Divine Power in Greek Religion
Most religions have some sort of a divine being or beings. Some religions focus on one god or higher power while others have multiple gods. Usually a god is omnipotent or all- powerful if he or she acts alone versus multiple gods who usually have respective limited powers. The Christian religion has a central being that is all-powerful and controls every aspect of mankind from fate among the living to the outcome of one after he has perished whereas the Greek religion has many gods, some more powerful than others, but none can alter the fate or destiny of mankind. The home of gods and goddesses in Greek religion are also comparable to that of the Christians. Greek gods reside on Mount Olympus, in a region of Greece called Thessaly whereas the Christian God, for example resides in heaven. Is there only one true God, or do many gods exist, and if so, do they possess divine powers? The answers to these questions are purely subjective, but the ancient Greeks have their own opinion as seen in Homer s The Odyssey. This essay will discuss the divine power in Greek Religion and also explore it s comparison to the Christian religion.
To understand the divine power of Greek gods and goddesses one must first be able to understand the gods themselves. Although there were many gods, only twelve were known as the chief gods or the Olympians as the ancient Greeks commonly referred to them. The chief gods were Zeus, principal ruler of the Olympians and the human race; his wife Hera, guardian of marriage; Hephaestus, god of fire and metalworkers; Athena, goddess of wisdom and war; Apollo, god of light, poetry, and music; Artemis, goddess of wildlife and the moon; Ares, god of war; Aphrodite, goddess of love; Hestia, goddess of the hearth; and Hermes, messenger of the gods and he also ruled over science and innovation. The before mentioned gods ruled the heavens while Demeter, goddess of agriculture; and Poseidon, god of the sea and land ruled the earth.
The people of ancient Greece had an extremely intelligent society. They had sophisticated architecture and a very high level of mathematics in their culture. These areas of life dealt with real things that could be controlled. When it came to natural phenomena the Greeks had certain explanations in the form of myths that might look eccentric now, but were reasonable 3000 years ago. In Greece s history there are several themes that contributed to Greek mythology and reasons it developed. Once Greek mythology was established in the culture an interesting set of gods and beliefs evolved and continued to evolve for hundreds of years. The ancient Greeks were also influenced by a number of different cultures throughout the years as Greece was the crossroads for travelers of different civilizations as well as being ruled by different cultures through acts of war, so all these elements and diverse beliefs of made an impact on the Greek s way of thinking and views of religion.
To ancient peoples, myths were not just entertaining stories, but part of their religion. People prayed to the gods and tried to behave in ways that they thought would please the gods such as holding festivals in honor of their gods, or offering animal sacrifices to them. In early times people did not have the scientific knowledge we have today. If a river flooded its banks, they thought an evil or angry god caused the disaster. People did not understand nature's ways. So they created the idea of gods and told myths to explain natural happenings. As a result of this, the ancient Greeks were also fearful of the gods and highly respected them. This also caused the Greeks to be respectful of each other because one could not be certain if another was human or a god. An example of this is noted in The Odyssey when Telemakhos invites Athena, a stranger into his home and treats her to a wonderful feast.
A good contrast of theology could be the Christian beliefs and the beliefs of ancient Greeks. The ideas of the followers of Christianity and Greek religions are very different. To begin, Christians believe in one almighty God, which is also known as monotheism. This God helps humans and He is a merciful God. Humans pray to this God for help and forgiveness and people also go to church to learn about their religion and to pay their respects to Him. Greeks, however, are very different from Christians. They practiced polytheism, the belief in many gods. Accounts of people praying to different gods can be seen in The Odyssey. For example, Kyklops prayed to Poseidon, O hear me, lord, blue girdler of the islands, if I am thine indeed, and thou art father: grant Odysseus, raiders of cities never see his home (161). In Book XVII Telemakhos also instructs Penelope to pray to Zeus for revenge. People of ancient Greece did not attend church; they were told of their future and past by prophets or by other family members. They do, however, also try to please the gods so that they are not punished.
In conclusion, religion is a belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. There are many different types of religion and religious groups in this world and they all believe in different gods and have their own way of life that was based upon their belief. My personal belief is in the Christian religion, but I in no fashion fault the ancient Greeks for their beliefs, after all it was a pre-Christian era. Their concept of divine power serves the same purpose as all religions; it gives them a set of morals to follow and a positive outlook on the future.