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Egyptian Religions Overview• Native religions predominated Egypt for threemillennia before becoming Christian in fourth centuryAD• United Kingdom formed c. 3100 BC with capital atMemphis• Writing system, Hieroglyphics, devised at this time• Kings were believed to be incarnations of one of the gods (Horus the falcon god first—Re the sun god later)• Pharaohs claimed divine origin and ruled as gods, not merely as representatives of the gods
Egyptian Religions Overview• Large structures (pyramids) were built as stairways for the kings to ascend into the afterlife• The Great Pyramid of Giza was the outstandingachievement, built by Khufu (Gk Cheops, d. 2494)• Covering 13 acres and nearly 500 feet high, it is made of 2 million limestone blocks, most weighing several tons, which were cut and floated along the Nile, and put in place
Egyptian Religions CosmologiesGods & GoddessesAccording to one account, in the beginning there were eight lead gods in four couples Nut: The sky goddess - her body stretched out to form the heavens, beneath which lay the sun, moon, and stars Shu: god of the winds and air - the support of Nut Nun: god of the circular ocean Geb: god of the earth
Egyptian Religions Cosmologies Creation Occurred by One of Three Means From an egg laid by a heavenly goose The opening of a lotus flower, which revealed a divine son The opening of a lotus which produced a scarabbeetle: the scarab beetle was then transformed into aweeping boy whose tears became human beings The watery chaos, Nun, was stirred by Shu (Amnon), the wind god. This caused the city of Hermopolis to appear.
Egyptian Religions Osiris and Isis Osiris first appeared as both a god of fertility and as the personification of the dead king When the king died he became Osiris, and the new king became Horus (the falcon god) According to legend, the rule of Osiris over Egypt was a golden age, but his brother, Seth, was envious Seth persuaded Osiris into a coffin-like box and drowned him by throwing the box into the Nile The coffin floated out into the Mediterranean, ending up near the port of Byblos Isis, Orisis’ wife, recovered the body and returned it toEgypt
Egyptian Religions Osiris and Isis Seth found the body and cut it into many parts, scattering them over the countryside Isis reconstructed the parts into the first mummy Isis was able to conceive a son from the reconstructed body and gave birth to Horus Horus led a victorious war against Seth and became the first king over Egypt; Osiris became the god of theunderworld Osiris became honored as the giver of immortality,while Isis was honored as the model of dignity andfertility
Egyptian Religions Osiris and Isis• Osiris became more important than Re, the sun god• Many believed that devotion to Osiris guaranteed agood afterlife—now conceived as a parallel to the NileValley• In the underworld, a person’s heart was judged on thebalance scales by Anubis, the god of death.• If the heart did not outweigh the feather on the otherscale, the person was judged righteous• The unrighteous were torn to pieces by a fierce monster• The righteous were united with family in a pleasantworld (good but inferior to this world)
Egyptian Religions ScripturesPyramid Texts• Consists of inscriptions on pyramid walls concerning the ruler’s life and the hereafterCoffin Texts• Inscriptions on coffin lids concerning myths, temple rites, and stories about the deadThe Book of the Dead• Papyrus rolls which contain prayers relating to this life and the afterlife• Gives the largest amount of attention to the soul andafterlife of any of the documents
Egyptian Religions The Book of the Dead The Soul Consisted of Three Elements The “Ka” – a kind of double of the person United with the body at death and remained in the tomb, needing food offerings for survival The “Ba” – the spiritual aspect of the person Depicted as a bird that flew to heaven at the person’s death. Because some believed it returned at night,mummification was necessary The “Akh” – the dead person’s spirit Inhabited the underworld and reflected in hazy ways the person’s deeds on earth
Greek Religions – Overview• Greek speaking people called the “Archaeans” came to the Aegean region of central Europe c. 2000 BC• c. 1200 BC warlike Greeks called “Dorians” came to the region and captured the city of Troy• c. 750 BC Greeks emerged as city-states – Normally located near a commanding hill with a fortress —”acropolis”—on the top – At the lower level was the market place or “agora” – The agora served as the center of political and social life – It served as a sort of people’s church with a patron deity
Texts: Homer• No authoritative works of dogma or theology for the Greeks• Two Greek poets illustrate the nature of Greek religion: Homer and Hesiod• Homer’s “Illiad” details the Greek expedition against the city of Troy – Paris, son of Troy’s king, abducts Helen, the wife of Spart’s king, Menelaus – A coalition of Greek kings and nobles set out to recapture Helen, with Achilles as warrior hero
Homer– Achilles kills Hector, the hero of Troy, but is himself killed by a chance arrow to the heel– Eventually, the war ends—the Greeks are victorious— but are very cruel in their destruction of Troy– On the return home, many difficulties follow them– Homer brings the gods into the story in an overt manner Homer’s presentation of the god’s is almost comical,especially when considered against the backdrop of the struggle between the Greeks and Trojans.
