Relationship between religion and politics in ancient greece

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relationship between religion and politics in ancient greece

Art and Religion in Ancient Greece and Rome .. advertising Athena's on-going role in contemporary politics were the sculptures on and around the tiny temple of . What is the relationship between flesh and marble, mortal flesh and divinity?). In the ancient Greek world, religion was personal, direct, and present in all areas artistic competitions, religion was never far from the mind of an ancient Greek. . Places could also acquire a divine connection; the great oracles such as that of He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE . The dynamics of religion and politics in ancient Greece, Perachora: a approaches of the dynamic interaction between religion and politics.

See also Parke There is plenty of evidence for religious practices unmediated by and without any obvious link to the polis. Take for example the consultation of oracles, such as those at Delphi, Dodona and Didyma or any of the less-known oracular shrines.

In support of the polis-model one could, of course, point out that the fee pelanos that had to be paid before the consultation was negotiated between the officials of the oracle and the polis from which the consultant came. Our sources tell us, for example, of oracle consultations of a very personal nature, the significance of which is more embedded in personal circumstances than in polis concerns.

In particular the corpus of responses from Dodona attests to a variety of personal issues on which divine advice was sought. The same is true when Agis consults Zeus regarding the whereabouts of certain lost blankets and whether or not they were stolen. Another example of Greek religion beyond the polis is the festival calendar, which is embedded in the agricultural year rather than in the institutions of the polis.

Greek religion transcends the polis. Several of her works explore religious phenomena as forms of collective representation, which must be studied in the context of the larger cultural system that generated and received them. It is also a more all-encompassing concept than the view that Greek religion was projected onto the socio-political landscape of the polis, an idea which Sourvinou-Inwood has suggested elsewhere. What aspects of this kind of embeddedness are polis-specific? Are the perceptual filters situated first and foremost in the institutions and the ideology of the polis?

As soon as we move away from matters of agency and look at larger religious concepts, such as death, pollution and piety, we find that the symbolic order of the polis coincides with the symbolic order of Greek culture and society more generally.

Taking this into account, is it still correct to speak of polis religion, or should we rather say that Greek religion was embedded in Greek culture with the polis as its paradigmatic worshipping group? As Burkert rightly remarked: There is religion without the polis, even if there is no polis without religion.

The polis provides an essential framework for assessing Greek religion but it should by no means be the only one. See also Jamesonp.

Politics and Religion in Ancient Rome - Books & ideas

In particular, John Gould has pointed to the limits of the assumption of internal coherence within the system of Greek religion: Greek religion is not theologically fixed and stable, and it has no tradition of exclusion or finality: Although scholars working with the model readily admit that the polis consists of different individuals with different, even diverging attitudes, there is little space in their works for personal religion, the fault-lines between contradictory religious beliefs and practices, and the internal frictions, inconsistencies and tensions springing from them.

Versnel uses such inconsistencies and ambiguities principally as entry poi Versnel dedicated two volumes to the revelation of inconsistencies within the system of Greek religion. Moreover, Veyne reminds us about variations in religious beliefs over time, which change together with the concepts of truth which underlie them. A good example is perhaps the changing Greek attitude towards mythology and the supernatural. What was for Homer and others a special realm of knowledge authenticated by the Muses, to which the distinction between truth and falsehood did not apply, increasingly became subject to criticism and intellectual scrutiny.

See also the re Recent work in social anthropology suggests that we should replace the concept of culture as a consensual sphere of interaction with a more flexible and fluid understanding of it as open to the internal frictions resulting from change and social transformation. Greek, in particular Athenian society, thus appears as a space of internal contestation and debate, with the political that is the polis at its centre but by no means limited to it.

Thin coherence would, for example, allow us to bring in religious movements such as Orphism and the use of magical practices, which have so far been marginalised in the study of polis religion. Ultimately, we will have to consider the link between each one of them and the polis separately, for they relate differently to the structures and institutions of polis religion. But despite the differences between these religious movements and practices they do not fit all into the conventional model of polis religion.

The old position that sees Or Religious beliefs and practices that do not conform to the polis model, that is those practices that are not administered by the polis and that do not represent the socio-political order of the polis, are frequently seen as being by definition not religion proper.

The ongoing debate of what separates magic from religion, for example, is frequently supported by a definition of Greek religion as civic religion. It marginalises exactly those areas of religious activity which the model cannot sufficiently explain. To start with, despite their distinct features Orphism, Bacchic cults and magical practices respond to and interact with more widely held beliefs and practices of mainstream Greek religion.

The Orphic Theogony, for example, is an extension of the Hesiodic genealogy of the gods. To be pious it was enough to be right, which meant not to meet with a calamity after a decision reached in this manner, for the gods could always manifest their omnipotence to let it be known that the bounds of basic respect had been overstepped.

