Greek Popular Religion, by Martin P. Nilsson, , at sacred-texts.com
Greek religion in its various aspects has been the subject of numerous investigations. Modern research has progressed along two lines especially, the search for primitive survivals and the study of the literary expressions of religion. The first is attributable to the rise of the science of anthropology since the seventies of the last century. In this science the study of Greek religion, viewed as a direct development from a primitive nature religion, has always taken a prominent place. I need only mention the names of Andrew Lang, Sir James Frazer, and Jane Harrison. While it is true that there were very many relics of primitive religion in Greek religion, it must be remembered that Greece was a highly civilized country and that even its most backward inhabitants were subject to the influence of its culture. It is misleading, therefore, to represent Greek religion as essentially primitive. The primitive elements were modified and overlaid by higher elements through the development of Greek culture. They were survivals and must be treated as such.
The second line of research has been pursued by philologists, who, quite naturally from their point of view, found the highest and most valuable expression of Greek religious thought in the works of the great writers and philosophers. I may recall the names of such men as Lewis Campbell, James Adam, and Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. The philologists neglect or impatiently brush aside the popular aspects of Greek religion as less valuable and less well known. It is true that the religion of
the masses was on a lower level than the religious ideas of eminent literary men, but it is also true that those ideas made hardly any impression on the development of Greek religion. The writers were not prophets, and the philosophers were seekers of wisdom, not of religious truth. The fate of religion is determined by the masses. The masses are, indeed, susceptible to high religious ideas if they are carried away by a religious genius, but only one such genius arose in Greece, Plato. Even he wished to be regarded as a philosopher rather than as a prophet, and he was accepted as such by his contemporaries. The religious importance of his thought did not come to the fore until half a millennium after his death, although since that time all religions have been subject to his influence.
I should perhaps mention a third kind of inquiry which has been taken up by scholars in recent years, especially in Germany. Their endeavors cannot properly be called research, however, for they have been directed to the systematizing of the religious ideas of the Greeks and the creation of a kind of theology, or, as the authors themselves express it, to revealing the intrinsic and lasting values of Greek religion. To this class belong, among others, W. F. Otto and E. Peterich. The great risk they run is that of imputing to the Greeks a systematization such as is found in religions which have laid down their creeds in books. The Greeks had religious ideas, of course, but they never made them into a system. What the Greeks called theology was either metaphysics, or the doctrine of the persons and works of the various gods. 1
It is of the greatest importance to attain a well-founded knowledge of Greek popular religion, for the fate of Greek religion as a whole depended on it. It is incorrect to say that we have not the means to acquire such knowledge, for the
means are at hand: first, in our information about the cults in which the piety of believers expressed itself; second, in hints by the writers of the classical period; and third, in archaeological discoveries. As I have stated, we ought not to mistake the popular religion for the primitive elements, which persisted in great measure but were subject to and influenced by the development of Greek civilization and political life.
In beginning my exposition of Greek popular religion I want to draw attention to a point of primary importance. In the latter part of the archaic age and in the classical age the leading cities of Greece were more and more industrialized and commercialized. Greek civilization was urban. Many parts of Greece, however, remained in a backward state, and while they are of no importance in the history of civilization and political life, they are important in the history of religion. For they still preserved the mode of life which had been common in earlier times, when the inhabitants of Greece were peasants, compelled to subsist on the products of their own country--the crops, the fruits, the flocks, and the herds.
In trying to understand Greek popular religion we must start from the agricultural and pastoral life of the countryside, which was neither very advanced nor very primitive culturally. The Greek peasant usually lived in a large village. Many ancient cities with names familiar in history were but villages similar to those found in Greece today. Let us imagine a Greek peasant. He rose early, as simple people always do, before dawn. In the dusk of the morning he looked for the stars which were beginning to wane above the eastern horizon, where the growing light announced the rising of the sun. The stars were for him only indications of the time of the year, not objects of worship. He greeted the rising sun with a kiss of the hand, as he greeted the first swallow or the first
kite, but he did not pay it any reverence. He needed rain, and sometimes cool weather, more than he needed the sun. He looked at the highest mountaintop in the neighborhood. Maybe it wore a cloudcap. This was promising, for up there on the top of the mountain sat Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, the thrower of the thunderbolt, the rain-giver. He was a great god. He had other aspects of which we shall hear later. The roar of the thunder was the sign of his power and presence--sometimes of his anger. He smote the high mountains, the tall oaks, and occasionally man with his thunderbolt. But the flash of the lightning and the roar of the thunder were followed by the rain, which moistened the soil and benefited the crops, the grass, and the fruits.
