The Greek View of Life
About this deal
And as with the external world, so with the world within. The powers of nature were not the only ones felt by man to be different from and alien to himself; there were others, equally strange, dwelling in his own heart, which, though in a sense they were part of him, yet he felt to be not himself, which came upon him and possessed him without his choice and against his will. With these too he felt the need to make himself at home, and these too, to satisfy his need, he shaped into creatures like himself. To the whole range of his inner experience he gave definition and life, presenting it to himself in a series of spiritual forms. In Aphrodite, mother of Eros, he incarnated the passion of love, placing in her broidered girdle "love and desire of loving converse that steals the wits even of the wise"; in Ares he embodied the lust of war; in Athene, wisdom; in Apollo, music and the arts. The pangs of guilt took shape in the conception of avenging Furies; and the very prayers of the worshipper sped from him in human form, wrinkled and blear-eyed, with halting pace, in the rear of punishment. Thus the very self of man he set outside himself; the powers, so intimate, and yet so strange, that swayed him from within he made familiar by making them distinct; converted their shapeless terror into the beauty of visible form; and by merely presenting them thus to himself in a guise that was immediately understood, set aside, if he could not answer, the haunting question of their origin and end. In approaching the subject of the religion of the Greeks it is necessary to dismiss at the outset many of the associations which we are naturally inclined to connect with that word. What we commonly have in our mind when we speak of religion is a definite set of doctrines, of a more or less metaphysical character, formulated in a creed and supported by an organisation distinct from the state. And the first thing we have to learn about the religion of the Greeks is that it included nothing of the kind. There was no church, there was no creed, there were no articles; there was no doctrine even, unless we are so to call a chaos of legends orally handed down and in continual process of transformation by the poets. Priests there were, but they were merely public officials, appointed to perform certain religious rites. The distinction between cleric and layman, as we know it, did not exist; the distinction between poetry and dogma did not exist; and whatever the religion of the Greeks may have been, one thing at any rate is clear, that it was something very different from all that we are in the habit of associating with the word. And if anyone were dissatisfied with this method of interpretation by signs, he had a directer means of approaching the gods. He could visit one of the oracles and consult the deity at first hand about his most trivial and personal family affairs. Some of the questions put to the oracle at Dodona have been preserved to us, [Footnote: See Percy Gardner, "New Chapters in Greek History."] and very curious they are. "Who stole my cushions and pillow?" asks one bereaved householder. Another wants to know whether it will pay him to buy a certain house and farm; another whether sheep-farming is a good investment. Clearly, the god was not above being consulted on the meanest affairs; and his easy accessibility must have been some compensation for his probable caprice. In all this we have a suggestion of the sort of relation in which the Greek conceived himself to stand to the gods. It is a relation, as we said, external and mechanical. The gods were superior beings who knew, it might be presumed, what was going to happen; man didn't know, but perhaps he could find out. How could he find out? that was the problem; and it was answered in the way we have seen. There was no question, clearly, of a spiritual relation; all is external; and a similar externality pervades, on the whole, the Greek view of sacrifice and of sin. Let us turn now to consider this point. Section 8. Sacrifice and Atonement. Furies) The Erinyes are goddesses of vengeance who pursue their victims even after death. Euripides lists three. These are Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera. Parents: Gaia and the blood from the castrated Uranus or Nyx (Night) or Darkness or Hades (and Persephone) or Poine (see Theoi Erinyes)
The Greek View of Life on JSTOR
Thus the harmony which we have indicated as the characteristic result of the Greek religion contained none of the conditions of completeness or finality. For on the one hand there were elements which it was never able to include; and on the other, its hold even over those which it embraced was temporary and precarious. The eating of the tree of knowledge drove the Greeks from their paradise; but the vision of that Eden continues to haunt the mind of man, not in vain, if it prophesies in a type the end to which his history moves. CHAPTER II THE GREEK VIEW OF THE STATE Section 1. The Greek State a "City." On the bank of the river, you would encounter Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the Underworld. His job was to stop people from leaving and returning to the world of the living. On the other hand, this harmony which was the essence of the Greek civilisation, was a temporary compromise, not a final solution. It depended on presumptions of the imagination, not on convictions of the intellect; and as we have seen, it destroyed itself by the process of its own development. The beauty, the singleness, and the freedom which attracts us in the consciousness of the Greek was the result of a poetical view of the world, which did but anticipate in imagination an ideal that was not realised in fact or in thought. It depended on the assumption of anthropomorphic gods, an assumption which could not stand before the criticism of reason, and either broke down into scepticism, or was developed into the conception of a single supreme and spiritual power.The Greek View of Life is no dry academic tome. It is a popularizing work in the best sense: accessibly written and illustrated with apt quotations given in sturdy translations, never in the original Greek. It is a joy to read. Thus ends the first phase of the festival. So far all has been mirth and revelry; but now comes a sudden change of tone. Dionysus, god of wine though he be, has also his tragic aspect; of him too there is recorded a "descent into hell"; and to the glad celebration of the renewal of life in spring succeeds a feast in honour of the dead. The ghosts, it is supposed, come forth to the upper air; every door-post is smeared with pitch to keep off the wandering shades; and every family sacrifices to its own departed. Nor are the arts forgotten; a musical festival is held, and competing choirs sing and dance in honour of the god. Rhadamanthus and Minos were brothers. Both Rhadamanthus and Aeacus were renowned for their justice. Minos gave laws to Crete. They were rewarded for their endeavors with the position of judge in the Underworld. Aeacus holds the keys to Hades. Parents: Aeacus: Zeus and Aegina; Rhadamanthus and Minos: Zeus and Europa The incongruity of all this with any adequate conception of deity is patent, if once the critical attitude be adopted; and it was adopted by some of the clearest and most religious minds of Greece. Nay, even orthodoxy itself did not refrain from a genial and sympathetic criticism. Aristophanes, for example, who, if there had been an established church, would certainly have been described as one of its main pillars, does not scruple to represent his Birds as issuing— But if he hath sinned, like unto this man, and covereth hands that are blood-stained: then is our witness true to the slain man.
