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The period of high classics (V century BC). Greek religion.

The Greek religion.

The word "religion" comes from the Latin "to connect", that is, to make a connection between God and man. In any religion, a person in one form or another tries to relate himself to eternity. Religion is distinguished from fetishism, magic, totemism and other primitive beliefs by a complex of human obligations to God, because faith obliges to a certain behavior.

In Greece there was no "church" in our understanding as a combination of clergy and laity and as a public institution: the Greeks did not distinguish between religious and political spheres of life, since the state and personal interests of citizens coincided. In the classical era, the idea of an individual relationship between a person and God had not yet arisen, since religion was of a social nature. Meetings began with sacrifices or with an appeal to the gods, as well as any important matters, which is why religion gradually acquired a formalistic character, when the principle "you are to me, I am to you" was developed, that is, in order to achieve success in the matter, one must turn to the gods and the exercise of religious worship is the pledge of a request fulfilled by God.

The Greek religion was closely connected with myth-making, but was not identified with it. Myth is "in words, this wonderful personal story", in which there is no self-affirmation of the individual in eternity - this is the fundamental difference between mythology and religion.1 On the other hand, myths are not fairy tales for adults, but a certain idea of the universe, ancient times, supernatural forces surrounding a person, in this sense they are inherently closer to history and poetry.

The myths were anthropomorphic, in them the earthly world and human relations were projected onto the world of the gods: the gods feast in a human way, work, marry, are subject to passions, and therefore people had no moral obligations to the gods, whose existence did not oblige them to anything, although in some cases the celestials and they acted as supreme judges, avengers of evil deeds and champions of justice. Mythology and religion have become fertile ground for the development of Greek art.

The Greek religion lacked a clearly defined canonical tradition and a developed system of theology. Mythology developed over a long period, starting from the middle of the II millennium BC. Myths were not recorded at the time when oral traditions existed. As in the case of the Homeric epic, the need to record myths arose at the moment of their transformation into a fairy tale, when their vivid perception and understanding disappeared. Therefore, the Greek legends have been preserved in a rather late interpretation. Their systematization was carried out in two books dating back to the II century. E., - The "Mythological Library" of Apollodorus and the "Myths" of Gigin, seven centuries separate them from the classical period. Many myths were previously retold in the works of ancient authors, starting with Homer, Hesiod and ending with tragic dramatists, but the first attempts to systematize and generalize them were made not earlier than the Hellenistic era, that is, from the III century BC.

Sacred festivals and games.

The famous Olympic Games were held in Olympia in honor of Zeus. According to legend, they were established in 776 BC.1, at first they were local in nature and only later became Greek. During the games, which were held every four years and lasted for five days, peace was concluded between the warring States. The games, which were religious festivals, were attended only by full-fledged citizens who were not guilty of shedding blood, they competed in running, wrestling, fist fighting, pentathlon and chariot racing. The Olympian winner received an honorary wreath of laurel, according to legend planted by Hercules himself at the temple of Zeus in Olympia, could knock out a coin in his honor and put up a statue. Olympians enjoyed great fame in Greece.

The Greeks regarded physical education as an integral part of overall development. Equally uneducated was a person who could not read, write and at the same time swim. Intellectual activity among the Greeks was inseparable from physical activity; many prominent philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, were not only intelligent people, but also excellent athletes.

Similar games were held in honor of Poseidon, the so-called Isthmian Games, and the Nemean Games in honor of Zeus. Their participants could compete not only in physical exercises, but also in reading poetry, playing musical instruments. The idea of competitiveness, agonality, was intrinsic to the entire Greek civilization2.

Among other important festivals, the Great Panathenaea dedicated to Pallas Athena stand out, where the cult of the virgin goddess, who was considered the patroness of Athens, was sent. Many cities had similar patron deities. A group of reliefs of the temple of the Parthenon, erected in honor of Athena on the acropolis, in the central part of the city, depicts such a solemn procession of residents to the sanctuary. The statue of Athena was decorated with special bedspreads sewn by girls under the guidance of priests. Gymnastic competitions, night running of young athletes with torches and theatrical performances were also organized at the Panathenaea.

The Eleusinian mysteries.

In Greece, there were holidays of a mystical nature associated with secret service. Initially accessible to a few, they later became open to a wide range of believers. Among them, the most famous were the Eleusinian mysteries dedicated to Demeter and her daughter Cora, who were revered as goddesses of the earth and fertility. In the two thousand years of its existence, the mysteries were not held only three times, during the wars.

As the myth tells, Cora, the daughter of Demeter, was abducted by the king of the underworld Hades and taken to the underworld. There she became his wife under another name - Persephone. At Demeter's request, the daughter sometimes returned to earth with her husband's permission, and then the cereals sprouted. In Greece, this period did not come in summer, as in the middle European strip, but in autumn-winter, so the fields were sown in spring and the harvest was harvested in autumn. The Greeks regarded the sultry summer as the time when Cora stayed with Hades.

