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Homer and Hesiod have undoubtedly remained influential up to the latest century with their poetic stories that give an account of the gods and past heroes in Greece. Some of the memorable compositions under Homer’s head include Iliad, the composition of Trojan War and Odyssey which detailed the journey taken by Odysseus’ for a whooping ten year duration. Theogony which is Hesiod’s undertaking revolutionized Greeks view of gods in many directions. Through Theogony, Hesiod tells how Greek gods and goddesses came into existence through reproduction which involved sexual reproduction on one front and on the other front without sexual undertaking. Through Hesiod, therefore, origin of gods such as Olympian, Zeus, Hera, Athena, and Apollo among others are well documented (Jasper et. al. 82).
Hesiod and Homer’s description of how their gods look like is one of the most interesting things in Greeks’ view of gods. They espouse that their gods and goddesses are just like any other human beings on the planet in terms of physical outlook and physique. The only thing that makes them different from other human beings is their powerful nature beyond human comprehension, and also the fact that they are immortal beings. More so, their relationship with human beings is much more reflected in the drawings and paintings that were done from as long as classical and archaic periods in Greek history. This relationship is compounded by the fact that the Greek gods and goddesses have bodies just like human beings do have, and the female gods do have sexual feelings and desire for love, something that is a characteristic of normal human beings (Jasper et. al. 85).
Greeks’ worship of gods is explained in terms of the superior qualities gods’ exhibit. For instance, the Greek gods are immortal in nature hence, they live forever. Also, these gods have the ability to see and comprehend what normal human beings cannot see and understand, therefore, the Greeks ultimately rely on them when they faced the circumstances they cannot understand. In short, the fact that the Greek gods possess superior qualities and abilities beyond human understanding forms the basis of Greeks worship of them (Jasper et. al. 85).
Several criticisms can be leveled against the gods as depicted by Hesiod and Homer. For instance, the gods who should be emulated by the Greeks have the tendency to engage in bribery, an action which is evil. This is manifested by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite gods that were reported to have engaged in a major bribery scandal in order to convince and lure Paris, prince of Troy to choose one of them in a completion organized for them. Another negative attribute of the gods is linked to deception. Indeed as depicted by Homer, they would deceive each other in pursuit of one’s desires, like in the Trojan War where god Zeus blatantly sent a false dream to the king of Greek, who was Agamemnon. To make it more tragic, the king found himself in a state of confusion and believed that the dream he received was a prophetic message prompting him to make a military decision that turned out to be more fatal (Jasper et. al. 86).
The period of tragedy is also considered to be fundamental in shaping the Greeks’ views about their gods. Tragedy which was performed as drama in those years, was meant to give a robust entertainment and go beyond to educate the masses on enormous religious principles and this made the state throw its full support for tragedy festivals. The origin of tragedies is traced to the festivals that were organized to appease Dionysus who is the god of wine and agricultural fertility (Barron and Easterling 92).
The Greek dramatists, who were the cornerstone behind tragedies, had immense knowledge and were able to fully comprehend the inner logic of how human life in the universe should be lived, as a matter of fact it is they and the Greek philosophers who enjoyed this ability. They were instrumental in determining human fate or destiny and together concluded that both physical and social worlds were subjected to certain rational laws. Critical in their analysis is that, when somebody behaved in an irrational unique manner, like being stubborn and narrow minded, they should face punishment as the way of deterring such irrationality. Therefore, the ability of dramatists to comprehend the inner logic of the universe did put them on a higher level than other human beings, necessitating ordinary people to accord then special respect and worship. In shaping people’s views, the content inside tragedies was derived from the myths and legends that Greeks were aware of, like the suffering of the tragic hero from Homer. This expanded people’s knowledge of the gods (Barron and Easterling 94).
The other front of Greek religion is attributed to philosophers such as Plato and Socrates who were on the rise towards the end of the 5th century BC. During this period, the Greek myths were on the verge of collapse as mythological genealogists faced critical extinction as a result of the rise of philosophical and historical analysis of human phenomena. Philosophers like Xenophanes and Socrates who were vocal in criticizing the use of myths in poetic tales brought a significant change in people’s perception of their gods. For instance, Xenophanes blamed the poets for propagating blasphemy against Greek gods. They steal from one another, they deceive people. Indeed, it is recommendable that philosophers opened the eyes of Greeks so that they could view the world in a pragmatic sense and not through fallacies expressed in the poems of Homer and Hesiod (Barron and Easterling 91).
