Hellenistic religion is the late form of Ancient Greek religion, covering any of the various systems of beliefs and practices of the people who lived under the influence of ancient Greek culture during the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire (c. 300 BCE to 300 CE). There was much continuity in Hellenistic religion: the Greek gods continued to be worshipped, and the same rites were practiced as before.
Change came from the addition of new religions from other countries, including the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, and the Syrian gods Atargatis and Hadad, which provided a new outlet for people seeking fulfillment in both the present life and the afterlife. The worship of Hellenistic rulers was also a feature of this period, most notably in Egypt, where the Ptolemies adapted earlier Egyptian practice and Greek hero cults and established themselves as Pharaohs within the new syncretic Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great. Elsewhere, rulers might receive divine status without the full status of a god.
Magic was practiced widely, and this too, was a continuation from earlier times. Throughout the Hellenistic world, people would consult oracles, and use charms and figurines to deter misfortune or to cast spells. Also developed in this era was the complex system of astrology, which sought to determine a person's character and future in the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. The systems of Hellenistic philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, offered an alternative to traditional religion, even if their impact was largely limited to the educated elite.
Central to Greek religion in classical times were the twelve Olympian deities headed by Zeus. Each god was honored with stone temples and statues, and sanctuaries (sacred enclosures), which, although dedicated to a specific deity, often contained statues commemorating other gods. The city-states would conduct various festivals and rituals throughout the year, with particular emphasis directed towards the patron god of the city, such as Athena at Athens, or Apollo at Corinth.
Religious practice would also involve the worship of heroes, people who were regarded as semi-divine. Such heroes ranged from the mythical figures in the epics of Homer to historical people such as the founder of a city. At the local level, the landscape was filled with sacred spots and monuments; for example, many statues of Nymphs were found near and around springs, and the stylized figures of Hermes could often be found on street corners.
Magic was a central part of Greek religion and oracles would allow people to determine divine will in the rustle of leaves; the shape of flame and smoke on an altar; the flight of birds; the noises made by a spring; or in the entrails of an animal. Also long established were the Eleusinian Mysteries, associated with Demeter and Persephone. People were indoctrinated into mystery religions through initiation ceremonies, which were traditionally kept secret. These religions often had a goal of personal improvement, which would also extend to the afterlife.
In the aftermath of the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek culture spread widely and came into much closer contact with the civilizations of the Near East and Egypt. The most significant changes to impact on Greek religion were the loss of independence of the Greek city-states to Macedonian rulers; the importation of foreign deities; and the development of new philosophical systems. Older surveys of Hellenistic religion tended to depict the era as one of religious decline, discerning a rise in scepticism, agnosticism and atheism, as well as an increase in superstition, mysticism, and astrology.
There is, however, no reason to suppose that there was a decline in the traditional religion. There is plenty of documentary evidence that the Greeks continued to worship the same gods with the same sacrifices, dedications, and festivals as in the classical period. New religions did appear in this period, but not to the exclusion of the local deities, and only a minority of Greeks were attracted to them.
The Egyptian religion which follows Isis was the most famous of the new religions. The religion was brought to Greece by Egyptian priests, initially for the small Egyptian communities in the port cities of the Greek world. Although the Egyptian religion found only a small audience among the Greeks themselves, her popularity spread under the Roman empire, and Diodorus Siculus wrote that the religion was known throughout almost the whole inhabited world.
Almost as famous was the cult of Serapis, a Greek deity despite the Egyptian name, which was created in Egypt under the Ptolemaic dynasty. Serapis was patronized by the Greeks who had settled in Egypt. This religion involved initiation rites like the Eleusinian Mysteries. Strabo wrote of the Serapeion at Canopus near Alexandria as being patronized by the most reputable men.
The religion of Atargatis (related to the Babylonian and Assyrian Ishtar and Phoenician Ba`alat Gebal), a fertility- and sea goddess from Syria, was also popular. By the 3rd century BCE her worship had spread from Syria to Egypt and Greece, and eventually reached Italy and the west. The religion following Cybele (or the Great Mother) came from Phrygia to Greece and then to Egypt and Italy, where in 204 BCE the Roman Senate permitted her worship. She was a healing and protecting goddess, and a guardian of fertility and wild nature.
