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Философия истории и постнеклассическая метафизика

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  4. Page DuBois - A Million and One Gods [2014][a]

However, it should be borne in mind that although in the inter-Hellenic conflicts Athena behaves as befits the ruler of Attica, in the conflicts of the Greeks with the barbarians she is always on the side of the Greeks. Each Greek polis had its own palladium — a sacred image of Athena, which was a city talisman; her image, and not the image of the supreme god Zeus, or the military god Ares.

The Greeks were convinced that every nation has its own celestial curator, who not only protects his own subjects to the extent that the supreme god allows , but is also responsible for their well-being. By the way, interesting parallels can be found in Deuteronomy chapter 32, verse 8 , where the number of nations is related to the number of heavenly inhabitants.

Apparently, it was this fragment that allowed Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to assert that God had assigned one of the angels to every people Dionysius the Areopagite, , pp. Such an idea was implicitly implied behind the external outline of the narration of Greek myths; Plato himself writes about the division of the world between the gods as a well-known fact Plato, , p. The lovers asked for help from Aphrodite, the sailors from Poseidon, the merchants from Hermes; while all the Greeks prayed to Athena.

The Greeks worshiped other gods; they loved Athena, not sparing their efforts and means, in order to express their gratitude to her. Being subsequently ridiculed and anecdotized by Christian authors, the Hellenic myths were much more flexible than the ingenuous straightforwardness of the main plot of the Old Testament books.

But if we consider the Old Testament history not as a reliable story, but as a metaphysical concept, a lot falls into place. Still the Greek concept of separation of the supreme and beloved domestic deities both allowed to consistently describe the divine world and provided motivation for human actions.

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After all, although the gods have the capabilities incomparable with those of the mortals what would the island thrower do to the enemy army? Consequently, the outcome of this or that battle is more dependent on weak and mortal people than on strong and immortal celestials. The Romans built relationships with the world of the gods in other way. Although they borrowed Greek mythological plots, and their poets tried to imitate Homer, the equivalence of the mythological component should not be misleading, because it plays far from the main role.

After all, the sacred history in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is also almost identical, which in no way testifies to the identity of the religious models that serve as a guide to action for their followers.

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The abundance of myths does credit to the creative imagination of the Greek people, but their storylines do not always contribute to piety. The Roman religion did not give grounds for licentiousness and irreverence, and in this, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the main merit belongs to the legendary founder of Rome.

The Greek historian noted with approval that Romulus dismissed all the myths in which the gods appear in an unattractive form, setting people to say only the good things about the gods Dionysius of Halicarnassus, , p. Plutarch, however, attributed the beginning of the formation of a specific Roman religiosity to the rule of Numa Pompilius, who in his opinion was under Pythagorean influence. It is interesting that Plutarch ascribes to Numa the doctrine, in accordance with which the first principle of being is sensually imperceptible, invisible, indistinct and intelligible; from this followed the prohibition to honor God in the form of a man or animal, as well as to create his images; for a long time years the Romans allegedly followed this prohibition Plutarch, , pp.

This suggests parallels with Judaism and Islam, which prohibit the image of God, as well as with the tradition of iconoclasm — from the Isaurian emperors of Byzantium to the Protestants.

A Million and One Gods : The Persistence of Polytheism -

However, there are those for example, the Italian archaeologist Andrea Carandini , who hold the opposite point of view, considering the first kings to be historical figures Carandini, I will not interfere in the discussions of historians. For me, the historicity of Romulus and Numa as well as the historicity of other characters in early Roman history is not critical. For historians it is important to find out how it really was , and for the tasks of my research it is much more important what the Romans thought about how it really was.

Since one has become part of a mythologema, taken into account and used by the spirit in its historical evolution, he or she has become history , and this fact itself is sufficient to state that in a historical sense this one is not at all nobody even if there are doubts about his or her physical existence.

