Hellenismos is the term used to describe the modern equivalent of the traditional Greek religion. It incorporates study, ritual, philosophy, and what we call Mysteries, which are the deepest teachings of the religion. THE RELIGION OF THE HELLENISTIC AGE. [10] 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. [20] Interest in astrology grew rapidly from the 1st century BCE onwards. In the Hellenistic age they attained a position essentially similar to that of modern Europe. By the 3rd century BCE her worship had spread from Syria to Egypt and Greece, and eventually reached Italy and the west. Despite the remarkable expansion of trade in the Hellenistic Age, no industrial revolution ever took place, for reasons which have already been noted. The concept of Hellenistic religion as the late form of Ancient Greek religion covers 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). Also prominent in Hellenistic art are representations of Dionysos, the god of wine and legendary conqueror of the East, as well as those of Hermes, the god of … These individuals tended to speak Greek, and this began the lengthy process of reinterpretation of the archaic religion. Old texts in native languages (especially those related to relevant themes such as kingship) were recopied, national temples were restored, and old, mythic traditions were revived. Hellenion stands with Black Lives Matter in support of the goal of bringing about “sustainable transformation to our communities.” (1) We support and agree with the transformational goals that will bring about equal liberty, justice and freedom for Black communities. [4] 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. Although rare in mainland Greece, it was common on the islands and in Anatolia. In their homeland they were inextricably tied to local loyalties and ambitions. [6] 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. Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. The period of Hellenistic influence, when taken as a whole, constitutes one of the most creative periods in the history of religions. 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. [18] 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. The worship of deified Hellenistic rulers also became a feature of this period, most notably in Egypt, where the Ptolemies adapted earlier Egyptian practices and Greek hero-cults and established themselves as Pharaohs within the new syncretic Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great. [5], There is, however, no reason to suppose that there was a decline in the traditional religion. There was much continuity in Hellenistic religion: people continued to worship the Greek gods and to practise the same rites as in Classical Greece. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Hellenistic Judaism also existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period, where there was conflict between Hellenizers and traditionalists (sometimes called Judaizers). With few exceptions, each of these religions, originally tied to a specific geographic area and people, had traditions extending back centuries before the Hellenistic period. The difference between these groups was responsible for many shifts in the character of the religion. For many scholars the Hellenistic age saw the emise of traditional state religion and the rise of more personal cults, thus leaving the Greeks vulnerable to the missionary zeal of Christianity. Mentionable are also the philosophic and ethical treatises of Philo and the historiographical works of the other Hellenistic Jewish authors.[21][22]. There was much continuity in Hellenistic religion: people continued to worship the Greek gods and to practise the same rites as in Classical Greece. The concept of Hellenistic kingship was that of a personal monarch (Virgilio 2003, 129; Mooren 1983)—“the king is the state”—even though the concept of “state” as we know it did not exist then.The states that were the business, personal matters, and property of the king all are referred to in Greek by the plural ta pragmata. Central to Greek religion in classical times were the twelve Olympian deities headed by Zeus. The first (or inner circle) was composed of devout, full-time adherents of the cult for whom the deity retained a separate and decisive identity (e.g., those of Yahweh, Zeus Serapis, and Isis). This led to a change from concern for a religion of national prosperity to one for individual salvation, from focus on a particular ethnic group to concern for every human. In the diasporic centres, as is generally characteristic of immigrant groups, there were two circles. [7] 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. Many people practised magic, and this too represented a continuation from earlier times. Each of these native traditions likewise underwent hellenization (modifications based on Greek cultural ideas), but in a manner frequently different from their diasporic counterparts. The complex system of Hellenistic astrology developed in this era, seeking to determine a person's character and future in the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. In Dawson's words, this "synthesis has remained the foundation of Western culture and has never been destroyed." Oracular shrines and sanctuaries were still popular. [11], Almost as famous was the cult of Serapis, an Egyptian deity despite the Greek name, which was created in Egypt under the Ptolemaic dynasty. It is based on the modern form of Hellenism called humanism clearly descended from the human centered worldview of the Greeks. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. There was a noticeable lessening of concern on the part of the members of the dispersed religious group for the destiny and fortunes of the native land and also a relative severing of the traditional ties between religion and the land. It was a time of spiritual revolution in the Greek (Greek religion) and Roman (Roman religion) empires, when old cults died or were fundamentally transformed and when new religious movements came into being. [3] Also long established were the Eleusinian Mysteries, associated with Demeter and Persephone. Elsewhere, rulers might receive divine status without achieving the full status of a god. 