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The Strangeness of GodsHistorical Perspectives on the Interpretation of Athenian Religion$
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S.C. Humphreys

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269235

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269235.001.0001

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Dynamics of the Greek ‘Breakthrough’: the dialogue between philosophy and religion

Dynamics of the Greek ‘Breakthrough’: the dialogue between philosophy and religion

(p.51) 2 Dynamics of the Greek ‘Breakthrough’: the dialogue between philosophy and religion
The Strangeness of Gods

S. C. Humphreys

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the construction in the 6th-5th centuries BCE of the opposition between rationality and irrationality, associated with the development of prose as a medium for the rational logos, which generated changes in conceptions of poetry and of religion. The chapter stresses that the emergence of polemical rationalism did not eliminate religious thought (let alone poetry) from the mainstream of Greek culture. Rather, it produced tendencies to rationalize cult in the public sphere through the introduction of deified personifications such as Peace or Concord, and in unofficial circles by the systematization of astrology and the interpretation of omens. It also stimulated more abstract, ‘philosophical’ conceptions of the divine, and an interest in the psychology of ‘possession’ (love, poetic inspiration, madness, drunkenness). Euripides is valued as a religious thinker, and Lycurgus as a reformer of Athenian ritual.

Keywords:   Euripides, Lycurgus of Boutadai, personifications, prose, poetry, rational, irrational

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