THE ARCHETYPES – THE FAMILY
Central to Greek religion in classical times were the twelve Olympian deities headed by Zeus. Each god was honored with stone temples and statues, and sanctuaries (sacred enclosures), which, although dedicated to a specific deity, often contained statues commemorating other gods.
They were a family of gods, the most important consisting of the first generation of Olympians, offspring of the Titans Cronus and Rhea: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter and Hestia, along with the principal offspring of Zeus: Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Dionysus.
The city-states would conduct various festivals and rituals throughout the year, with particular emphasis directed towards the patron god of the city, such as Athena at Athens, or Apollo at Corinth.
THE RELIGION OF REAL AND HISTORICAL HEROES
Religious practice would also involve the worship of heroes, people who were regarded as semi-divine. Such heroes ranged from the mythical figures in the epics of Homer to historical people such as the founder of a city.
THE NATURAL WORLD WAS DENSELY POPULATED
At the local level, the landscape was filled with sacred spots and monuments; for example, many statues of Nymphs were found near and around springs, and the stylized figures of Hermes could often be found on street corners.
ALEXANDER MIXED EUROPEAN AND CENTRAL ASIAN
In the aftermath of the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek culture spread widely and came into much closer contact with the civilizations of the Near East and Egypt.
The most significant changes to impact on Greek religion were the loss of independence of the Greek city-states to Macedonian rulers; the importation of foreign deities; and the development of new philosophical systems.
THE NEAR EAST BROUGHT DECLINE
***Older surveys of Hellenistic religion tended to depict the era as one of religious decline, discerning a rise in scepticism, agnosticism and atheism, as well as an increase in superstition, mysticism, and astrology.***
THE ARCHETYPAL GODS ARE SENSIBLE DIVISIONS OF THE WORLD:
-THE MASCULINE WORLD-
ZEUS (FATHER): King of the gods. God of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order and justice
ATHENA (WISDOM/POSITIVE) Goddess of wisdom, strategy, warfare and skill.
ARES: (PASSION/NEGATIVE) God of war, violence and destruction. The force of destruction, savage warfare and bloodlust.
-THE REAL WORLD-
APOLLO (UPPER): God of light, the sun, prophecy, philosophy, truth, inspiration, poetry, music, arts, medicine, healing.
HERMES(MIDDLE): god of travel, trade, diplomacy, persuasion, writings and athletics.
HEPHAESTUS(WORKING): god of craftsmanship, blacksmiths and stonemasonry.
-THE FEMININE WORLD-
HERA (MOTHER): Queen of the gods and the goddess of marriage, women, childbirth and family.
APHRODITE (DAUGHTER): goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation.
HESTIA(YOUNG DAUGHTER): Virgin goddess of hearth, the domestic affairs and home.
-THE NATURAL WORLD-
POSEIDON(NATURE’S POWER): God of the seas, water, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes (and horses).
ARTEMIS(BEASTS): Goddess of hunting and wilderness
DEMETER (AGRICULTURE): Goddess of the harvest, fertility, agriculture, nature and the seasons
DIONYISUS God of wine, festivals and pleasure.