It was seldom necessary to pray for rain in Greece, for the course of the seasons is much more regular there than in northern Europe. Late autumn and winter bring rain; summer brings drought and heat. On the other hand, the weather is not so regular that certain days of the year could be fixed upon for weather magic. This is the reason why as weather god Zeus had few festivals. Sometimes heat and drought were excessive. Myths have much to tell about these disasters, and it is related that they were sometimes so great that the most extreme of all sacrifices, a human sacrifice, was offered. Two such sacrifices are recorded from historical times, one to Zeus Lykaios and one to Zeus Laphystios. 2 Zeus Lykaios received his name from the high mountain in southwestern Arcadia, Lykaion, on the top of which he had a famous sanctuary. Zeus Laphystios was named after the mountain Laphystion in Boeotia, although his cult belonged to Halos in Thessaly. On Mount Lykaion there was a well called Hagno. When there was need of rain the priest of Zeus went to this well, performed
ceremonies and prayers, and dipped an oak twig into the water. Thereupon a haze arose from the well and condensed into clouds, and soon there was rain all over Arcadia.
Zeus Laphystios is well known from the myth of the Golden Fleece, according to which Phrixos and Helle, who were to be sacrificed because of a drought, saved themselves by riding away on a ram with a golden fleece. Their mother was called Nephele (cloud). At the bottom of this myth is weather magic such as is known to have been practiced at several places in Greece, including Mount Pelion, not far from Halos. At the time of the greatest heat young men girt with fresh ram fleeces went up to the top of this mountain in order to pray to Zeus Akraios for cool weather. 3 From this fleece, Zeus was called Melosios on Naxos, 4 and the fleece, which was used in several rites, for example, in the initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries, was called Zeus' fleece (Dios kodion). It is generally said to have been a means of purification and propitiation, and so it was. But its origin is to be found in the weather magic by which the weather god was propitiated. It had a place at Athens in the cult of Zeus Maimaktes, the stormy Zeus, who gave his name to the stormy winter month of Maimakterion.
We are told that in other places, also, people went to the mountain of Zeus to pray for rain. Ombrios and Hyetios are common epithets of Zeus, and we hear of sanctuaries of Zeus on Olympus and on various other mountaintops, such as the highest mountain of the island of Aegina, where he was called Zeus Panhellenios. In this sanctuary a building was erected
to accommodate his visitors. Probably the weather god Zeus ruled from the highest peak in every neighborhood. It is supposed that Hagios Elias, who nowadays has a chapel everywhere on the mountaintops, is his successor.
We follow our peasant on his way. We pass the gardens and cornfields where most of his work was done. We shall return to them later. We follow him to those parts of the countryside which were not subject to the labor of men--the meadows and the pasture grounds, the mountains and the forests. Even in modern Greece there are vast tracts of land which cannot be cultivated, and the extent of such land was greater in antiquity. If our peasant passed a heap of stones, as he was likely to do, he might lay another stone upon it. If a tall stone was erected on top of the heap, he might place before it a bit of his provision as an offering (Fig. 3). He performed this act as a result of custom, without knowing the real reason for it, but he knew that a god was embodied in the stone heap and in the tall stone standing on top of it. He named the god Hermes after the stone heap (herma) in which he dwelt, and he called the tall stone a herm. Such heaps were welcome landmarks to the wanderer who sought his way from one place to another through desert tracts, and their god became the protector of wayfarers. And if, by chance, the wayfarer found on the stone heap something, probably an offering, which would be welcome to the poor and hungry, he ascribed this lucky find to the grace of the god and called it a hermaion.
Our peasant or his forefathers knew that the stone heaps sometimes covered a dead man and that the stone erected on top was a tombstone. Accordingly, the god who dwelt in the stone heap had relations with the dead. Although the people brought libations and food offerings to the dead in their tombs, they also believed in a common dwelling place of the dead.