The beginning of the practice of Greek religion to me as a typical Greek in the 5th century starts with the realization that I should contend with the worship of many gods, with each exhibiting distinct personality and domain over human beings. To affirm my obedience to religion, I would assemble a well packaged Archaic and Classical art right inside my house to act as an open symbol of my mythological belief on the different characters synonymous with each god. Having recognized the existence of different gods for different purposes, I would therefore direct my prayers and sacrifices to each god depending on my pressing need at that particular time. My next move in Greek religion would be to know and master by name all the twelve deities that make up the Greek Supernatural being and what is required of each. For instance, I would be required to know that Zeus was the chief deity of the twelve and that according to him, the ox and oak were considered sacred (Albala et. al. 27).
It is important to note that worshipping of Greek gods took place right inside the sacred sanctuaries which were designed according to the uniqueness of each deity, and such sanctuaries were spread all over the country both in towns and in the countryside. Also, the sanctuaries were unique in terms of their architectural design and mostly were separated from the rest of the world by a high wall round it giving a perfect illustration of where to find a sanctuary when one is in need of communicating with his god. Within the sanctuary is the temenos that contained sacred temples embedded with images of cults representing the deity. There was an open altar, erected statues and different votives offered as sacrifices to the gods in it. Significantly, majority of the sanctuaries in Greek derived monumental benefits from the environment in which they were situated, for instance, Sounion temple built for Poseidon who was the god of the sea was located in an environment that enjoyed wonderful views of the sea. This is critical information that I as a typical Greek in the period of 5th century have to be aware of and through it I would be able to draft a robust time table of my worship in the different temples and where to find those temples when I want to worship (Albala et. al. 29).
Greece is labeled as a model city where rituals formed a better part of people’s life and interestingly, Dionysia was the face behind many rituals that took place in the country. Some of the rituals that a typical Greek would always have to master in his or her mind included Anthesteria, the Grater or City Dionysia, Lesser or Rural Dionysia and Lanaea which were performed in different occasions within the year. Anthesteria was a renowned festival that took place every spring of the year with the people coming together to celebrate the vine flower which had a lot of significance to the Greeks, more so, it was wide enough in terms of ritual organization incorporating feasts meant to appease the dead. This typical ritual was majorly characterized as a drinking festival where men were put to sit on different tables and silently would compete in drinking the wine and the winner would be acknowledged. The slaves were not left out in this ritual too as they had equal opportunity to participate with other noble people (Albala et. al. 25).
The next critical ritual in the lives of Greeks was the Greater Dionysian which was conducted in Athens among other Ionic cities and it took place for five consecutive days. The inception of this ritual is traced to Pisistratus during the 6th century when he came up with the cult of Dionysus as an addition to the more common rural type. Dionysian theatre up to date has gained accolades for being among the best rituals in the history of Greek, where democracy was upheld through the universal invitation of everybody who wanted to attend. The ritual’s high status and popularity were manifested in businesses coming to a standstill, people freed from prisons to at least catch a glimpse of the wonderful ceremony. Indeed, Dionysian was one of its kinds. Above all, the ritual was dramatic right from the start to the end, for instance, the phallic assembly and parade stood out to be instrumental as it set out the stage for the images of gods to be born throughout the streets and avenues of Athens city. This was followed closely by the offering of sacrifices which took the form of animals or grains, after which the gods image was born back to the theatre dancing floor being surrounded by able torch bearers (Albala et.al 28).
The third festival in the Greek world was Agriona which was conducted annually at a place known as Orchomenus (Boeotia) and any other subsidiary place to give special precedence to god Dionysus Agrionius. This festival was done exclusively by Greek women accompanied by the priests. The performance of the ritual involved the women skillfully pretend to be looking for a god who has hid himself mostly within the muses. In short, these are some of the rituals that were enjoyed by the Greeks and they occurred mostly at the greater Greek world. On the other hand, rituals like Sacred Marriage or Hieros Gamos were conducted specifically for rites of passage into marriage. Also there were rituals for death appeasement such as Anthesteria (Albala et. al. 29).