Showing posts with label ancient Athens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ancient Athens. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Paul's Propaganda At The Shrine Of The "Unknown God"

Although the Greeks worshiped a plethora of Gods, there was also a shrine in Athens that wasn't specifically dedicated to anyone. It even appears in the bible in Acts 17:23, although Paul was immensely ignorant as to its meaning, thinking that the Greeks were "ignorant to what they worshiped," or perhaps Paul wasn't ignorant of what he was saying, but saw a prop for introducing the idea of the Christian god - maybe a bit of both. Paul's antics around the Greek world are very well known. He also visited Ephesus in 54 CE, where he was eventually ran out of town for organizing the large burning of ancient Greek and Jewish texts and trying to overthrow the present religious order, but he also ended up in Athens at one point, talking to the Athenians about one of their particular shrines. What we know for certain is that Paul's sermon was basically a trick to get the Athenians to think that they had already been worshiping Jesus or Yahweh without realizing it, for Paul was one of the best propagandists the new religion had in its arsenal. I am referring to the Shrine of the Unknown God.

The Shrine of the Unknown God was not, actually, dedicated to a God that was "as of yet unknown." It was actually established as a safety net, if you will, to make sure that no local Deity was neglected or forgotten, or who, at present, remained unnamed. The Greeks were not ignorant of the fact that many Gods were around, they just didn't know if they had named them all yet. So if a God didn't have a temple or a following, the Shrine was erected as a default sanctuary. You might even think of it like a temple or shrine to all the Gods, in the sense that it is not dedicated to specifically one, but all of them. It wasn't about ignorance of Divinity, but actually the knowledge and realization that Divinity is everywhere, and whether that Divinity has been named by us or not, it is still of importance and value. Even Paul's father god, aka the Jewish god, had an "unpronounceable name." In that sense, his god was also ultimately unknown. Generally, think about how many times you've heard a Christian say, "Don't question god," or "I don't know, that's just how god works." That's called an unknown, or an unknowing. When it comes to those things and those responses, Christians have constructed a Shrine of the Unknown probably more so than the ancient Athenians actually did.

With that being said, I still don't know if it was something practiced by every Greek City or town, and I haven't even heard of a modern Hellene having such a shrine today in their homes or temples. I personally wouldn't be opposed to having one myself, although I never have felt the need, and therefore if I did so, it would largely be to respect Tradition. However, I do, after all, live in a vast place which brings me to my final point about the Shrine of the Unknown, and that is humility. For an ancient Greek or a modern Greek worshiper to think that they know everything, especially about the Gods, would be hubris. Both ancient Greek and Christian religion advises against arrogance. What can be more humble than for someone to erect a Shrine that basically says, "I admit I don't know everything?"

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Talking the Tenets - Solon's Society

Although many ancient Greek worshipers look to the Maxims of Delphi as their guiding principles in life, the Tenets of Solon are perhaps a little less known, but ones I very much love and enjoy. In fact, I believe I will adopt them as my core principles. One of the reasons I enjoy them so much is because the list is only 10 long, and covers so much range that I think it's really all I need to live a moral Hellenic life. Within the Tenets are a couple I very much admire, but before I get to talking about them and the reasoning behind it that speaks a universal truth for the Ages, I'd like to list the actual Tenets of Solon. It should be kept in mind that not all sources write the Tenets exactly the same, but they present the same meanings.

1. Trust actions more than words.
2. Never tell a falsehood.
3. Do good works.
4. Don't be in a rush to befriend others, and always keep the friends you do have.
5. Learn to take orders before giving them.
6. Do not do what is agreeable, but what is right.
7. Govern your life by reason.
8. Make no friend with evil.
9. Honor the Gods.
10. Give respect to your parents.

It's also noteworthy to point out that Solon's face appears on the wall of the United States House of Representatives in Washington. He is a very historical lawmaker whose ancient, Greek Polytheistic city-state inspired our own nation. Two Tenets I really enjoy are 6 and 8, as I think they speak so much truth and morality across borders and time periods. In number 6, Solon tells us to do what's right instead of what's popular. Far too many people today do the opposite. They do what's agreeable for politics or their own personal ambitions, which can and does lead to horrible ends, not just for themselves, but for innocent people as well. Far too many people are concerned about what's good for an agenda, a worldview, a party, or an ideology instead of what's good and right itself. 

Number 6 can also tie in with number 8 many times, which says to be no companion of evil, vileness, or immorality. I see so many people turning toward the side of wrong because of how appealing and profitable it can be. Some people will do anything if they are paid enough, regardless of who or what they may harm, especially if they can tell themselves that their evil does some good, and is therefore justified or needed. When we, as a society, make a companion of wrongdoing, our society itself will always go wrong. It will allow the greatest injustices and crimes to flourish. Even if that evil does us some good for a time, it will eventually bring us into atrocity. A car that transports people, for example, is a good thing, but if it's heading for a cliff, it will kill everyone on board. 

In following Solon's Tenets, there's really no way one can go wrong in life. How can one go down a bad road if they always do good works, put their trust in good places, be humble and reasonable, and refuse to associate with what is wrong, but instead, always do what's right? There's no way anyone could go wrong following these 10 simple ethics. This is why I have come to believe they are an excellent set of morals for a Hellenist to adopt as central in their life.

In the Goodness of the Gods,


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