The Greek view of life (Book, 1919) [WorldCat.org] The Greek view of life (Book, 1919) [WorldCat.org]
What then was it? It is easy to reply that it was the worship of those gods—of Zeus, Apollo, Athene, and the rest—with whose names and histories every one is familiar. But the difficulty is to realise what was implied in the worship of these gods; to understand that the mythology which we regard merely as a collection of fables was to the Greeks actually true; or at least that to nine Greeks out of ten it would never occur that it might be false, might be, as we say, mere stories. So that though no doubt the histories of the gods were in part the inventions of the poets, yet the poets would conceive themselves to be merely putting into form what they and every one believed to be essentially true. Mother mine, wherefore dost thou not tarry for me who am eager to seize thee, that even in Hades we twain may cast our arms each about the other, and satisfy us with chill lament? Is it but a phantom that the high goddess Persephone hath sent me, to the end that I may groan for more exceeding sorrow?' Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special. Hearken to me, all gods and all ye goddesses, that I may tell you that my heart within my breast commandeth me. One thing let none essay, be it goddess or be it god, to wit, to thwart my saying; approve ye it all together, that with all speed I may accomplish these things. Whomsoever I shall perceive minded to go, apart from the gods, to succour Trojans or Danaans, chastened in no seemly wise shall he return to Olympus, or I will take and cast him into misty Tartaros, right far away, where is the deepest gulf beneath the earth; there are the gate of iron and threshold of bronze, as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth: then shall ye know how far I am mightiest of all gods. Go to now, ye gods, make trial that ye all may know. Fasten ye a rope of gold from heaven, and all ye gods lay hold thereof and all goddesses; yet could ye not drag from heaven to earth Zeus, counsellor supreme, not though ye toiled sore. But once I likewise were minded to draw with all my heart, then should I draw ye up with very earth and sea withal. Thereafter would I bind the rope about a pinnacle of Olympus, and so should all those things be hung in air. By so much am I beyond gods and beyond men." [Footnote: Iliad viii. 5.—Translated by Lang, Leaf and Myers.] If people had lived a good life & were remembered by the living they could enjoy the sunny pleasures of Elysium.Condition: Good. 1945. Hardcover. Nineteenth edition. In original cloth without dustwrapper. Clean copy with some shelf wear, minor foxing to endpapers and edges but remains a clean copy. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. It was an OK read, but as for it being "The Greek View of Life," it seemed more so this author view of " One Greek View of Life." (Like, maybe, his own interpretation of life during the Greek period.) The passage perhaps represents what we may call the typical attitude of the Greek. To seek consolation for death, if anywhere, then in life, and in life not as it might be imagined beyond the grave, but as it had been and would be lived on earth, appears to be consonant with all that we know of the clear and objective temper of the race. It is the spirit which was noted long ago by Goethe as inspiring the sepulchral monuments of Athens. Then said Evangelist, 'If this be thy condition, why standest thou still?' He answered, 'Because I know not whither to go.' Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, 'Fly from the wrath to come.'"
Can we hope to understand how the Greeks saw their world
Some Rights Reserved (2009-2023) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted.
and in the midst of this the signal given by the trumpet, the simultaneous draught of wine, and the prize adjudged to the man who is the first to empty his cup. better that, on earth at least and in the sun, than the phantom kingdoms of the dead. The fear of age and death is the shadow of the love of life; and on no people has it fallen with more horror than on the Greeks. The tenderest of their songs of love close with a sob; and it is an autumn wind that rustles in their bowers of spring. Here, for example, is a poem by Mimnermus characteristic of this mood of the Greeks: The performance of sacrifice, then, ensures favour; and on the other hand its neglect entails punishment. When Apollo sends a plague upon the Greek fleet the most natural hypothesis to account for his conduct is that he has been stinted of his due meed of offerings; "perhaps," says Agamemnon, "the savour of lambs and unblemished goats may appease him." Or again, when the Greeks omit to sacrifice before building the wall around their fleet, they are punished by the capture of their position by the Trojans. The whole relation between man and the gods is of the nature of a contract. "If you do your part, I'll do mine; if not, not!" that is the tone of the language on either side. The conception is legal, not moral nor spiritual; it has nothing to do with what we call sin and conscience. After crossing the river, you would leave the ferry and walk on to a place called the Asphodel Fields, where people forget all memories of their former life.