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CHAPTER ONE. Greek Religion and the Ancient Near East

Scott B. Noegel


In fact, the names of nearly all the gods came to Hellas from Egypt. For I am convinced by inquiry that they have come from foreign parts, and I believe that they came chiefly from Egypt. (Herodotus, 2.50.1, ca. 450 bc ) The historical relationship between Greek religion and the ancient Near East is one that scholars have pondered, investigated, and debated for many years. Approaches to the subject have ranged from the merely suggestive to the fiercely polemical. At the heart of the subject is a question of cultural influence; that is to say, whether striking similarities in the textual, artistic, and archaeological remains constitute evidence for Near Eastern influence on Greek culture or whether one can account for affinities by seeing them as independent developments. It is into this larger context of cultural influence that one must place discussions of Greek religion and the ancient Near East. In their outward forms, at least, Aegean religions appear very similar to those in the Near East. In both, for example, one finds cult images, altars and sacrifices, libations and other ritual practices, sanctuaries, temples and temple functionaries, laws and ethics, prayer, hymns, incantations, curses, cultic dancing, festivals, divination, ecstasy, seers, and oracles. Other shared features include the existence of divinities and demons of both genders, an association of gods with cosmic ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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