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Early Greek History

An epic poem is a long poem that tells a story about heroes. The Iliad is a great epic poem written by Homer in the 8th century BC, reflecting on events that occurred around 1200 BC during the time of the Olympian religion. “There were twelve chief gods who supposedly lived in Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. The twelve Olympian gods were common to all Greeks, who thus shared basic polytheistic religion (Spielvogel 84). ” The first of the two excerpts I will discuss from the Iliad, is during the time of the Greek and Trojan War.

At one point, the powerful god Zeus forbids the other gods to intervene in the war, but Zeus’s wife Hera, wants her brother Poseidon to help the Greeks during this time. Hera decides to distract Zeus’s attention by seducing him with her looks. She bathes herself with ambrosia, fixes her lovely and ambrosial curls, puts on her finest earrings, and dresses in intimate apparel. Hera then makes her way down under the clouds where Zeus could see her. Zeus then approaches her and asks where she is going.

Hera lies to him and tells him she is on her way to visit her parents. He is so attracted to her that he insists they must make love above the clouds before she goes. Hera plays hard to get, and suggests they go to a place where they can’t be seen. Zeus then tries to persuade Hera by telling her that no woman, out of the many he’s had relations with, had ever melted about his heart like she does. After many attempts, Zeus convinces her to make love to him under the golden cloud. Afterwards, they fall asleep, giving Poseidon his chance to help the Greeks.

Although immortal, the gods seen in the Iliad, seem to be very human like; except for the fact that they are forever youthful. Zeus expresses himself to be a strong, powerful, horny, charming, but also, unintelligent god. On the other hand, Hera is seen as a seductress. She is a liar, and a very devious woman who uses sex to get what she wants. The second excerpt from the Iliad, is a face to face fight scene between the Trojan Prince Hector, and the Greek hero Achilles. Previous to this event, Achilles had chased Hector around the city of troy three times looking for revenge.

Finally, the goddess Athena steps in and tells Achilles that she will trick Hector by disguising herself to be his brother Delphobus; and when he turns around, he will be staring into Archilles’ face. After Hector has been tricked into coming face- to- face with Archilles, Hector agrees that this is the right time to stand up to Archilles since he now has his brother to stand behind him. First, Hector asks Achilles if he were to overtake him, would he take his corpse back to his family so a proper funeral session could occur. Achilles does not agree with his request. Just then, Archilles throws his spear, but Hector dodges it.

Unseen by Hector, Athena gets the spear and returns it to Archilles. Hector then threw his spear but it only stuck in Archilles’ armor. When Hector asked for another spear from his brother, and realized he was not there, he knew he had been tricked. Archilles strikes again, and with his spear, drove it right through Hector’s neck. Going against Hector’s wish, Archilles dragged Hector’s body through the city of Troy for animals to feed off of it, and to show his victory at last. The Goddess Athena seen in this selection can best be described as a deceptive, sneaky woman.

Her act of tricking Hector was untruthful. Although, in the Trojan’s eyes, Athena could be seen as a hero for helping Archilles capture Hector. A mystery cult is a small organization or group of people dedicated to a certain god or goddess. Since there was no personal attachment to the gods in the previous Olympian religion, unfulfilled followers turned to mystery cults. Now, with mystery cults, people were able to form a personal and emotional bond with a god or goddess; making this the most important element seen in mystery cults, because this is what the people had desired for so long.

Along with this element of personal and emotional attachment, there were many other elements seen in mystery cults as well. Many temples were found throughout the Greek cities of the east; making their new religion readily available. “All of mystery religions were based on the same fundamental premises. Individuals could preserve a path to salvation and the achievement of eternal life by being initiated into a union who had died and risen again (Spielvogel 110). ” All mystery cults also had a doctrine that was not meant to be understood; just followed and believed. They also had secret prayers and rituals.

People who followed the rules of a mystery cult went to heaven or somewhere good; and people who didn’t follow the rules, went somewhere bad such as hell. Some elements of a mystery cult are seen in Apuleuis’ Metamorphoses. This story is about a young man named Lucius who is turned into an ass. After repenting his sins to the most powerful Goddess Isis, she turns him back to human form. First, Isis tells Lucius that he must always remember, worship, and dedicate himself to her, for the rest of his life.

This here, is an example of a common element seen in most mystery cults. At the end of the excerpt Isis states: If you shall be found to deserve the protection of my divinity by sedulous obedience, religious devotion, and inviolable chastity, you shall be sensible that it is possible for me, and me alone, to extend your life beyond the limits that have been appointed to it by your destiny (George Bell and Sons 222-226). ” This statement is also a great element seen in mystery cults. It basically means, if you follow my rules and prove that you are worthy to live in eternal life, you shall. I find this element most important because the goal of Lucius is to not only return to human form, but to also have eternal life.

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