September 18, RELIGIONS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD
think of it not as christianity or judaism, but as christianities and judaisms
when you read "all christians/jews do this", that is not true. there are so many
none of the ancient peoples had a single word equivalent to "religion"
comes from religio (latin)
some claim comes from religare (to bind) as in the unbreakable bond between
humans and gods
others claim it is derived from relegere (to go over again), as in meticulous
repetition of a ritual
these two notions complimentary
the community sought to ensure the continuing support of its gods by faithfully
adhering to ancestral customs.
people followed the gods of their fathers in order to be included in part of the
cultus / culture. it doesnt matter if you believed in it, it was part of your identity
and culture and family.
this idea of faith or personal conviction is incredibly modern. it wasn't something
the ancients thought about.
the ancients did not have a word for homosexuality
a roman grammariant of the second centruy CE defined religion against
*superstition was irrational behavious. this could include intentional disregard of
standard state practices (not seen as believe being wrong, but as not fitting with
your culture). it could include improper pursuit of secret knowledge, placation of
gods, based on fear of their malevolence rather than trust in their beneficence, or
overly emotional engagement with a particular god.
(*****but of course one person's superstition is another person's religion)
if you didn't believe in your states beliefs, people must wonder not "does he not
believe" but rather, "does he plan on overthrowing the state?"
when christians coopted the term religio in the fourth century ce, they redefinited
religion to refer solely to their own 'true' faith in a single god. they then reclassified
the old trads as false not religion but superstition.
when we think of religion now, in the modern world, both how it is practiced in
the present and the past, do we think in these terms of religio, religare, or religere?
superstition... where does that begin and "religion" end?
one person's religion is another's superstition
geographically, antiquity encompassed only the vast territory centred on south
western asia, souther europe, and n africa. the varied landscape suported 3 basic typs of communities:
1 desert or highland pastoralists tending herds
2 agriculturalists in rural villages
3 and concentrated urban centres
over time, communities were organized on incrementally larger scales: urban
states, territorial states, and eventually universal states/empires
the end of antiquity was marked by ...
earliest historically documented civ was that of the sumerian people of southern
there, identity was a matter of PLACE; one became a mesopotamian by moving
into the region between the tigris and euphrates
in the later empires, such as the greeks, one was a greek wherever greeks lived.
by the roman empire's time, identitiy was classified as citizenship
at the heart of every empire was a constellation of cities
*urbanites considered themselves superior to rural dwellers (paganus in latin)
*it was th association of the rural with cultural inferiority that would eventually
lead the triumphant christian church to disparage the practitioners of traditional
religions as unsophisticated, uneducated 'pagans' (similar to our "white trash",
considered barbarians, disgusting, uncivilized, violent, etc)
most in this time could not read or write
romans conquering other places would not disparage their gods but would send
their priests to pray to the gods of the land they conquered saying that they had
conquered their people but that they would offer them supplication and carry off
the sacred items of those gods to a priest i