Another mystery religion was focused around Dionysus. Although rare in mainland Greece, it was common on the islands and in Anatolia. The members were known as Bacchants, and the rites had an orgiastic character.
These newly introduced religions and gods only had a limited impact within Greece itself; the main exception was at Delos, which was a major port and trading center. The island was sacred as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, and by the 2nd century BCE was also home to the native Greek religions that follow Zeus, Athena, Dionysus, Hermes, Pan, and Asclepius. But there were also cult centers for the Egyptian Sarapis and Isis, and of the Syrian Atargatis and Hadad. By the 1st century BCE there were additional religions that followed Ba'al and Astarte, a Jewish Synagogue and Romans who followed the original Roman religions of gods like Apollo and Neptune.
Another innovation in the Hellenistic period was the institution of cults dedicated to the rulers of the Hellenistic kingdoms. The first of these was established under Alexander, whose conquests, power, and status had elevated him to a degree that required special recognition. His successors continued his worship to the point where in Egypt under Ptolemy I Soter, we find Alexander being honored as a god. Ptolemy's son Ptolemy II Philadelphus proclaimed his late father a god, and made himself a living god.
By doing so, the Ptolemies were adapting earlier Egyptian ideas in pharaonic worship. Elsewhere, practice varied; a ruler might receive divine status without the full status of a god, as occurred in Athens in 307 BCE, when Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Demetrius I Poliorcetes were honored as saviors (soteres) for liberating the city, and, as a result, an altar was erected; an annual festival was founded; and an office of the "priest of the Saviours" was introduced. Temples dedicated to rulers were rare, but their statues were often erected in other temples, and the kings would be worshiped as "temple-sharing gods."
There is ample evidence for the use of superstition and magic in this period. Oracular shrines and sanctuaries were still popular. There is also much evidence for the use of charms and curses. Symbols would be placed on the doors of houses to bring good luck or deter misfortune for the occupants within.
Charms, often cut in precious or semi-precious stone, had protective power. Figurines, manufactured from bronze, lead, or terracotta, were pierced with pins or nails, and used to cast spells. Curse tablets made from marble or metal (especially lead) were used for curses.
Astrology — the belief that stars and planets influence a person's future — arose in Babylonia, where it was originally only applied to the king or nation. The Greeks, in the Hellenistic era, elaborated it into the fantastically complex system of Hellenistic astrology familiar to later times. Interest in astrology grew rapidly from the 1st century BCE onwards.
An alternative to traditional religion was offered by Hellenistic philosophy. One of these philosophies was Stoicism, which taught that life should be lived according to the rational order which the Stoics believed governed the universe; human beings had to accept their fate as according to divine will, and virtuous acts should be performed for their own intrinsic value. Another philosophy was Epicureanism, which taught that the universe was subject to the random movements of atoms, and life should be lived to achieve psychological contentment and the absence of pain. Other philosophies included Pyrrhonism which taught how to attain inner peace via suspension of judgment; Cynicism (philosophy), which expressed contempt for convention and material possessions; the Platonists who followed the teachings of Plato, and the Peripatetics who followed Aristotle. All of these philosophies, to a greater or lesser extent, sought to accommodate traditional Greek religion, but the philosophers, and those who studied under them, remained a small select group, limited largely to the educated elite.
Hellenistic Judaism was a form of Judaism in the ancient world that combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture. Until the fall of the Roman Empire and the Muslim conquests of the Eastern Mediterranean, the main centers of Hellenistic Judaism were Alexandria (Egypt) and Antioch (now Southern Turkey), the two main Greek urban settlements of the Middle East and North Africa area, both founded at the end of the 4th century BC in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Hellenistic Judaism also existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period, where there was conflict between Hellenizers and traditionalists (sometimes called Judaizers).
The major literary product of the contact of Second Temple Judaism and Hellenistic culture is the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible from Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic to Koiné Greek, specifically, Jewish Koiné Greek. Mentionable are also the philosophic and ethical treatises of Philo and the historiographical works of the other Hellenistic Jewish authors.