[paragraph continues] Such contradictions are hardly noticed by simple people. This abode of the dead, the dark and gloomy Hades, was some-where far away beneath the earth. On leaving their earthly home, the souls needed someone to show them the way, and nobody was more appropriate for this function than the protector of wayfarers, who dwelt in the stone heaps. Hermes, the guide of souls, is known not only from literature but also from pictures, in which he is represented with a magic rod in his hand, permitting the souls, small winged human figures, to ascend and sending them down again through the mouth of a large jar (Fig. 2) . Such jars were often used for burial purposes.
Perhaps our peasant wanted to look after his stock, which grazed on the meadows and mountain slopes. The god of the stone heaps was concerned with them, too. The story, told in the Homeric Hymn, how, when a babe, he stole the oxen of Apollo, is a humorous folk tale invented by herdsmen who did not hesitate to augment their herds by fraud and rejoiced in such profitable tricks. One may think of the Biblical story of Jacob and Laban. To Hermes such stories were no boon, for he became the god of thieves.
On Olympus Hermes was a subordinate god, the messenger of the gods, and we know him chiefly as such. I take no ac-count of later additions to his functions, which made him a god of commerce, of gymnastics, and of rhetoric. He was especially popular in one of the backward provinces of Greece, Arcadia, the land of shepherds. Here, too, the herms were especially popular in cult. Attention has recently been drawn to a series of Arcadian herms, some of which are double or triple and inscribed with the names of various gods in the genitive 5 (Fig. 1). Other gods than Hermes were also embodied
in these stone pillars, a relic of the old stone cult, which has left many traces.
According to Hesiod and the Homeric Hymn, Hermes cared for and protected the livestock, but we do not find many evidences of this function in his cult. It fell to other gods. Apollo is called Lykeios, an epithet which surely describes him not as the light god but as the wolf god. And why should not the shepherds have appealed to the great averter of evil for protection against the most dangerous foe of their flocks, the wolf? Pastoral life found expression in another god who was always especially Arcadian, Pan. He came to Athens late--not until the time of the Persian wars. He is represented with the legs and face of a goat; he is as ruttish as the he-goat; he plays the syrinx, as the shepherds do in the lazy hours when the flocks graze peacefully; but he may also cause a sudden panic, when the animals, seized for some unknown reason by fright, rush away headlong.
There are many rivers in Greece, but few of them are large. Most of them are small and precipitous, and many are dry in summer. Water is scarce in Greece, and so the benefits received from the rivers are especially appreciated. In ancient times the rivers were holy. An army did not cross a river without making a sacrifice to it, and Hesiod prescribes that one should not cross a river without saying a prayer and washing one's hands in its water. The aid of the rivers was sought for the fertility not only of the land but also of mankind. After the sixth century B.C., names taken from certain rivers were common, for instance, Kephisodotos, the gift of Kephisos. When the young man cut his long hair, he dedicated the locks to the neighboring river.
The rivers each had their god. These gods are represented in the shape of a bull or a bull with a human head (Fig. 6). Such a figure is sometimes called by the name of the great river
in northwestern Greece, Acheloos, and Acheloos was venerated in several places in Greece. It is not clear whether the god of the river Acheloos was on his way to becoming a common river god or whether Acheloos is an old word for water. At all events, as the rivers were individualized, so too were their gods.
River spirits in the shape of a bull are well known from European folklore of the present day, and they are certainly an ancient heritage. The river spirit appears just as often, however, in the shape of a horse. This is true, for example, in Sweden and in Scotland. One of the great gods, Poseidon, is closely connected with the horse as well as with water. It is related in some myths that he appeared in the shape of a horse and that he created the horse. He brought forth a spring on the Acropolis of Athens with a stroke of his trident, and Pegasus brought forth the spring of Hippocrene on Mount Helicon with a stroke of his hoof. Other springs, such as Aganippe, also have names referring to the horse. No doubt the water spirit appeared in the shape of a horse also, but the springs had other deities who carried the day, the nymphs, to whom we shall come presently.
To the seafaring Ionians, Poseidon was the god of the sea. On the mainland of Greece, and especially in the Peloponnesus, he was the god of horses and of earthquakes. Earthquakes occur in Greece not infrequently, and when the earth began to tremble, the Spartans used to sing a paean to Poseidon. There is a certain connection between the rivers and the earthquakes, for many rivers in Greece sink down into the ground, eroding the limestone, and flow in subterranean channels for long distances until they break forth again in a mighty stream. The nature philosophers took over from the people the opinion that the earthquakes were caused by this eroding of the ground by the rivers. It is understandable, therefore,
that the god of water was also the god of earthquakes. One of the epithets by which he was designated in Laconia, Gaiaochos, has been interpreted as "he who drives beneath the earth."