Gods presented by Homer• Zeus: Chief Olympian god—father of the gods and ruler of the universe—also father of many semi-divine beings, the result of mating with mortal women (notable among these offspring is Hercules)• Hera: Jealous wife of Zeus, goddess of women, marriage, and childbirth• Apollo: Son of Zeus and a mortal, was a wise counselor who advised through the oracle at the cave of Delphi• Hermes: Messenger of his father Zeus and god of highways, marketplace, travelers, and highwaymen
Gods presented by Homer• Poseidon: God of the sea• Artemis (Diana): Apollo’s twin sister respected for her virginity and punishment of her unchaste nymphs, goddess of the moon and hunting• Athena: Goddess of wsidom, believed to have come from Zeus’ fully grown brain• Aphrodite: Goddess of love and beauty• Haphaestus (Vulcan): God of fire• Demeter: God of grainHera, Artemis, and Aphrodite, all relate to fertility and motherearth. Goddess worship, or fertility cults, may have existed in Greece before Zeus worship.
Texts: Hesiod• Lived in late 8th century BC• Attempted to give order to the numerous conflicting myths that had developed through the years• Wrote that the world was created by four primary spirits: Chaos (space), Gaea (earth), Tartarus (abyss), Eros (love)• In Hesiod’s account, Gaea created Uranus (heaven) and takes him as her husband, giving birth to the Titans (monsters and hundred headed giants)• At Gaea’s urging, the Titans rebel against Uranus, mutilating him and severing him from earth
Hesiod• Cronos and Rhea become rulers of the universe• Believing that he would be destroyed by one of his children, Cronos swallows each as they are born, except for Zeus who is spared by his mother• The Titan, Prometheus, deceived Zeus and stole fire from heaven• Zeus sends Pandora (the primal woman) to plague men and binds Prometheus, after which he leads the children of Cronos into battle against the Titans. The Titans are defeated and thrown into Tartarus• Zeus’ brothers, Poseidon and Hades become rulers of the sea and realm of the dead
Hesiod• In Hesiod’s account, religious observances are confined more to recognition of the gods than to moral concerns• Dionysius (god of wine) received many festivals• Every Spring a six day festival was held in his honor• One day in this spring festival included drama at a theater named in his honor• In all, about thirty festivals were held annually in Athens
Greek Mystery Religions• Secret cults (mystery religions) existed in addition to public worship of major gods• They were the result of dissatisfaction with traditions as they existed• Most were linked to agriculture (fertility); some to Osiris (death with promise of new life)• A major mystery religion was the Dionysians driven by the need for emotional satisfaction in religion – Sought to Demonstrate the joy and danger of drinking wine – Rites often excessive involving orgiastic dances, ecstasies of initiation ceremonies, tearing and eating of raw kid or bull flesh (attempting to rise above mortality and attain union with the gods)
Roman Religions: Overview• Many parallels to Greek religion including sharing many of the same gods, but with different names – Zeus (chief god) became Jupiter – Hera (wife of Zeus) became Minerva – Hermes (messenger god) became Mercury – Aphrodite (goddess of beauty) became Venus
Roman Religions: Overview• Romans also had state deities• Two of the most important were Vesta (goddess) & Janus (god): These represented home life as heart and door.• Janus had two faces so he could look both ways. January is named for him because it is a time for looking back and forward.• Vesta’s temple had an eternal flame, indicating her protection of Rome.• Vesta was attended by six “vestal virgins” chosen from patrician families.
Roman Religions: Overview• Other deities personified abstractions of things important to the Romans, such as health, peace, fortune, plenty, and justice (a blindfolded god holding a balance)• In later years, the emporer became an object of worship; by the 3rd century AD this involved worship of the living emperor as a god• Led to persecution for the emerging Christian church