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Greek Beliefs and Culture Essay

Greek beliefs changed over time. In the beginning the Greeks believed strongly in the gods. These ideas were very similar to those of earlier peoples (Craig, Graham, et. al. 57). The Greek gods shared many of the same characteristics of the Mesopotamian deities (Craig, Graham, et. al. 57). The Greek pantheon consisted of the twelve gods who lived on Mount Olympus (Craig, Graham, et. al. 83).

These gods were: -Zeus, the father of the gods, -Hera, his wife, -Zeuss siblings: Poseidon, his brother, god of seas and earthquakes, Hestia, his sister, goddess of the hearth, Demeter, his sister, goddess of agriculture and marriage, -Zeuss children: Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, Apollo, god of sun, music, poetry, and prophecy, Ares, god of war, Artemis, goddess of the moon and the hunt, Athena, goddess of wisdom and the arts, Hephaestus, god of fire and metallurgy, -Hermes, messenger of the gods (Craig, Graham, et. l. 83). The gods were seen as behaving very much as mortal humans behaved, except that they possessed superhuman qualities and they were immortal (Craig, Graham, et. al. 83). These qualities are shown in many of the stories that are passed down through Greek history. The Greeks respect for their gods came partially out of fear. An example of superhuman qualities to be feared is stated in Theogony: Then Zeus no longer held back his might; but straight his heart was filled with fury and he showed forth all his strength.

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From Heaven and from Olympus he came immediately, hurling his lightning: the bolts flew thick and fast from his strong hand together with thunder and lightning, whirling an awesome flame. The life-giving earth crashed around in burning, and the vast wood crackled loud with fire all about. All the land seethed, and Oceans streams and the unfruitful sea. The hot vapor lapped round the earthborn Titans: flame unspeakable rose to the bright upper air: the flashing glare of the thunderstone and lightning blinded their eyes for all that they were strong(Hesiod 10).

The Greeks believed that the will of the gods was sacred: So it is not possible to deceive or go beyond the will of Zeus: (Hesiod 9). As time continued the Greeks beliefs changed in some ways. Some Greeks began to speculate about the nature of the world and its origin. In doing this they made guesses that were completely naturalistic and did not include any reference to supernatural powers or anything else divine (Craig, Graham, et. al. 57). They were one of the first societies to use nature to explain natural events.

The Greeks began to lose their beliefs in the divine as Euthyphro says in Euthyphro: for when I speak in the assembly about divine things, and foretell the future to them, they laugh at me and think me a madman. (Plato 2). The relative unimportance of divinity helped to characterize Greek views of law and justice. Although most Greeks liked to think that laws came from the gods, they realized that the laws were made by humans and should be obeyed because they represented the expressed consent of the citizens (Craig, Graham, et. al. 57).

These new beliefs led to the characteristic Greek institution of the polis. Polis means city-state. All Greek poleis began as little agricultural villages and they all had a sense of being independent political units. The poleis were generally a group of relatives where all the citizens were theoretically descended from a common ancestor (Craig, Graham, et. al. 77). In The Heritage of World Civilizations it is stated: Aristotle argued that the polis was a natural growth and that the human being is by nature an animal who lives in a polis.

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Humans alone have the power of speech and from it derive the ability to distinguish good from bad and right from wrong, and the sharing of these things is what makes a household and a polis. (Craig, Graham, et. al. 77). This means that the Greeks realized that they could decide for themselves what was good and bad, and accounts for why they abandoned such strong beliefs in the gods and their decrees. With the development of the polis came need for a way to enforce the laws and pass judgement on the laws. Before the laws were ones of the gods.

Now the laws were ones of the citizens of the polis and they had to pass judgement on fellow Greeks in order to create a healthy society. The work Euthyphro is the story of two men Socrates and Euthyphro who are going to court. Socrates is being faced with a charge brought against him by another Greek and Euthyphro is bringing a charge against his own father (Plato 1-18). The Greeks started out believing in the gods alone. They believed that everything that the gods said was good, and they should do whatever those gods told them to do.

In the beginning the Greeks did not think for themselves they simply listened to what others before them said. As time progressed the Greek society evolved. The Greeks begin to question things that had been told to them. They begin to think for themselves. They learned that they could decide what was best for themselves and their society. They never lost complete faith in the gods. They continued to worship the gods, but they learned to make their own laws and to pass their own judgement on those laws.

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