The Greeks also knew other horse-shaped daemons, the centaurs and the seilenoi. The centaurs have in part the body of a horse and in part that of a man. Homer calls them beasts. They appear only in the myths of art and literature, and they seem to have been localized in two districts, Mount Pelion and northwestern Arcadia. There is no doubt that they were de-rived from popular belief. If the proposed etymology, according to which the word means "water whipper," 6 is correct, they were water spirits. In that case, one might believe that they were originally spirits of the precipitous mountain torrents. At all events, their character is rough and violent. They resemble the spirits of wood and wilderness which appear in the folklore of northern Europe. They represent the fierce and rough aspects of nature. They are depicted as using uprooted fir trees for weapons and as carrying the victims of the chase on a pole.
There is another kind of horse daemon, which is often represented in works of art of Ionian origin. These daemons are distinguished from the centaurs by having the body of a man with the legs and tail of a horse and by being ithyphallic. There has been a lengthy discussion concerning their name. It was proposed to assign to these daemons, which were confined to the Ionian area, the name of seilenoi--we know from inscriptions that they were so called--in distinction from the goatlike satyrs, which were supposed to be Dorian. 7 The attempt
to make such a distinction has failed. Proper names prove that seilenoi were well known in the Peloponnesus also, 8 and their value as testimony is the greater because they prove that the seilenoi belong not only to mythology but also to popular belief. Moreover, there are archaic statuettes from Arcadia showing daemons with a human body and features of goats and other animals (Fig. 4). These goatlike daemons are sometimes called panes, and they are certainly akin to Pan. The seilenoi and the satyrs have intercourse with the nymphs, and very often they appear dancing and frolicking with the maenads, for they were made companions of Dionysus. We do not know the exact reason why this came about. It is supposed that they were fertility daemons, just as Dionysus was a vegetation god. As a consequence, they appear only in mythology, not in cult. But it is evident that the Greeks peopled untamed nature, the mountains and the forests, with various daemons which were thought of as having half-animal, half-human shape. This is one of the many similarities between Greek mythology and the popular beliefs of northern Europe, in which similar daemons and spirits are numerous. There can be no doubt that centaurs, seilenoi, and satyrs were created by popular belief, although art and literature appropriated them and they had no cult.
Like the peoples of northern Europe, the Greeks knew not only male but also female spirits of nature, the nymphs. The word signifies simply young women, and, unlike the male daemons, the nymphs are always thought of in purely human shape. They are beautiful and fond of dancing. They are benevolent. But they may also be angry and threatening. If a man goes mad it is said that he has been caught by the nymphs. In ancient Greek mythology, as elsewhere, we find the folktale
motif of a man compelling a nymph to become his wife. She bears him children but soon returns to her native element. Thetis was originally a sea nymph whom Peleus won by wrestling with her. She soon abandoned his house and only returned from time to time to look after her son, Achilles. Nymphs are often mothers of mythical heroes.
The nymphs are almost omnipresent. They dwell on the mountains, in the cool caves, in the groves, in the meadows, and by the springs. There are also sea nymphs--the Nereids--and tree nymphs. The nymphs had cults at many places, especially at springs and in caves (Fig. 8). Caves with remains of such cults have been discovered. Most interesting is the cave at Vari on Mount Hymettus. 9 In the fifth century B.C., a poor man of Theraean origin, Archedemos, who styles himself "caught by the nymphs," planted a garden, decorated the cave, and engraved inscriptions on its walls. Still more interesting is a cave which was recently discovered at Pitza in the neighborhood of Corinth. 10 The discovery is famous especially for its well-preserved paintings on wood in Corinthian style. One of these tablets represents a sacrifice to the nymphs, and the other represents women. There are a lot of terracottas representing women--some of whom are pregnant--Pan, satyrs, and various animals. The character of the cult and its connection with the nature daemons and with animals is evident, but, on the other hand, it appears that it was preeminently a cult of women and that the women applied to the nymphs for help in childbirth. Such cults are also found in other places. In the so-called prison of Socrates at Athens, where a century ago women brought offerings to the Moirai
for success in marriage and childbirth, 11 the Moirai may have succeeded the nymphs. The nymphs were very popular in cult. They were beautiful and kind and represented the gentle and benevolent aspects of nature and of almost all its parts. It is quite understandable that they were venerated by women especially. Although the cults of women were not absolutely separated from those of men, men and women went different ways and had different occupations in daily life, as they still do in the Greek countryside. The women had their special concerns centering around marriage and childbirth, and it was only natural that they should apply to divinities of their own sex. The nymphs were to be found everywhere and were supposed to be especially benevolent to those of their own sex.
