their sacrifice, festivals, and unwavering belief in them.
Sacrifice was one of the most important ways to please the gods; they were thought to be gifts to the gods. The people of Greece would give a sacrifice not only of animals, but also bloodless sacrifices, such as food, grasses, grains, and incense (Christman). Each city had a temple erected to their patron god. In Athens they had built the Acropolis, with its main temple being the Parthenon, which was dedicated to Athena (which whom Athens was named after). Athena was Zeus’s daughter, and it is said in the myths that she was born from his head. Athena is known as the Goddess of war and the defender of the towns. She is usually shown in art dressed in full armor. Also associated with her is Nike the symbol of victory (Hamilton). These temples were not for worship, but they were believed to house the gods for which the temple was built. The only people who were allowed inside were the priests and priestesses, and that was only to keep it clean and take care of the god’s statue (“Ancient Greece”). The focus of the temple was no only the god or goddess but the sacrificial alter. Each temple had an alter outside for the worshipers to place their offerings. The sacrifices the Greeks made to their gods were their way of ensuring that they would be allowed to lead a normal happy life.
The Greeks also took part in religious festivals and for further reassurance of their pleasing the gods went to oracles. We know that the Greek people participated in many religious festivals, but the details of these festivals are unknown. The main festival that the Greeks partook in was the Olympic games, in honor of Zeus. Zeus was the...
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