It was the secret services that were linked to the cult of the earth: the earth was considered as a source of fertility and life, it was also the last refuge of all living things, a grave - for people, it was not for nothing that the Greeks sowed grain at the burial sites of loved ones. The initiates organized a sacred procession from Athens to Eleusis (about 22 km), reaching which they participated in mimic performances illustrating the legend told. The essence of the representations is unknown, since the mystics kept the secret sacred. Not a single word was uttered, the whole action took place in complete silence, which made a huge impression on the believers. During the mysteries, they had the opportunity to observe the soul's journey in the afterlife and internally experience its state as a sign of the promise of a happy eternal life after death. The purpose of such performances was pious edification, because through their contemplation people received inner purification and sanctification. Since in the classical era there was no idea of the personal salvation of man, the mysteries were a generalized image of eternal life, continuing thanks not to individuals, but to the genus as a whole. Therefore, each Greek paid special attention to the continuation of his kind, in which his immortality was embodied - this view of eternity was quite consistent with the social nature of Greek religion. The Greeks revered the Eleusinian mysteries and considered themselves obliged to take part in them at least once in their lives.

Дионисии и секта орфиков.

Dionysia is an Attic festival that has spread throughout Greece and was held in honor of the god Dionysus, known in the European tradition as Bacchus. Perhaps this cult came to Greece from the East, where it had an orgiastic character and was sent in the form of drunken frenzied orgies. On the other hand, in the Eleusinian mysteries, a certain deity Iakh, similar to Dionysus, already appears. In Greece, celebrations in his honor did not go to extremes and were more restrained, and Dionysus himself was revered as the god of viticulture and winemaking, especially in rural areas.

From the cult of Dionysus originates the sect of the Orphics, whose teachings were formed by the VI century BC. The initiates were called Orphics in honor of the founder of the sect Orpheus, who descended into the underworld for his unexpectedly deceased wife Eurydice. According to their teachings, Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Persephone, was once torn apart by Titans sent by the jealous wife of Zeus Hero, and to restore his life, the thunderer swallowed the heart of his son, reborn again, and struck the Titans with lightning. The human race originated from the ashes of the Titans and the blood of Dionysus, therefore all people have a dual nature: on the one hand, they are characterized by low earthly passions - the inheritance of the Titans, and on the other, they possess a particle of the supreme deity. In the sect, a person received liberation from the sin of the Titans through redemptive rites, that is, he could restore his divine nature. According to the ideas of the Orphics, the soul, a prisoner of the body, after the death of a person must undergo serious changes, in particular, to pass the test of earthly life again. Thus arose the doctrine of the transmigration of souls (previously perfected in India). It was also adhered to by the famous Pythagoras, in whose school a new learner1 was developed.


Cults associated with oracles were widespread in Greece. An oracle was either a sanctuary or a place where god dwelt, and where a person could receive the answer of the deity to any questions. The most famous were the oracles of Zeus in Dodona and Apollo in Delphi. The answers of the gods, also called oracles, were given most often through divination. They could guess on the water, casting lots, and a number of other ways.

In the temple of Zeus in Dodona, priestesses prophesied by the rustle of the leaves of the sacred oak. According to legend, Zeus lived in this oak tree and with his help it was possible to foresee the future or answer this or that question. People came to the temple with various everyday problems: they asked whom to worship, so that luck would accompany them, and trade would be successful, etc. Lead tablets with similar questions have been preserved. For example, a certain Agis asked Zeus if he himself had lost his pillows and blankets, or had someone stolen them from him?

An oracle associated with the sanctuary at Delphi has been put forward since the archaic era. Pythias served with him, women who were obliged to keep chastity, who were chosen from simple, often poorly educated girls. Once there was a case when a young man, captivated by a pythia, took her away with him, and then women at least fifty years old began to be elected to the position of priestess. First there was one pythia, and then there were two. The oracle could only make predictions nine times a year. To do this, the priestess performed a sacred ablution, took an olive branch and went to the cave, where she sat on a tripod and inhaled the fumes emanating from a deep crevice, fell into unconsciousness and began to mutter something; the explanation of her words was perceived as an oracle. In such conditions, the interpretation made by the priests acquired exceptional importance. Pythias often became an instrument of political struggle when, through their mediation, the questioners were given answers that were interpreted in different ways. Therefore, answers to fundamentally important questions were given in a vague, mostly poetic form. The case when the Lydian king Croesus turned to Delphi with a request to find out if he could defeat the Persian ruler Cyrus, with whom he fought, became very famous. The answer was appropriate: "If you cross the Halys River (on the sides of which there were two troops), you will destroy a great kingdom." Overjoyed, Croesus crossed the river and lost the battle, after which he returned to the oracle with a complaint, but the priest reasonably noted that Apollo did not specify which kingdom Croesus would destroy.

Oracles played a big role, they were often addressed and believed. The answers of the gods given to the request of entire cities were stored in special archives at the public, administrative and religious center of the cities - the acropolis.