The decline of Hellenistic Judaism started in the 2nd century AD, and its causes are still not fully understood. It may be that it was eventually marginalized by, partially absorbed into or became progressively the Koiné-speaking core of Early Christianity centered on Antioch and its traditions, such as the Melkite Catholic Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch.
The Abraham River (Arabic: نهر ابراهيم, Nahr Ibrahim) also known as Adonis River (Arabic: نهر ادونيس), is a small river in the Mount Lebanon Governorate in Lebanon, with a length of about 14 mi (23 km). The river emerges from a huge cavern, the Afqa Grotto, nearly 5,000 ft (1,500 m) above sea level before it drops steeply through a series of falls and passes through a sheer gorge through the mountains. It passes through the town of Nahr Ibrahim before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The city takes its name from the river (nahr means river in Arabic).
The ancient city of Byblos stood near its outlet and was a site for the veneration of Adonis, the god of love, rebirth and beauty in Phoenician Mythology. He was said to have been killed near the river by a boar sent by Ares, the god of war (or by Ares himself disguised as a boar, depending on the version). According to the myth, Adonis's blood flowed in the river, making the water reddish for centuries and spawning a carpet of scarlet buttercups along the river's banks. Soil washed off the mountains by heavy winter rains causes the water to take on its red color in February.Due to the river's mythological connections, it was revered in ancient times and its valley contains the remains of numerous temples and shrines. Even today, local people hang out clothes of sick people at a ruined temple near the river's source in the hopes of effecting cures.Aion
Aion may refer to:
Greek αἰών "time, eternity; age"; see Aeon
Aion (deity), "Aeon" personified in Hellenistic religion
Aeon (Gnosticism), one of the Gnostic terms for "emanations of God"
Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, a book by Carl JungAlastor
Alastor (; Ancient Greek: Ἀλάστωρ, English translation: "avenger") refers to a number of people and concepts in Greek mythology:
Alastor, an epithet of the Greek god Zeus, according to Hesychius of Alexandria and the Etymologicum Magnum, which described him as the avenger of evil deeds, specifically familial bloodshed. As the personification of a curse, it was also a sidekick of the Erinyes. The name is also used, especially by the tragic writers, to designate any deity or demon who avenges wrongs committed by men. In Euripides' play Electra, Orestes questions an oracle who calls upon him to kill his mother, and wonders if the oracle was not from Apollo, but some malicious alastor. There was an altar to Zeus Alastor just outside the city walls of Thasos.By the time of the 4th century BC, alastor in Greek had degraded to a generic type of insult, with the approximate meaning of "scoundrel".
Alastor, a prince of Pylos and son of King Neleus and Chloris, daughter of Amphion. He was the brother of Asterius, Deimachus, Epilaus, Eurybius, Eurymenes, Evagoras, Nestor, Periclymenus, Phrasius, Pylaon, Taurus and Pero. When Heracles took Pylos, he killed Alastor and his brothers, except for Nestor. According to Parthenius of Nicaea, he was to be married to Harpalyce, who, however, was taken from him by her father Clymenus.
Alastor, a Lycian, who was a companion of Sarpedon, and was slain by Odysseus.Alastorides is a patronymic form given by Homer to Tros, who was probably a son of the Lycian Alastor mentioned above.
Alastor, a Pylian soldier who fought under their leader Nestor during the Trojan War. He remembered for having, together with Mecisteus, carried the wounded Teucer off the battlefield as they later did also with Hypsenor.
Alastor, a black horse belonging to the Greek God Hades. He was one of the four horses drawing Hades's chariot when he rose from the Underworld to bring Persephone down with him. The other three were Orphnaeus, Aethon, and Nycteus.