There is a great goddess who is very similar to the nymphs and who is accompanied by nymphs, namely Artemis, "Lady of the Wild Things" (Fig. 5). She haunts the mountains and the meadows; she is connected with the tree cult and with springs and rivers; she protects women in childbirth; and she watches over little children. Girls brought offerings to her before their marriage. Her aspect is different in different parts of Greece, but it always goes back to the general characteristics just mentioned, except that one or another of them comes more into the foreground. Her habitual appearance is determined by Homer and the great art and literature of Attica. She is the virgin twin sister of Apollo and by preference the goddess of hunting. How her relation to Apollo came about is not clear. We may only remark here that both carry the bow as their weapon. Of course, the goddess who haunts the mountains and the forests with a bow in her hand is a hunting goddess. Artemis was much more than that, but the Homeric knights, as well as the inhabitants of the great Ionian cities,
had no relation to the free life of nature except in the sport of hunting, which they loved. Hence, this side of Artemis' nature was especially emphasized.
Other very interesting and very popular aspects of Artemis' nature were prominent, especially in the Peloponnesus. She was closely connected with the tree cult. She is sometimes called Lygodesma, because her image was wound round with willow; Caryatis, after the chestnut; and Cedreatis, after the cedar. Dances and masquerades of a very free and even lascivious character assumed a prominent place in many of her cults, in which men as well as women took part. Cymbals have been found in the temple of Artemis Limnatis in the borderland between Laconia and Messenia. 12 During the excavations of the British School in the famous sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta, a number of terracotta masks, representing grotesque faces of both men and women, were found (Fig. 7) . It is very probable that similar masks were worn by the dancers who performed in this cult. In these customs we find the popular background for the mythological Artemis who dances with her nymphs.
Artemis was the most popular goddess of Greece. She was the leader of the nymphs, and, in fact, she herself was but the foremost of the nymphs. Archedemos, who decorated the cave of Vari, dedicated his inscriptions to the nymphs, but one of them is addressed to the Nymph, in the singular. One of the crowd of nymphs was singled out as a representative of them all, and she became the great goddess Artemis.
Christianity easily swept away the great gods, but the minor daemons of popular belief offered a stubborn resistance. They were nearer the living rock. The Greek peasant of today still believes in the nymphs, though he gives them all the old name
of the sea nymphs, Neraids. They haunt the same places, they have the same appearance and the same occupations, and the same tales are told of them. It is remarkable that they have a queen, called "the Great Lady," "the Fair Lady," or even "the Queen of the Mountains." Perhaps she is a last remembrance of the great goddess Artemis, or perhaps there has been a recurrence of the process by which Artemis, the foremost of the nymphs, became a great goddess. Nobody knows, but the fact that the nymphs alone survive in modern popular belief is a telling argument for their popularity among the Greek people in ancient times.
What interests primitive man is not nature in itself but nature so far as it intervenes in human life and forms a necessary and obvious basis for it. In the foreground are the needs of man together with nature as a means of satisfying those needs, for upon the generosity of nature depends whether men shall starve or live in abundance. Therefore, in a scantily watered land such as Greece, the groves and meadows where the water produces a rich vegetation are the dwelling places of the nature spirits, and so are the forests and mountains where the wild beasts live. In the forests the nymphs dance; centaurs, satyrs, and seilenoi roam about; and Pan protects the herds, though he may also drive them away in a panic. The life of nature becomes centered in Artemis, who loves hills and groves and well-watered places and promotes that natural fertility which does not depend upon the efforts of man.
