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theos


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Is the common Gk. word denoting a god, esp. one of the great gods (see olympian gods). Although often referring to an individual deity in his anthropomorphic representation, the term is rarely used to address a god: no vocative exists. The term is often used instead of the proper name of a god, e.g. when the god's name is under certain restrictions or reserved for direct dealings with the deity, as in the mysteries at Eleusis: ‘the two goddesses’ is the normal expression there for Demeter and Korē (Persephone), ‘the god’ and ‘the goddess’ are Pluto (Hades) and Persephone. It is also used when identification of an individual god is precarious, e.g. in the case of an epiphany or vision, or as a comprehensive reference to any inarticulate, anonymous divine operator (‘some god’, ‘the gods’); it alternates in Homer with daimon to denote some unidentifiable divine operator. Later ‘the divine power’, ‘divinity’ becomes an equivalent, which, from Herodotus onwards, refers to occurrences that cannot be explained by natural causes. So, the term is often used in a predicative way to denote events or behaviour which are beyond human understanding: ‘recognition of your own kin is theos.’

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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