Julia Kindt

in The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199286140
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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  • Religion in the Ancient World



Religion as a subject of research is a product of modern times. With monotheistic religions such as Christianity, it is thought of as an autonomous and self-referential system with a large degree of inner coherence and a binding theology. The Greeks, however, had no word for religion as an abstract category. Religion did not exist outside the contexts in which it was lived. Greek religion lacks the defining features of most modern religions. Classical scholars have frequently stressed the ‘alien quality’ of Greek religious beliefs and practices. The study of Greek religion requires its own interpretative framework. Greek religion is the religious outlook and rituals specific to Greek culture. Reservations about the model of Greek religion as ‘polis religion’ concern its value for studying developments beyond the classical period. To be sure, religion during the Hellenistic and Roman periods evolved from archaic and classical Greek religion.

Keywords: Greek religion; Christianity; Greek culture; theology; polis religion

Article.  5716 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Religion in the Ancient World

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