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Flint Dibble 🍖🏺📖 @FlintDibble
, 16 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
@sportzak OK time for a Greek religion 101 thread! B/c it's complicated

Greek religion was polytheistic. And in practice it included a far wider range of deities than our popular imagination would suggest

Probably no two Greeks followed the exact same cults
/1
@sportzak Let’s tackle the traditional Greek deities first. In practice, it’s better to think of them as cult figures than deities.

There were many Athenas! And even many Poseidons, Zeuses, Heras, and more.
/2
@sportzak The Athena in the Odyssey was a literary/mythical figure

She is not Athena Parthenos (the virgin), worshiped at the Parthenon, who was different from that of Athena Nike (victory), both in Athens, who different from Athena Alea who was worshiped in Arcadia (temple at Tegea)
/3
@sportzak The same is true for all the “Greek” gods/goddesses. They are worshiped in different forms in different cults at different locations. Some were deities to represent the city (eg, Zeus Polias), and others were cults limited to certain families, locations, or groups
/4
@sportzak Some cults were more personalized, and included those who chose to be initiated (eg, the Mysteries of Eleusis at Demeter)

It’s a real mish-mash of deities/cults. Each with their own stories, rituals, and constituents (based on kinship, citizenship, or choice)
/5
@sportzak But cults were more than religious worship. Most formal or public events were under the auspices of a cult. You want to see a comedic play in Athens. You’d do that at the festival of Dionysus. You want to access the city archives, those are at the temple to the Mother of Gods
/6
@sportzak Sporting events (eg, Zeus at Olympia), musical performances (Apollo at Delphi), celebrate your city (PanAthenaia at Athens) etc. were all under the auspices of specific manifestations of different deities, each with their own stories, rituals, and thoughts on the diety
/7
@sportzak It becomes even more complex with time. New cults to new/different manifestations of a deity were established all the time. After a battle, after an event, or with the largesse of a wealthy person. Eg, the cult of Asclepius from Epidauros was introduced to Athens in 420 BC
/8
@sportzak The patterns above include what we would consider “non-Greek” deities

Many Greeks comfortably worshiped Isis and Osiris (Egyptian deities), Mithras (Persian), and Cybele (Phrygian). Some foreign deities were correlated with “Greek” deities (Astarte = Aphrodite = Venus).
/9
@sportzak Polytheism was a complex mingling of various traditions that was constantly in flux. Thus, while some cults were only open to “Greeks,” this definition of identity could and did shift with time: eg, when the Macedonian Kings & others were allowed to participate in Olympics
/10
@sportzak As for the myths, they equally meant different things to different people. While all “Greeks” knew the Iliad and Odyssey, in some cases these were just stories, in others’ morals could be drawn, and for some cults certain rituals/practices were related to these myths
/11
@sportzak Certain myths we have were foundational to particular cults. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter surely meant something different to someone who had been initiated into the Mysteries at Eleusis vs. someone who had not
/12
@sportzak It’s complicated. Some of my research is about ritual animal sacrifice. Homer describes it in one way (burn thighs to the gods), but Athenian vases show curled tails burning on altars
Burned bones show both and even more varied practice in different places and times
/13
@sportzak “Greek religion” is therefore a modern idea. It was never some sort of coherent body of thought & constantly changed
Polytheism was different from modern concepts on monotheistic religions. Few cults invoked questions of faith or belief. It was about myths, practice & rituals
/14
@sportzak Oh, and if anyone besides @sportzak is enjoying this thread, you can check out more threads on my research below
@sportzak And I've got several threads on ancient animals in myth and art

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