The Ancient Greeks practiced a religion that was superseded by culture. The foundation of their culture was built on their mythology but it became much more than that. Ancient Greece was not a melting pot of religion. The people were more unified than the common American might understand. The people of Athens, as well as the rest of Ancient Greece, built the foundation of their lives on the Acropolis and their mythology, however, instead of it simply being a means of religion, it was a means of culture. The Acropolis: Purpose and Origin
The initial and most prominent purpose of the Acropolis in Athens was to give a place for the Greeks to worship the gods, specifically the goddess Athena. She was the god of their polis (city state), hence the name of their city, Athens. (Roberts 108). Though the Acropolis was first and foremost built for worship, other motivations played a factor.
Pericles, a statesman and general of Athens, longed to see the Acropolis rebuilt after its destruction in the Persian war. He began building in 447 BC and the construction lasted for about a half a century. He built the Acropolis to show that not only did Athens control an empire with a naval alliance, it contained magnificence, architectural genius, and glory in its culture as well (PBS.org, “447 BC The Acropolis Rebuilt”). He not only put money towards building, but put it towards comedic and dramatic plays performed in the Theatre of Dionysus. Through the Acropolis, Pericles wanted to make their city great.
As previously stated, Athenians primarily worshipped their matron deity, Athena, as well as many other gods. Though their worship became less about the gods and more about their identity as a people and culture, it did begin with more devotion to the gods who dwelt on Mount Olympus (Roberts 108). The Olympians consisted of twelve gods, the leader and chief being Zeus. These gods’ reputations and myths have carried all the way down through the generations, but no one in this day and age believes in them. They are myths, as was the belief for most of the Ancient Greeks that traveled up to and participated in the affairs of the Acropolis. (Solomon and Higgins 8-9)
The gods were much like humans, they looked like humans, acted like humans, and were punished like humans. The gods seemed to have all the negative qualities that humans have, and yet at the same time, all the things that humans envied, such as power, beauty, strength, etc. Homer, author of the Illiad “ ‘…attributed to the gods everything that is disgraceful and blameworthy among men: theft, adultery and deceit’, and he was right. As Homer showed it, the world of the gods operated much like the actual world.” (Roberts 108)
A story of the creation of the gods is found in the Theogony, a famous poem by the writer Hesiod in 700 BC. It tells of the heavens and the sea uniting to make the Titans, who eventually fathered the twelve Olympians. The Greeks believed this story to tell the true tale of where their gods came from (Hatzitsinidou, "First Greek Gods Theogony - The Creation of the First Greek Gods."). While mythically they believed their gods to have been conceived by the Titans, those that have studied their culture today believe them to have a historical origin. They believe the gods to have been conceived either by the Greeks’ gradually deifying heroes, thus making them beings they worshipped or to have been a branch of ancient animistic cultures, deriving from islands in the Aegean sea (Guisepi, "Greece, A History of Ancient Greece, Mythology."). The Acropolis: Way of Life and Beliefs of the Participants
Greek mythology had already become unsettling by the 6th century and the stories of the gods were no longer taken literally nor seriously. When philosophy came about, even in its infant form, search of “The Truth” could not permit these myths (Solomon and Higgins 8-9). Xenophanes, a Greek philosophical poet, who lived in the late 6th and early 5th century, said...
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