Alastor, in Christian demonology, came to be considered a kind of possessing entity. He was likened to Nemesis. The name Alastor was also used as a generic term for a class of evil spirits.Aretalogy
Aretalogy (Greek: Αρεταλογία), from ἀρετή (aretḗ, “virtue”) + -logy, is a form of sacred biography where a deity's attributes are listed, in the form of poem or text, in the first person.Averruncus
In ancient Roman religion, Averruncus or Auruncus is a god of averting harm. Aulus Gellius says that he is one of the potentially malignant deities who must be propitiated for their power to both inflict and withhold disaster from people and the harvests.Although the etymology of the name is often connected to the Latin verb avertere, "to turn away," a more probable origin lies in averro "to sweep away," hence averrunco, "to ward off," perhaps with a reference to magical sweeping. Varro asserts that the infinitive verb averruncare shares its etymology with the god whose primary function is averting. Averruncus may be among the indigitamenta pertaining to another god such as Apollo or Mars, that is, it may be a name to be used in a prayer formulary to fix the local action of the invoked deity. Precise naming, in connection with concealing a deity's true name to monopolize his or her power, was a crucial part of prayer in antiquity, as evidenced not only in the traditional religions of Greece and Rome and syncretistic Hellenistic religion and mystery cult, but also in Judaism and ancient Egyptian religion.In other references, Averruncus is also known as the god of childbirth.Christian views on Hades
Hades, according to various Christian denominations, is "the place or state of departed spirits".Daemon (classical mythology)
Daemon is the Latin word for the Ancient Greek daimon (δαίμων: "god", "godlike", "power", "fate"), which originally referred to a lesser deity or guiding spirit such as the daemons of ancient Greek religion and mythology and of later Hellenistic religion and philosophy.The word is derived from Proto-Indo-European *daimon "provider, divider (of fortunes or destinies)", from the root *da- "to divide". Daimons were possibly seen as the souls of men of the golden age acting as tutelary deities, according to entry δαίμων at Liddell & Scott.Decline of Greco-Roman polytheism
Religion in the Greco-Roman world at the time of the Constantinian shift mostly comprised three main currents:
the traditional religions of ancient Greece and Rome;
the official Roman imperial cult;
various mystery religions, such as the Dionysian and Eleusinian Mysteries and the mystery cults of Cybele, Mithras, and the syncretized Isis.Early Christianity grew gradually in Rome and the Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th centuries. In 313 it was legally tolerated and in 380 it became the state church of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica. Nevertheless, Hellenistic polytheistic traditions survived in pockets of Greece throughout Late Antiquity until they gradually diminished after the triumph of Christianity.Demogorgon
Demogorgon is a deity or demon, associated with the underworld and envisaged as a powerful primordial being, whose very name had been taboo. Although often ascribed to Greek mythology, the name probably arises from an unknown copyist's misreading of a commentary by a fourth-century scholar, Lactantius Placidus. The concept itself though can be traced back to the original misread term demiurge.Greek Magical Papyri
The Greek Magical Papyri (Latin Papyri Graecae Magicae, abbreviated PGM) is the name given by scholars to a body of papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, written mostly in ancient Greek (but also in Old Coptic, Demotic, etc.), which each contain a number of magical spells, formulae, hymns, and rituals. The materials in the papyri date from the 100s BC to the 400s AD. The manuscripts came to light through the antiquities trade, from the 1700s onward. One of the best known of these texts is the Mithras Liturgy.The texts were published in a series, and individual texts are referenced using the abbreviation PGM plus the volume and item number. Each volume contains a number of spells and rituals. Further discoveries of similar texts from elsewhere have been allocated PGM numbers for convenience.Harpocrates
Harpocrates (Ancient Greek: Ἁρποκράτης) was the god of silence, secrets and confidentiality in the Hellenistic religion developed in Ptolemaic Alexandria (and also an embodiment of hope, according to Plutarch). Harpocrates was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian child god Horus, who represented the newborn sun, rising each day at dawn. Harpocrates's name was a Hellenization of the Egyptian Har-pa-khered or Heru-pa-khered, meaning "Horus the Child".Henotheism
Henotheism (from Greek ἑνός θεοῦ (henos theou), meaning 'of one god') is the worship of a single god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities. Friedrich Schelling (1775–1854) coined the word, and Friedrich Welcker (1784–1868) used it to depict primitive monotheism among ancient Greeks.Max Müller (1823–1900), a German philologist and orientalist, brought the term into wider usage in his scholarship on the Indian religions, particularly Hinduism whose scriptures mention and praise numerous deities as if they are one ultimate unitary divine essence. Müller made the term central to his criticism of Western theological and religious exceptionalism (relative to Eastern religions), focusing on a cultural dogma which held "monotheism" to be both fundamentally well-defined and inherently superior to differing conceptions of God.Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus (Ancient Greek: Ἑρμῆς ὁ Τρισμέγιστος, "thrice-greatest Hermes"; Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus) is the purported author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts that are the basis of Hermeticism.Hymen (god)
Hymen (Ancient Greek: Ὑμήν), Hymenaios or Hymenaeus, in Hellenistic religion, is a god of marriage ceremonies, inspiring feasts and song. Related to the god's name, a hymenaios is a genre of Greek lyric poetry sung during the procession of the bride to the groom's house in which the god is addressed, in contrast to the Epithalamium, which is sung at the nuptial threshold. He is one of the winged love gods, Erotes.
