Key Terms to Know
- Mt. Olympus
Ancient Greeks believed gods and goddesses controlled nature and guided their lives. They built monuments, buildings, and statues to honor them. Stories of the gods and goddesses and their adventures were told in myths. The Greeks did not believe that gods and goddesses were all-powerful. They did have special powers, but they were just as flawed as humans. The gods and goddesses married humans, had children, fought wars, and argued with each other. The 12 most important gods and goddesses lived on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. Zeus was the king of all the gods. Each god and goddess ruled over some aspect of life and was represented by certain objects or animals. To honor their gods and goddesses, ancient Greeks practiced rituals to please them and to ensure their good fortune. They built altars, prayed, presented gifts, and dedicated festivals to them. The Olympics was a festival created to honor the god Zeus, held in the city of Olympia.
The ancient Greeks also believed in fate and prophecy (predictions about the future). They went to oracles to find out about the future and advice about what to do. The most famous oracle was at the Temple of Apollo in the city of Delphi. Priests and priestesses spoke to the gods. The priestess received the message and it was translated by the priest. Answers were often given in riddles, which was sometimes misleading to the leaders and kings that went seeking advice.
- Why do you think the ancient Greeks believed in so many gods and goddesses?
- Why did the ancient Greeks dedicate so many rituals, festivals, statues, and buildings to their gods?
- In what ways are the religious beliefs of the ancient Greeks like some religious beliefs practiced today?
1. In what ways does Greek religion affect its society?
The affect Greek religion had was that it controlled the dominance in the community. Women were not allowed to vote, were not considered citizens and were often married off without their consent. Religion gave women a purpose in society; they were mourners. Women over saw purification rituals that would preserve the soul in the next life. This only gave them a small amount of say and power in the house hold. Religion also defined daily living because of its teachings. When people got into conflicts they sought out advice from the gods to resolve the situation. Ancient Greeks believed gods and goddesses controlled nature and guided their lives. they built monuments, buildings, and statues to honor them. Stories of the gods and goddesses and their adventures were told in myths. The Greeks did not believe that the gods and goddesses were all-powerful. They did have special powers, but they were just as flawed as humans. The gods and goddesses married humans, and children, fought wars, and argued with each other.
2. How is Greek religion different today?
Originally, these stories were passed down orally from one generation to another, and over a span of several centuries, many changes took place. Homer (the writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey which are two epics considered the earliest and greatest works of Greek literature) is believed to be the first poet to record these myths into written form, thereby preserving them for future generations. many generations after Homer, people have continued to look at these stories because they address issues common to humanity. These tales were told to explain the surrounding world, human behavior, and problems common to all societies. In addition to explaining natural and religious origins, myths also provided humans with a history of their people and their neighbors. For the Greeks, myths shed light on aspects of their lives and tell them how they became who they are today.
3. What were some Greek religious ceremonies or rituals?
Among the Greeks festivals for Dionysus, four types may be distinguished: the Great Dionysian, introduced in Athens in the sixth century BC, the Anesthesia, concerned with wine-drinking, the Agrarian, which included mimicking a women's uprising, madness, and cannibalistic fantasies, and the rustic Dionysian with goat sacrifices and a phallus procession. Some common rituals were weddings, funerals, banquets, etc. Choruses in Greek plays were sung, and music was central to religious and state ceremonies to these rituals.