At base, they participated in political life in the same way the Roman people did, that is to say in a generally passive way. History shows that not a single bill proposed in the Roman assembly was ever thrown out: And when the assembly was voting on a bill or to elect a magistrate, the voting was stopped as soon as the requisite majority of favorable votes in the so-called centuriae was reached.

Within this poll-tax based system, only the social elite voted in an effective manner each centuria had only one vote. As a result, the annually-elected magistrates held near-absolute power over both the citizenry and the gods. This concentration of power is doubtless one of the secrets to the solidity of Roman power, even though it was neither a dictatorship nor a monarchy. This principle also explains why the people would now and then rise up in revolt or secession, and why the gods would have allowed the catastrophic defeats at Cannae and Lake Trasimene during the Second Punic War.

The system itself was not called into question, at least not its religious side. They wished to be honored on earth, with honors affecting every sphere of life and, particularly in the forum, political debates.

Concomitantly, the immortals did not wish to terrorize mortals or, more precisely, the Romans would not put up with being terrorized by them.

A Roman citizen could not be humiliated by anyone, not even Jupiter. The only thing citizens sometimes agreed to, at the behest of the consuls and the Senate, was to do the rounds of the temples and kneel down before the local titular divinity as a sign of gratitude or supplication, depending on the context. Partners in the Roman Community There is a fine myth concerning the ideal relations between Romans and their supreme deity, Jupiter. It is set at the beginning of Roman history. Romulus has founded Rome, but the city and its divine partners are still feral and lawless.

But Jupiter continues to terrorize the Romans. So King Numa, who was the model statesman in the Roman tradition, fair, thoughtful, calm and intrepid, confronts the All-mighty to ask what must be done to appease him. Jupiter, who is in a facetious mood that day, tricks him by demanding a human sacrifice: Jupiter puts an end to the confrontation, expressing his satisfaction with this little man capable of conversing with the gods without being deterred from the basic tenets of the city-State system, and pledges his future patronage.

This dialogue and the behavior of the two protagonists represent the justification for the divinatory consultations and the way the Romans treated their gods. This sort of speculative narrative gives us a sense of what, in the eyes of the Romans, was the nature of the bond with the gods as expressed by the word religio: For the whole edifice of the city-State was built on freedom both inside and outside of Rome.

Let us not mistake the Roman State and society for a democracy, let alone a model democracy. What the public cult expressed daily was also manifest in Roman family life and in the administrative life of associations and clubs of all sorts.

Everywhere, religion was part and parcel of collective conduct informed by the principles of politics. Through religion, citizens, family members and association members found a place in the order of things, a place that made them earthly partners of the gods and protected them against any intervention by the gods. They were not obliged to submit blindly to a divinity.

Moreover, the Roman religions did not require any explicit act of faith, and there was no oversight of any kind, no clergy comparable to that of the Christian religions or Islam. All told, there were only about two hundred priests in Rome, and most of them had a single task, which was to officiate at a single feast. The pontiffs, who were clearly the most important priests, were about twenty in number at the beginning of the Common Era, when the number of Roman citizens exceeded four million!

In fact, it was this sort of forswearing that triggered the anti-Christian pogroms and repression by the authorities in the 2nd century and especially from the 3rd century on. Religious Practice, Guaranteed Freedom of Conscience So one could say that Roman religious practice guaranteed freedom of conscience. The Romans could think what they pleased of their gods and religion, though not during religious practice. They discussed it at meetings and in debates, they read books about religion.

relationship between religion and politics in ancient greece

But that was a cultural activity of no religious import. For the ancient Mesopotamian, the divinities were responsible for creating order out of the chaos that existed before creation.

The king, considered the earthly representative of the gods, was entrusted with maintaining order on earth, and in this way the religious beliefs of ancient Mesopotamia buttressed the political system that developed in the region.

The interlocking nature of the political and religious authorities can be seen most clearly in the Assyrian Akitu ceremony, where the king's right to rule for the next year was granted to him by the divine beings, while the princes and the nobility renewed their oaths of loyalty.

That religion was important to Assyrian kings throughout the year and not just at this ceremony can be seen from letters of the Sargonid period, many of which discuss the numerous religious obligations of the king. While temples in the Near East tended to have their own hierarchies of personnel and to own significant amounts of property, the kings still wielded significant authority over the priests.

The head of the temple was responsible to the king as the representative of the gods, and many of these temple estates also derived income from royal benefits as well as from their own property holdings.

Religion and War in Ancient Greece and Rome

To the extent that the temples became dependent on royal grants rather than on their own holdings, they came under more direct control of the kings, further eradicating the distinction between religious and political authority. The "rise and fall" of individual Mesopotamian divinities also provides a very clear example of the interdependence of politics and religion at the level of city or state relations.

