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chapter 6

Course Code
Claesson Welsh

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Sep 27, 2010
Chapter 6: The Nature of the Gods
-Characteristics of gods went from abstract to humanized
oXenophanes of Colophon: but if horses or oxen or lions had hands, or could draw w/ their
hands and accomplish such works as men, horses would draw the figures of the gods as
similar to horses and the oxen as similar to oxen, and they would make their bodies of the
sort which each of them had
ogods are human in form and character
ogods have homes, need food (ambrosia, nectar)
oidealized; super-human; take human characteristics to extremes
have beauty, emotions, morals, intellect, weaknesses, pettiness, insincerity, physical
their excellence can exceed humans, but so can their wickedness
opowers and abilities surpass mortals
ohave immortality
-divine hierarchy; never explicitly put forward, implied
oAristocracy: Zeus + Olympian gods; local primacy makes certain gods more important than
others in certain areas (ie Athena @ Athens)
oNymphs (Muses), monstrous deities (Gorgons, Harpies); not necessarily immortal, very
powerful, but still limited
oDemigods (Achilles); one divine, one human parent
oHeroes (Oedipus); go beyond mortals, but still mortal; can become deity; can sometimes do
some things gods can
oOrdinary mortals
- Monotheism
oComplex interaction of polytheism and a monotheistic tendency; reflected in idea of Zeus as
supreme god
oHis spheres: upholds moral values, protects social groups, champions ethical
responsibilities, justice
-Two cautions
oCapabilities of humanity and powers of divine not diametrically opposed categories
Greek mind could celebrate achievements of man while still revering powers of gods
oGreek religion and mythology is non-scriptural (doesnt make it unserious though); no holy
version of stories > the closest we get to that is Homers writings
-Croesus (story in textbook)
oSolon: his idea of happy = living well > children, goodness, morals; as well as dying well
oIdea that the gods gives happiness to many, but casts them down later
oCroesus then experiences the opp of what Solon says is happiness; tries to change fate, then
son dies
-Greeks take morals from myths; like w/ story of Croesus > things dont mean happiness, but the
experience of good
-Greek religion
oComplex system (diff influences)
oScholars used to think myth = religion; no real distinction b/w them (19th C)
oTriumph of science (early - middle 20thC) > treat it more rationally; try to separate two
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