Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE

[From: Historical Events in the Greek World - From the Neolithic Age to the Fall of Constantinople. Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]

Historical Events - Hellenism
331 B.C. - 324 A.D.


I. The Marriage of East and West
It has been argued that Greek mythology declined from the status of religion to literature because of the highly critical Greek mind, which was already turned against it in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. Often implied in this argument is the idea that polytheism is an inferior form of religion, vulnerable to criticism, whereas monotheism is not: consequently, when the Greek mind got to work on it, polytheism was liquidated and the way was cleared for the revealed Christian Truth of the One God in Three Persons, with his pantheon of angels, counter-pantheon of devils, communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, and resurrection of the body, as well as the multiple presence [in every consecrated drop of wine and wafer of the Mass] of the dead and resurrected Son of God--true God and true Man--who was born miraculously of the Virgin Mother Mary. Actually, however, the Olympians never were confused by the Greeks with the ultimate Being of being. Like men, the gods had been born of the Great Mother. Though stronger and of longer life than men, they were their brothers. Moreover, they were but temporary governors of the universe, which they had wrested from an earlier generation of divine children of the goddess, and they would lose it--as Prometheus knew--to a later. Properly, they were the archetypes of the ideals of the Greek city state, and with its passing they passed too. [p. 237]

But in the Hellenistic period, which the brilliant pupil of Aristotle, Alexander the Great, having smashed across the whole Levant into India, had brought together in one world Greece, India, Persia, Egypt, and even the Jews outside of Jerusalem, Greek religion advanced to a new phase: on one hand, of grandiose universalism, and on the other, of personal, inward immediacy. In fact, the beautiful gods, far from dying, sent the inspiration of their breath across all Asia, to waken new religious and aesthetic forms in Maurya India, Han China, and ultimately Japan; while in the West they wakened Rome and in the South brought a new significance to the old, old cults of the goddess Isis and her spouse .

An appreciation of the point of view of the Hellenistic Greeks toward religion can be obtained from the Alexandrian mythographer Maximus of Tyre [fl. second c. A.D.]:

"God Himself, the father and fashioner of all that is, older than the Sun or the Sky, greater than time and eternity and all the flow of being, is unnamable by any lawgiver, unutterable by any voice, not to be seen by any eye. But we, being unable to apprehend His essence, use the help of sounds and names and picture, of beaten gold and ivory and silver, of plants and rivers, mountain-peaks and torrents, yearning for the knowledge of Him, and in our weakness naming all that is beautiful in this world after His nature--just as happens to earthly lovers. To them the most beautiful sight will be the actual lineaments of the beloved, but for remembrance═ sake they will be happy in the sight of a lyre, a little spear, a chair, perhaps, or a running-ground, or anything in the world that wakens the memory of the beloved. Why should I further examine and pass judgment upon Images? Let men know what is divine [Greek text], let them know: that is all. If a Greek is stirred to the remembrance of God by the art of Phidias, an Egyptian by paying worship to animals, another man by a river, another by fire--I have no anger for their divergences; only let them know, let them love, let them recall." [1] [p. 239]

NOTES:
1. Maximus of Tyre, Dissertation XXXVIII; translation from Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion [Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books, no date], pp. 74-75, note 44; also in Thomas Taylor The Dissertations of Maximus Tyrius [London: C. Whittingham 1804], VOl. II, pp. 196-98]

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication. pp. 7-11]




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