The history of Babylonia demonstrates how the rise of individual cities to prominence brought their tutelary deities to the level of national gods; Marduk, the primary god of Babylon, became the national deity of the Babylonian empire and with the decline of Babylonian power saw a concomitant loss of worshipers. The process could also work in the opposite direction; the neo-Assyrian empire from the ninth to the seventh centuries bce destroyed temples and carried cult statues into captivity to emphasize the weakness of those gods and goddesses and of the peoples whom they were supposed to protect.

In keeping with this ideology, shrines to Ashur, the eponymous god of the traditional first capital of the Assyrian empire, might be placed in some cities, but the Assyrians also rebuilt temples or restored images as a means of conducting imperial policy. Religion thus provided one means of taking political action and marking political developments in both Assyria and Babylonia. Egypt The relationship between religion and politics in Egypt has many striking affinities with the situation in Mesopotamia, despite some major theological differences.

Because the Nile Riverthe lifeblood of ancient Egypt, operated on a much more regular cycle of flood and retreat than the Tigris and Euphrates, Egyptian divinities were considered guarantors of a stable cosmic order rather than forces that might unleash chaos at any moment. The outstanding feature of Egyptian society during its long history as an independent polity, from roughly bce until the capture of Alexandria by the Romans in 30 bce, was that the king was considered to be of divine essence, a god incarnate.

Egyptians identified the king as Horus, king of the gods, and each successive king took a Horus-name upon his succession.

relationship between religion and politics in ancient greece

In the Egyptian conception, the primary responsibility of the gods, and thus of the king as Horus, was to maintain the cosmic and timeless order of the Egyptian world, and in this way Egyptian religious belief supported the institution of kingship.

In practice the existence of numerous local cults throughout Egypt complicated the situation. Each cult possessed its own temple and cult structures, as in Mesopotamia, and was served by its own local priesthood, and each priesthood aimed at advancing the claims of its divinity toward primacy.

Egyptian ruling dynasties when they came to power tended to raise their local cult to the status of supreme royal god, and the shifting importance of Ptah, Re, and Amun in Egyptian history owes much to the changes in Egyptian dynasties.

But as in Mesopotamia, the relationship between kings and priests was not a one-way street; as Egyptian dynasties sought to raise individual cults to supremacy by granting their priesthoods special favors, they ceded power to those priesthoods as well. The supremacy of the kings may have been felt most strongly in the Old Kingdom, from roughly to bce, the period in which the great Pyramids of Giza were constructed.

By the end of this period, however, the kings had adopted the title "Son of Re," perhaps implying that they no longer held a status equal to the sun-god. That fact, and the disappearance of the king's relatives from the higher ranks of priests, may indicate that the kings had lost much of their power to the priesthoods, a trend that repeated itself throughout Egyptian history.

The Theban princes of the Middle Kingdom c. During the latter period especially, the priesthood of Amun-Ra amassed great wealth due to royal generosity, and thus wielded significant political power, to the point of having influence on the selection of a new king. The celebrated reforms of Akhenaton c. The attempt ultimately failed, and when the centralized power of the New Kingdom gave way at the end of the Twentieth dynasty, the priests of Amun-Ra found themselves the effective rulers of southern Egypt.

As in Mesopotamia, political and religious authority were interlocked and developed to the point where distinctions between the two are difficult to make. Greece The situation in ancient Greece presents some marked differences to that in the Near Eastern kingdoms, though some similarities can be observed.

Considering that in Greece one does not find a unified polity ruled by a single king, but a plethora of independent polities usually governed by aristocracies, it should not be surprising to find differences in the relationship between religious and political authorities.

In Greece there was no separate class of priests, but rather religious personnel were drawn from the citizen body just as were civic officials, and indeed they were often selected and served in the same manner. For instance at Athens, priests and priestesses were frequently chosen by lot and served a term of a single year; the number of hereditary and lifelong positions was always small and diminished over time.

This similarity underscores the fact that in ancient Greece civic and religious authority were really two aspects of the same power; both were charged to protect the well-being of the state. The fact that religion was so embedded in the life of every Greek city meant that considerations which most people would label religious often played a major role in both internal and external affairs. Public spaces, such as the agora in Athens, were in fact consecrated religious spaces, and cities might display their civic pride through religion.

The dynamics of religion and politics in ancient Greece, Perachora: a case study

The temples of the Acropolis in Athens, built in the second half of the fifth century bce, are the best-known example of a city's self-promotion through religion, but other cities used religious spaces in similar ways.

Less significant states such as Sicyon or Siphnos erected elaborately decorated buildings, filled with dedications, at Panhellenic sites such as Delphi in order to boost their image among the other Greeks. While each city might promote its tutelary divinity, the fragmentation of political authority throughout Greece meant that the temporary predominance of one state, such as Athens, did not lead to the promotion of that state's deity in this case Athena at the expense of others, as it did in the Near East.

Despite their political fragmentation, the Greeks recognized that they shared a common bond. Religion, especially in the form of shared practices and sanctuaries, served as one of the primary markers of Greek identity.