Anyone who wishes to understand the religion of antiquity should have before him a living picture of the ancient landscape as it is represented in certain Pompeian frescoes 13 (Fig. 9) and in Strabo's description of the lowland at the mouth of
the river Alpheus. 14 "The whole tract," Strabo says, "is full of shrines of Artemis, Aphrodite, and the nymphs, in flowery groves, due mainly to the abundance of water; there are numerous hermae on the roads and shrines of Poseidon on the headlands by the sea." One could hardly have taken a step out of doors without meeting a little shrine, a sacred enclosure, an image, a sacred stone, or a sacred tree. Nymphs lived in every cave and fountain. This was the most persistent, though not the highest, form of Greek religion. It outlived the fall of the great gods.
This is not the end of the story. Our peasant certainly passed on his way other small sanctuaries or groves where he paid his respects. Not gods or nature daemons but heroes dwelt in them 15 (Fig. 10). Although modern scholars have proffered other opinions, the Greeks were persuaded that a hero was a man who had once lived, who died and was buried, and who lay in his grave at the place where he was venerated. I should think it likely that our peasant had heard weird stories about heroes, such as those about the hero of Temesa, to whom the most beautiful virgin of the town had to be sacrificed until the famous boxer Euthymus drove him out in a regular fight, or about the hero Orestes, whom the Athenians did not like to meet at night because he was apt to give them a beating and to tear off their clothes. If our peasant became sick he believed, perhaps, that some hero had attacked him. In other words, ghost stories such as are not yet forgotten were told of the heroes. The hero was a dead man who walked about corporeally, a revenant such as popular belief tells of everywhere. But this aspect of the heroes lingered only in the background, for in Greece the heroes had cults and were generally
helpful. Their cult was bound to their tomb, and their power was bound to their relics, which were buried in the tomb. This is the reason why their bones were sometimes dug up and transferred to another place. Cimon, for example, fetched the bones of Theseus from the island of Scyros to Athens, and the Lacedaemonians with some difficulty found the bones of Orestes beneath a smithy at Tegea and transferred them to Sparta when they wanted his help in the war against the Arcadians. The heroes were especially helpful in war. The sense which the word "hero" had in Homer, namely "warrior," was not forgotten either, and the heroes were particularly well suited to defend the land in which they were buried. In the battle of Marathon, Theseus rose from the ground to fight with his people against the Persians. The Locrians in Italy left a place open in the file for Aias, and in the battle of Sagra he was said to have wounded the commander of their foes, the Crotoniates. It sometimes occurred that a people sent its heroes to help another people.
There were an exceedingly large number of hero tombs and sanctuaries all over the countryside. The names of only the best known of these heroes, and especially those with mythological names, are recorded. Very many were anonymous or called only by some such epithet as "the leader." Others were designated simply by the place where their cult was located. This fact emerges, for example, from the sacrificial calendar of the Marathonian tetrapolis, 16 in which we find four couples, each consisting of a hero and a heroine, and in addition to these some other heroes. In the inscription of the Salaminioi, 17 which was discovered recently during the American excavations at Athens, we also find a series of heroes designated by the localities of their cults in the neighborhood of Sunium.
The heroes were exceedingly numerous; they were found everywhere; and they were close to the people. They were thought to appear in very concrete form. It is not to be wondered at that the people applied to them for help in all their needs. They were often healers of diseases, like the Mohammedan saints, whose tombs are often hung with patches torn from the clothes of the sick. Asclepius himself was a hero. He ousted many other heroes who were locally venerated as healers of sickness. Thus the heroes were good for almost everything, and this fact explains why minor local gods who were too insignificant to be reckoned as true gods were received among the number of the heroes. This is the reason why some scholars were prone to consider the heroes as debased gods or "special gods." I cannot enter into this complicated problem, which Farnell has treated fully in his book on the hero cults. I have only wished to give a concrete idea of the importance of the cult of the heroes for the Greek people.
The similarity of the heroes to the saints of the Catholic Church is striking and has often been pointed out. The power of the saints, like that of the heroes, is bound to their relics, and just as the relics of the saints are transferred from one place to another, so were those of the heroes. Moreover, the oracle of Delphi prescribed that a hero cult should be devoted to a dead man if it appeared that a supernatural power was attached to his relics, and the pope canonizes a saint for similar reasons. The cult of the heroes corresponded to a popular need which was so strong that it continued to exist in Christian garb.