Origin of Religion

It is indicative that both Greek authors point out the differences between the Roman version of religiosity and the traditional Greek beliefs that are familiar to them, and Plutarch points out the closeness of the Roman code to the most mysterious philosophical and mystical teaching of Hellas. However, the Minerva for the Romans is not at all the same as Athena for the Greeks, and the matter is not only in its national sympathies and political projects.

Unlike the Greeks, whose gods besides external anthropomorphism were human-like also in actions, the Romans were inclined to perceive gods as abstractly universal cosmic entities.


If Greek mythology is dramatic the amorous adventures of the immortals, their quarrels and intrigues, causing the indignation of philosophers by their simplicity, were considered by most Hellenes to be quite permissible pastime , then Roman religiousness stays away from all this. An exception can be considered poetic works created as direct imitation of Greek originals, which, incidentally, have almost no religious significance. The supreme god of the Romans is not at all like the hero-lover who is fed up with power; he is the universal principle that rules the world and can manifest himself in a particular personality.

The Olympians dispelled the boredom of eternal life by rivalry with each other, in which they gladly involved the mortals, while the Roman gods did not confront each other at all, not because of corporate ethics, but because the entire Roman pantheon represented different aspects of the unified cosmic principle. So, Mars is an expression of the power of Jupiter, Ceres — fertility, Venus — love, etc. No matter what thunders and lightning Christian writers threw at the pagans, they themselves, with all their desire, could not completely get rid of pagan intellectual patterns when adapting the Middle Eastern religion to forms acceptable to the descendants of Romulus and the heirs of Athena.

These latter Greeks relatively easily accepted Christianity to a large extent precisely through the traditions of the Roman religion of Jupiter, since, although the cult of Olympians was preserved in Greece conquered by Rome, the ideas were undoubtedly intertwined.

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The Roman religious paradigm basically allowed the reduction of all divine aspects to one Personality. As Christopher Jones notes, many pagans are inclined to monotheism or to modified monotheism, who considered one god to be far superior to all others Jones, Such a construction is not devoid of meaning, but it may be misunderstood, given the tradition of using the respective terminology. Pure monotheism is extremely rare; it is not so much a religion as a philosophical concept.

Christian theologians and mystics used up a lot of paper, describing the angelic hierarchy.

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  • With their vigorous imagination, pious authors tried to level out the simple idea that an omnipotent and self-sufficient God does not need helpers or a bureaucratic apparatus. It is quite another thing if monotheism is declared in milder forms, sprouting through polytheism in the form of one of its versions, as is the case with the Roman religion. And there was no contradiction in his veneration under various names.

    If Jupiter manifested himself here and in this way, it is logical to worship him in that way, if there and in other way, then he will be worshipped accordingly. The main gods had their official appointed by the community priests — pontifices, and the pontifex board was headed by a great pontifex, which symbolized the integrity of the cult.

    Page DuBois - A Million and One Gods [2014][a]

    At the same time, Jupiter was not directly positioned either as the only one or as the almighty. Ted Peters counted nine different conceptual models of God: atheism, agnosticism, deism, theism, pantheism, polytheism, henotheism, pantheism, and eschatological pantheism Peters, If we talk about the Roman religion, it seems to me that it is closest to henotheism.

    The latter is a point of view, according to which there are many gods, but all of them are subject to one supreme god and carry out his will. Where the book deals with the Classical and pre-Classical Mediterranean world, it is firmly rooted in literary analysis and traditions, and perhaps could be improved with more recourse to material sources of evidence, but the main aim of the book is not to discuss the polytheism of Greece and Rome. Far from it: the book spans global space and ranges in chronology from ancient Israel to the modern period.

    It is relatively short and has its eye on the lay-reader, so discussion is necessarily too brief at times, and it is light on references. Bryn Mawr Classical Review ISBN Preview Page duBois sets out not to defend polytheism, but to recognise the difficulty that modern scholarship has with discussing it in a sensible way, so biased is the field towards monotheism. BMCR Reviewed by Anna Collar , Aarhus University klaacollar cas. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

    Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Institutional Login. LOG IN. Toronto Journal of Theology. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Reviewed by:. Page duBois. Additional Information. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.