Greek Mythology & Religion

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Learning Objects (9)

Direct Access Links:
History on Greek Mythology  (History)
The Telling of Myths  (Ancient History Encyclopedia)
Encyclopedia Britannica on Greek Mythology  (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Mythology Concerning Isthmia  (Ohio State University)
Effect of Greek Mythology On Our Modern Lives  (KidsNews)
Ohio State University on Greek Mythology (Ohio State University)
Greek Gods & Religious Practices  (The Met)
Ancient Greek Religion  (Ancient History Encyclopedia)
Death, Burial and the Afterlife in Ancient Greece  (The Met)


The study of a religion’s history includes the study of the history of those who espoused it, together with their spiritual, ethical, political, and intellectual experiences. Greek religion is not the same as Greek mythology, which is concerned with traditional tales, though the two are closely interlinked. Curiously, for a people so religiously minded, the Greeks had no word for religion itself; the nearest terms were eusebeia (“piety”) and threskeia (“cult”). The sole requirements for the Greeks were to believe that the gods existed and to perform ritual and sacrifice, through which the gods received their due. To deny the existence of a deity was to risk reprisals, from the deity or from other mortals.

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History on Greek Mythology

In ancient Greece, stories about gods and goddesses and heroes and monsters were an important part of everyday life. They explained everything from religious rituals to the weather, and they gave meaning to the world people saw around them.


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The Telling of Myths

In modern usage the term ‘myth’ perhaps has negative connotations suggesting a lack of authenticity and reliability. However, it should not be assumed that myths were whole-heartedly believed in nor should it be assumed that the Greeks were wholly sceptical of them. Probably, the Greek myths, as with any religious or non-written sources, were believed by some and discounted by others.


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Encyclopedia Britannica on Greek Mythology

Greek mythology, body of stories concerning the gods, heroes, and rituals of the ancient Greeks. That the myths contained a considerable element of fiction was recognized by the more critical Greeks, such as the philosopher Plato in the 5th–4th century BCE. In general, however, in the popular piety of the Greeks, the myths were viewed as true accounts. Greek mythology has subsequently had extensive influence on the arts and literature of Western civilization, which fell heir to much of Greek culture.


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Mythology Concerning Isthmia

The four panhellenic festivals — the Olympic Games and Nemean Games in honor of the god Zeus, the Pythian Games in honor of Apollo, and the Isthmian Games in honor of Poseidon — were perhaps the most popular events in Greek religious life. They provided an opportunity for Greeks from different cities to gather and compete against each other for the glory of themselves and their cities. The Greeks had a myth to explain the origin of each festival. These myths both helped the Greeks understand why the festival developed in a particular area and also gave each festival a special connection with the gods. This connection increased the prestige of the festivals and ensured that participants and spectators would continue to come from all over Greece.


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Effect of Greek Mythology On Our Modern Lives

It is more than 2000 years since the time of the Ancient Greeks, but Greek Mythology continues to have an influence on how we live today in western society.

References to Greek Mythology can still be found in our discussions about science, arts and literature, language, names and brands.


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Ohio State University on Greek Mythology

For over a century there has been an ongoing debate about what the function of myth was in Greek society. Some have argued that myths arose when men tried to understand the natural world around them. When wondering about the source of lightning, Greeks concluded that it was the punishing arm of Zeus that cast the thunderbolt. Others have concluded that myths are a form of history, that behind every myth there is a kernel of truth waiting to get out. This is called “euhemerism,” after Euhemeros of Messene, who around 300 B.C. wrote that the gods were once famous kings and queens who died and began to be worshipped after their deaths. Another school of thought connects myth with ritual, arguing that myths arose to explain the manner in which and the locations at which the Greeks carried out their rites.


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Greek Gods & Religious Practices

The ancient Greeks worshipped many gods, each with a distinct personality and domain. Greek myths explained the origin of the gods and their individual relations with mankind.


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Ancient Greek Religion

In the ancient Greek world, religion was personal, direct, and present in all areas of life. While the individual may have made up their own mind on the degree of their religious belief and some may have been skeptical, certain fundamentals must have been sufficiently widespread in order for Greek government and society to function: the gods existed, they could influence human affairs, and they welcomed and responded to acts of piety and worship.


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Death, Burial and the Afterlife in Ancient Greece

The ancient Greek conception of the afterlife and the ceremonies associated with burial were already well established by the sixth century B.C. The Greeks believed that at the moment of death, the psyche, or spirit of the dead, left the body as a little breath or puff of wind.


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