Introducing New Gods: The Politics of Athenian Religion

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Cornell University Press, 1992 - History - 234 pages
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The religious imagination of the Greeks, Robert Garland observes, was populated by divine beings whose goodwill could not be counted upon, and worshipers faced a heavy burden of choice among innumerable deities to whom they might offer their devotion. These deities--and Athenian polytheism itself--remained in constant flux as cults successively came into favor and waned. Examining the means through which the Athenians established and marketed cults, this handsomely illustrated book is the first to illuminate the full range of motives--political and economic, as well as spiritual--which prompted them to introduce new gods.
Greek religion was infused with the passions of those who created it, Garland asserts, and must be understood in the context of wider social and political developments. Drawing on a wealth of literary and archaeological evidence, he investigates religious innovations at critical points in Athenian history from the Persian Wars in the eighth century B.C. down to the trial of Sokrates in 399 on charges including his failure to acknowledge state-recognized gods. While paying particular attention to the development of the Athenian cults of Pan, Artemis Aristoboule, Theseus, Bendis, and Asklepios, Garland provides a rich overview of features characteristic of religious expression throughout the Greek world.
Introducing New Gods reconstructs the religious life of Athens with a compelling mix of imagination and insight. Classicists, ancient historians, and anyone interested in the history of religion will welcome it.

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