Hymen is the son of Apollo and one of the muses, Clio or Calliope or Urania or Terpsichore.Hypsistarians
Hypsistarians, i.e. worshippers of the Hypsistos (Greek: Ὕψιστος, the "Most High" God), is a term that appears in documents that date from around 200 BC to around AD 400, referring to various groups mainly in Asia Minor (Cappadocia, Bithynia and Pontus) and the Black Sea coasts that are today part of Russia.
Some modern scholars identify the group, or groups, with God-fearers, non-Jewish (gentile) sympathizers with Second Temple Judaism.Interpretatio Christiana
Interpretatio christiana (Latin for Christian interpretation, also Christian reinterpretation) is adaptation of non-Christian elements of culture or historical facts to the worldview of Christianity. The term is commonly applied to recasting of religious and cultural activities, beliefs and imageries of "pagan" peoples into a Christianized form as a strategy for Christianization. From a Christian perspective, "pagan" refers to the various religious beliefs and practices of those who adhered to non-Abrahamic faiths, including within the Greco-Roman world the traditional public and domestic religion of ancient Rome, imperial cult, Hellenistic religion, the ancient Egyptian religion, Celtic and Germanic polytheism, initiation religions such as the Eleusinian Mysteries and Mithraism, the religions of the ancient Near East, and the religion of Carthage.
Reformatting traditional religious and cultural activities and beliefs into a Christianized form was officially sanctioned; preserved in the Venerable Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is a letter from Pope Gregory I to Mellitus, arguing that conversions were easier if people were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditions while changing the object of their veneration to God, "to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God".Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the official sun god of the later Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers. On 25 December AD 274, the Roman emperor Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Scholars disagree about whether the new deity was a refoundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus, or completely new. The god was favored by emperors after Aurelian and appeared on their coins until the last third-part of the reign of Constantine I. The last inscription referring to Sol Invictus dates to AD 387, and there were enough devotees in the fifth century that the Christian theologian Augustine found it necessary to preach against them.Unknown God
The Unknown God or Agnostos Theos (Ancient Greek: Ἄγνωστος Θεός) is a theory by Eduard Norden first published in 1913 that proposes, based on the Christian Apostle Paul's Areopagus speech in Acts 17:23, that in addition to the twelve main gods and the innumerable lesser deities, ancient Greeks worshipped a deity they called "Agnostos Theos", that is: "Unknown God", which Norden called "Un-Greek". In Athens, there was a temple specifically dedicated to that god and very often Athenians would swear "in the name of the Unknown God" (Νὴ τὸν Ἄγνωστον Ne ton Agnoston). Apollodorus, Philostratus and Pausanias wrote about the Unknown God as well.Western religions
Western religions refers to religions that originated within Western culture, and are thus historically, culturally, and theologically distinct from the Eastern religions. The term Abrahamic religions (Islam, Eastern Christianity and Judaism) is often used instead of using the East and West terminology.
Western culture itself was significantly influenced by the emergence of Christianity and its adoption as the state church of the Roman Empire in the late 4th century and the term "Christendom" largely indicates this intertwined history. Western Christianity was significantly influenced by Hellenistic religion (notably Platonism) as well as the Roman imperial cult. Western Christianity is based on Roman Catholicism (Latin Rite), as opposed to Eastern Orthodoxy, from which it was divided by the Great Schism of the 11th century, and further includes all Protestant traditions splitting off Roman Catholicism from the 16th century.
Since the 19th century, Western religion has diversified into numerous new religious movements, including Occultism, Spiritism and diverse forms of Neopaganism.
|Myth and ritual|
|Modern pagan movements|