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 Ancient Greek practice of Hellenism lives on as a modern religion. The history of Hellenistic religions is rarely the history of genuinely new religions. This empire was so vast as truly to stagger the imagination. It was a shift from “birthright” to “convinced” religion. Syncretism is inappropriate, he says, as it attempts to harmonize Hellenistic religious thought and behavior as a defined system while ignoring the differences: “syncretism betrays modern theological and historiographical concerns” (101). The Greek Gods and their stories have always been embedded in the heart of Western civilization. During the 18th century, several notable authors and freethinkers embraced Ancient Greek religion to some extent, studying and translating ancient works of theology and philosophy, and in some cases composing original hymns and devotionals to the Ancient Greek pantheon. The empire of Alexander and his successors created a great world community which, whether in Macedonian, Greco-Roman, or its later Christian form, established a cultural unity that was destined to be broken only 1,000 years later with the advent of Muslim imperialism (beginning in 7th century ad). [16] 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. But there were also cult centers for the Egyptian Sarapis and Isis, and of the Syrian Atargatis and Hadad. [16], Another innovation in the Hellenistic period was the institution of cults dedicated to the rulers of the Hellenistic kingdoms. People sought to escape from the despotism of this world and its rulers (exemplified by the seven planetary spheres) and to ascend to another world of freedom. A Personal Monarchy. 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. In Fransham's 1769 book The Oestrum of Orpheus, he advanced a theolo… The second (or outer circle) was composed of either second- and third-generation immigrants or converts from groups for whom the religion was not native. The period of Hellenistic influence, when taken as a whole, constitutes one of the most creative periods in the history of religions. "This is a book that makes extensive and expert use of the epigraphic evidence for Hellenistic Athens (with sizeable pasages quoted in translation). [2] Figurines, manufactured from bronze, lead, or terracotta, were pierced with pins or nails, and used to cast spells. It was created during an age characterized by a strong sense of history. Martin critiques the modern concept of syncretism to describe Hellenistic religions. The historical Hellenistic Age is defined as the period from the death of the Greco-Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great (323 bc) to the conquest of Egypt by Rome (30 bc), but the influence of the Hellenistic religions extended to the time of Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor (d. ad 337); these religions are confined to those that were active within the Mediterranean world. In each case the material was reinterpreted both in light of common Hellenistic ideals and in accord with the special traditions and needs of the diasporic community. 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. The systems of Hellenistic philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, offered an alternative to traditional religion, even if their impact was largely limited to educated élites. [1] 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. Religion in the Hellenistic Age If there was one aspect of the Hellenistic civilization which served more than others to accent the contrast with Hellenic culture, it was the new trend in religion. This religion involved initiation rites like the Eleusinian Mysteries. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. This philosophy provided the foundation for Hellenism, which was devoted to the supremacy of human beings and human accomplishment. 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 popular image of a nude Aphrodite, for example, reflects the increased secularization of traditional religion. Elsewhere, practice varied; a ruler might receive divine status without the full status of a god,[9] 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. The Hellenistic political outlook was essentially cosmopolitan; nothing comparable to the national patriotism of modern times really prevailed. The Hellenistic period was characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa. - Confronting the Hellenism of Today "Man," said the Greek philosopher Protagoras (481-411 BC), "is the measure of all things of what is and what is not." 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. This resulted in the export of Greek culture and language to these new realms, spanning as far as modern-day India. 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.[7]. It was a time of spiritual revolution in the Greek and Roman empires, when old cults died or were fundamentally transformed and when new religious movements came into being. Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities, University of Chicago. . Indeed, many of these native religions underwent a conscious archaism during this period, attempting to recover earlier forms and practices. ... into connection with the widespread pagan myth of a dying and rising saviour-god. [3] There is also much evidence for the use of charms and curses. On the Hellenistic interest in the theatre, see Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age: 4-7. . Omissions? From Palestine to Persia one may trace the rise of Wisdom literature (the teachings of a sage concerning the hidden purposes of the deity) and apocalyptic traditions (referring to a belief in the dramatic intervention of a god in human and natural events) that represent these central concerns—i.e., national destiny, the importance of traditional lore, the saving power of kingship, and the revival of mythic images. Map: The Hellenistic World after the Death of Antigonus, 300BCE; [At Internet Archive, from Acadia] Map: Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires in 240 BCE Plutarch (c.46-c.120 CE): Life of Demetrius [At MIT] Ptolemaic Egypt (323-30 BCE) Athanaeus (fl. On Hellenistic religion see Graham Shipley, The Greek World after Alexander: 323-30 BC (New York: Routledge, 2000): 153-76; Erskine, ed., A Companion to the Hellenistic World: 405-445. [1], Religious practice would also involve the worship of heroes, people who were regarded as semi-divine. The period of Hellenistic influence, when taken as a whole, constitutes one of the most creative periods in the history of religions. The characteristic religion of the Hellenistic period was dualistic. The New Testament and other parts of the Bible are considered Hellenistic in form, and much of Christian art throughout the centuries has been based on a Greek artistic and sculptural sensibility. 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