I have tried to give as well as possible in a limited space a concrete idea of Greek rustic religion as far as it was concerned with the free life of nature and with the heroes. Nature was peopled with spirits, daemons, and gods. They haunted the
mountains and the forests. They dwelt in trees and stones, in rivers and wells. Some of them were rough and dreadful, as the wilderness is, while others were gentle and benevolent. Some of them promoted the life of nature and also protected mankind. The great gods are less prominent in this sphere. Zeus holds his place as the god of the weather, the hurler of the thunderbolt, and the sender of rain. Poseidon appears as the god of water and earthquakes. Hermes is really a minor god, the spirit embodied in the stone heaps, who has been introduced into Olympus by Homeric poetry. Artemis is the foremost of the nymphs who has grown into a great goddess. The innumerable heroes are protectors of the soil in which their bones are laid, ready to help their fellow countrymen in all their needs, linked with both the past and the present.
This aspect of Greek religion was certainly not the highest, but it was the most enduring. It was close to the earth, which is the source of all religion and from which even the great gods sprang. The great gods were overthrown and soon forgotten by the people. The nature daemons and the heroes were not so easily dealt with. The nature spirits have lived on in the mind of the people to this day, as they have in other parts of Europe, although they were not acknowledged by the Church, which called them evil daemons, nor by educated people, who regarded them as products of superstition. The cult of the heroes took on a Christian guise and survived in much the same forms, except that the martyrs and the saints succeeded the heroes.
These facts prove that we have here encountered a religion which corresponds to deep-lying ideas and needs of humanity. They also prove the importance of this kind of religion in antiquity. It was a religion of simple and unlettered peasants, but it was the most persistent form of Greek religion.
4:1 θεολογία is πρώτη φιλοσοφία, Aristotle, Metaphysica, X, p. 1064a, ll. 33 ff. The persons and the works of the gods are described by Cornutus in a book entitled Ἐπιδορμή τῶν κατὰ τήν ἑλληνικήν θεολογίαν παραδεδομέων.
6:2 Herodotus, VII, 197, and Pseudo-Plato, Minos, p. 315c; Theophrastus in Porphyrius, De abstinentia, II, 27.
7:3 C. Müller, ed., Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum (Paris, 1841-73), II, 262.
7:4 Inscriptiones Graecae, consilio et auctoritate Academiae litterarum regiae borussicae editae (Berlin, 1873-), Vol. XII, Fasc. 5, No. 48; interpretation by A. B. Cook, Zeus; a Study in Ancient Religion (Cambridge, 1914-25), I, 164.
9:5 K. Rhomaios, "Arkadikoi Hermai," Ephemeris archaiologike, 1911, pp. 149 ff.
12:6 P. Kretschmer in Glotta, X (1920), 50.
12:7 There has been a lengthy discussion. I cite only E. Reisch, "Zur Vorgeschichte der attischen Tragödie," Festschrift Theodor Gomperz dargebracht zum siebzigsten Geburtstage (Vienna, 1902), pp. 451 ff., and the most recent work, F. Brommer, Satyroi (Dissertation, Munich, 1937).
13:8 F. Solmsen in Indogermanische Forschungen, XXX (1912), 1 ff.
14:9 Amer. Journ. of Archaeology, VII (1903), 263 ff.; the inscriptions in Inscriptiones Graecae, Editio minor (Berlin, 1913-), Vol. I, Nos. 778-800.
14:10 Summary description in Archäologischer Anzeiger, Beiblatt zum Jahrbuch des archäologischen Instituts, 1934, pp. 194 ff., and 1935, pp. 197 ff.
15:11 J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion; a Study in Survivals (Cambridge, 1910), p. 121.
16:12 H. Roehl, ed., Inscriptiones Graecae antiquissimae praeter Atticas in Attica repertas (Berlin, 1882), Nos. 50, 61, 73.
17:13 M. Rostovtzeff, "Die hellenistisch-römische Architekturlandschaft," Römische Mitteilungen, XXVI (1911), 1 ff.
18:14 Strabo, VIII, p. 343.
18:15 The most comprehensive treatment is by L. R. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality (Oxford, 1921).
19:16 Inscriptiones Graecae, Editio minor, Vols. II-III, Pt. 1, No. 1358.
19:17 Published by W. Ferguson in Hesperia, VII (1938), 31 ff.