When did the Greeks stop believing in their gods?
#1
I found some information on a connected topic elsewhere, namely when the last pagans were converted (9th century), but I seriously doubt that these pagans believed in Zeus, Hera, Mercury, Mars, etc., as real beings. Rather, they probably believed in some sort of pantheism with these gods being emanations of the divine, or something. So my question is: when, approximately, did Greek religion change inasmuch as external rituals perhaps survived, but nobody believed in a pantheon residing on Olympus? I'd guess that when for the first time someone climbed Olympus, but probably earlier?

And the same regarding Egypt and Rome?
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#2
(10-06-2014, 04:27 PM)PolishTrad Wrote: I found some information on a connected topic elsewhere, namely when the last pagans were converted (9th century), but I seriously doubt that these pagans believed in Zeus, Hera, Mercury, Mars, etc., as real beings. Rather, they probably believed in some sort of pantheism with these gods being emanations of the divine, or something. So my question is: when, approximately, did Greek religion change inasmuch as external rituals perhaps survived, but nobody believed in a pantheon residing on Olympus? I'd guess that when for the first time someone climbed Olympus, but probably earlier?

And the same regarding Egypt and Rome?

I'm not really sure, but I think the question is a bit complicated by what it means that they "believed" in the Olympian pantheon. Certainly some did, but there seem to be Greeks from very remote periods that didn't and were monotheists - or more properly, henotheists, those who worship only one god but don't deny the existence of others. Probably many just continued to perform ancestral rites with little thought about whether the relevant deity "actually" existed - a common trait everywhere there are humans! There were full-blown materialists by the 5th century BC, and there are atheist characters in some of the plays. The early Romans are barely distinguishable from animists; they grafted (and renamed) the Olympian pantheon on top of the native religion of nature and hearth spirits. Lucretius (1st century BC) believed the gods existed, but they had no dealings with this world, and he denied the existence of an afterlife.
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#3
Paganism, with real polytheism as opposed to the rationalized faith of the philosophers, remained a vital force in the lives of simple, country people long after the cities became thoroughly Christian. Even in the sixth century, the Life of St. Benedict talks about resistance from local pagans in Italy. "Paganus" means rustic or country bumpkin, so this gives an indication of the circles in which the old ways were most resilient.
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