History of Religion in Ancient Greece

History of Religion in Ancient Greece

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The history of religion in Ancient Greece embraces the beliefs, rituals, and myths that formed its popular public religion and cult practices. The ancient Greeks did not view religion in any modern sense; rather, Herodotus wrote of the Greeks as having “common shrines of the gods and sacrifices, and the same kinds of customs.”

Ancient Greeks recognized as paramount the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses. These included Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Ares, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Dionysus (or Hestia). Since the worship of these deities (or variants of them) was common throughout the Greek world, these and local deities were absorbed into Greek ritual and festivals. However, the rising philosophies of Stoicism and Platonism were premised upon a single deity.

These practices of the Greeks extended beyond mainland Greece. From there, they permeated the islands and coasts of Asia Minor and the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia in Sicily and southern Italy. They also reached Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean such as Massalia (now Marseille). While the religions of early Italy were influenced by Greeks, they later influenced the state religion and mystery cults of Rome.

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