Greek Mythology played a huge role in the development of Ancient Greece. Not only did it surround the basic structures of their buildings, it also surrounded the structure of their everyday lives. The way they would pray, the way they would complete everyday tasks, and the way they lived all centered around the gods and goddesses of Greek Mythology.
“People prayed to these gods for the same reasons we pray today: for health and safety, for prosperity, for a good harvest, for safety at sea. Mostly they prayed as communities, and through offerings and sacrifice they sought to please the inscrutable deities who they believed controlled their lives” (National Geographic’s). The Greeks looked to Hades (God of the Underworld) whenever it came to death. The places where Hades ruled (The Unseen) was described as “moldering horror where heroes and ordinary people went after they died” (National Geographic’s). The Greeks began making afterlife kind of like a personal quest rather than a joyless fate. They wanted to complete whatever it was that was holding them there so that they could move on. Rather it be to a worse or a far better place. They had mystery cults that would provide guidance to the path each individual person needed to follow after their death. With the belief the Greeks had, multiple cults emerged claiming to help cleanse the soul and lead them on the right path. “And when Christianity swept the ancient world, it carried with it, along with guidance from a single deity, remnants of the old beliefs: the washing away of human corruption through mystic rites, the different fates awaiting the initiated and uninitiated, and the reverence for sacred texts” (National Geographic’s). Believing that death could be good or bad for the Greeks, they sought out the ancestors’ favor with honors and offerings. Along with the help of their ancestors, they also believed that initiation into the right cult also played a part in their ultimate destination for afterlife.
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Greek Mythology does not have an actual Bible, like Christianity, instead their religion is an “oral tradition that started in the Bronze age and their plots and themes unfolded gradually in the written literature of the archaic and classical periods” (History). The Greeks worshipped multiple different gods each with different personalities and domain. There were twelve principal deities in the Greek pantheon. The two most important, and best known, are Zeus (god of the sky and father of all other gods) and Hades (god of the underworld). The relationship between human beings and deities was based on the concept of exchange: gods and goddesses were expected to give gifts. Votive offerings, which have been excavated from sanctuaries by the thousands, were a physical expression of thanks on the part of individual worshippers (metmuseum). They worshipped in sanctuaries located within the countryside or the city. “A sanctuary was a well-defined sacred space set apart usually by an enclosure wall. This sacred precinct, also known as a temenos, contained the temple with a monumental cult image of the deity, an outdoor altar, statues and votive offerings to the gods, and often features of landscape such as sacred trees or springs. Many temples benefited from their natural surroundings, which helped to express the character of the divinities” (metmuseum). The ritual act that many Greeks preformed was animal sacrifice. They mostly sacrificed oxen, goats, and sheep. They would sacrifice the animals at alters in front of the temples. They had groups of people that would consume the remains of the animals after the sacrifices. “Religious festivals, literally feast days, filled the year. The four most famous festivals, each with its own procession, athletic competitions (14.130.12), and sacrifices, were held every four years at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and Isthmia.” (metmuseum).
Not only did religion play a huge role in Greek Mythology, so did the structures of their society. As mentioned above, they had temples set for the gods and goddesses for sacrifice purposes. Greek Architecture has influenced many cities and states to this day. “One very obvious area of influence is architecture: Just look at the downtown of nearly any major city in the U.S., or many of the great cities of Europe. Ancient Greek influence is lurking within the facades of buildings as varied as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Prado Museum in Madrid, and Downing College, Cambridge University, in Cambridge, England. When we think of ancient Greek architecture, we are generally referring to temple architecture (or other public buildings, rather than residential). Ancient Greek temples featured proportional design, columns, friezes, and pediments, usually decorated with sculpture in relief. These elements give ancient Greek architecture its distinctive character” (owlation). The Greeks gave their buildings all kind of similar design. They had kind of a “godly” look to them. Usually to appeal to the gods and goddesses that they will be praising. They used their buildings usually for religious purposes. They had sacrifices, praises, meetings, and everything else being held in their buildings. The buildings were built to perfection, as a way to provide “comfort” and “solitude” to the gods. The people only wanted to please them, because they felt the gods and goddesses saw everything and judged everything. They did not want to disappoint them. To the people, the buildings were the gods houses’. They did no bad, no wrong, or even go against the gods in the buildings. Much like how Christian’s are in church. The church is God’s home and we give him the upmost respect in there. The Greeks did the same thing. That is why their buildings were built the way they were.
To the people, the gods and goddesses controlled everything. Ultimately you were sent to the underworld after death, not hell or heaven, but the underworld. It was the place where you stayed until you “finished your unfinished business”. The people began viewing it as a personal quest for them. Almost like, who will stay here the longest? And who will be going to Heaven? Who will be going to hell? The Greeks involved their everyday life to the gods and goddesses. They would not do anything that did not in some shape or form involve them. They did sacrifices to please them, they lived by their codes, they built buildings that were fit for them. Greece was surrounded by Greek Mythology. Their gods were much different than the God that Christians praise. They each had their own way of life, their own “power”, their own thing that they ruled. There are a total of twelve of them. One was Zeus, the god of the sky and the father of all gods. Then there is Hades, the god of the underworld. Poseidon, god of the sea. Hera, Zeus’s wife and sister, queen of all gods. Athena, patron goddess of Athens. Apollo, god of music and prophecy. Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister, patroness of hunting. Hermes, messenger god. Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. Dionysos, god of wine and theater. Ares, god of war. Hephaistos, god of metalworking. The people all believed that Mount Olympus, which was the highest mountain in Greece, was where the gods and goddesses all resided. Their buildings looked to the mountain, tall enough to be seen. The people worshipped that mountain along with all the deities that they believed resided it. “Essentially, the Greeks worshipped numerous gods, making their religion polytheistic. They believed that exercising the opportunity to choose between a wide array of gods to worship offered them a great sense of freedom that they treasured. After all, the Greeks were known for their intellectual distinction of which their means of worship played a huge part. Each city-state, or polis, thus had an affiliated god who protected and guided its residents” (Histoty). The Greeks believed in all twelve gods, because not one god or goddess was equal or was “god” of the same thing. Allowing the Greeks to believe in multiple different people for multiple different reasons.
Greeks believed in so many different gods so that they could have an array of people to praise. Giving them the sense of freedom that they loved. They were not contained to one god, and they did not have to follow the words of one religious figure. They could follow the words of multiple religious figures, and if they did not believe or agree with one there were eleven more to turn to. Greeks were a very “freedom loving” society. They felt that people should have a choice in what and whom they believe in. Thus, starting Greek Mythology so they could have multiple people to look up to.
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