CLA204H1 Lecture Notes - Temenos, Anthropomorphism, Cult Of Artemis At Brauron

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5 Feb 2013
CLA204H1 Lecture 06 The Nature of the Gods
Friday, January 18, 2013
Anthropomorphism: Gods are imagined as immortal human beings
- Immortality = essentially different from humanity
- They eat ambrosia (“immortal food” in Greek) and drink nectar (“immortal drink”)
o In order to become immortal (+ maintain immortality): eat + drink immortal food
Ambrosia “immortality”
Nectar “without killing/death”
- They inhale smoke from sacrifices (for their immortality)
- Their immateriality = best described by their blood
o Instead of blood they have ichor (“juice, serum”)
- They can be wounded and suffer physical pain, but do not grow old or die
- They are born as babies and grow to adulthood, but are not vulnerable in their infancy
o Gods/goddesses = born as babies and they grow to adulthood after which they never grow old
They are simultaneously vulnerable + invulnerable
As babies, they = protected + display extraordinary feats
From invisible and immaterial to abstract concepts
- Human embodiments of rather abstract concepts
o Gods stand for ideas, abstract concepts
- Divine genealogy and relations (of sympathy or enmity) between gods tell us something about how the
abstract concepts they represent interact
o Gods represent aspects, parts of human life
Ex: Hebe representation of youth, represented as young lady
o Creation of symbols stem from comparisons of different/opposite things
Essentialism pick up specific element of yourself to describe oneself
Difference between:
Symbolism more abstract
Essentialism rigid, concrete
o Must see how the gods = interconnected and how their relationships affected them (how they interact with
one another)
- Greek myth allows for continuous negotiation between those who participate in storytelling and religious
activities to better define divinities and their sphere of influence
- In this sense, through studying myth we can deduce the underpinnings of Greek society
- The gods of Greek myth do not act as models for humanity but rather immortalized aspects of human life
o Greek gods don’t represent models to follow
They = depictions of human life aspects
Ex: priests + priestesses had to mirror qualities of gods(-esses) they worship, but don’t need to
mirror such qualities their whole life
The divine hierarchy
- The Pantheon is led by Zeus; the divine hierarchy is formed by gods, demigods, heroes, humans
o Presence of formal succession of layers:
Zeus other gods demigods heroes (exceptional mortals) humans
All interconnected
Provide connection between gods + humanity
- Like genealogy and chronology, hierarchy can be misleading
- Not about power, but about successive layers which exist between visible reality and invisible concepts
The gender of the gods
J. Breton Connelly, Portrait of a priestess, 2007:30.
“Mirroring the human experience, the Greek pantheon acknowledged the complexities of what it means to be
male and female, allowing for sexual ambiguity and plurality, that is, the “maleness” in the female and the
“femaleness” in the male.”
- Important that gods = gendered
- Goddesses with male aspects + gods with female aspects aren’t defective
o This is to see how the gods + goddesses interact + see the differences between them
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- There’s a fluent overlapping of female + male gods
- Presence of the interaction of the genders
- Genders come from different sources, but myths connect them
o Ex: Athena + Hephaestus = both creators, but with different craftsmanship
“To be female was to be a wild, untamed virgin huntress (Artemis), marriageable virgin and daughter
(Persephone), passionate seductress (Aphrodite), wife (Hera), mother (Demeter), as well as wise, “malelike”
warrior and craftsman (Athena).”
“To be male was to be craftsman (Hephaestus), warrior (Ares), seafarer (Poseidon), and father and husband
(Zeus), as well as to be the “feminine” poet and artist (Apollo) and the sexually active and ambiguous reveler
Greek myth and emergence of Greek philosophy
- Abstract concepts:
o Development of the idea of youth can be seen by observing young people and comparing them to older
o Idea of time
o Ex: rain represents Zeus male sexual expression male seed
How does one get from the abstract concept (symbol) to something concrete?
All symbols have repercussions in Western society
- Gods look human in their representations
- Myth causes philosophy:
o Xenophanes of Colophon (6th c. BC)
“Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all that is shameful and reproachful among
mortals: stealing, adultery, and deception.” (frag. 11)
o Upset with Homer + Hesiod
o Acknowledged the existence of one god during Greek polytheism
“In my opinion mortals have created their gods with the dress and voice and appearance
of mortals. If cattle and horses and lions had hands and could create with their hands and
achieve works like those of human beings, horses would render their conceptions of the
gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and each would depict bodies for them just like
their own.” (frag. 15)
“There is one god, greatest among gods and mortals, not at all like them, either in body or
in mind.” (frag. 23)
- Euhemerus (early 3rd c. BC) claimed to have found a sacred written text on an island in the Indian Sea.
From this he found that the gods of popular worship had originally been great kings and conquerors
o Euhemerus:
Described theory of how humans invented gods
Favoured by Western culture
“gods” = former great people who were revered by others
Gods = representation of distant past
Greek religion
- Explores the question: in which ways are past and future connected?
- The sacrifice and the prayers (aloud) are what constitutes Greek religion: a perceptible acknowledgement
of an invisible realm which is thought to have the power to influence the visible realm
o Rituals involved Greek manifestations of religious filling
No Greek + Latin word for religion
Religion, as a separate realm of human society, doesn’t exist; it imbues everything
o Difference in perspective of modern + ancient societies
There was no sincere faith in antiquity (exemplified by Alexander the Great worshipping Egyptian
gods during his time in Egypt)
What matters = how one acts: performing rituals + praying
- Sacrifice is a form of giving back what does not truly belong to humans
o Sacrifices giving back what one received from god
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