Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches

Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches: A Concise History of the Religious Cultures of Greece from Antiquity to the Present

Vasilios N. Makrides
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 364
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    Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches
    Book Description:

    Covering an expanse of more than three thousand years,Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches charts, in one concise volume, the history of Greece's religious cultures from antiquity all the way through to present, post-independence Greece.Focusing on the encounter and interaction between Hellenism and (Orthodox) Christianity, which is the most salient feature of Greece's religious landscape - influencing not only Greek religious history, but Greek culture and history as a whole - Vasilios N. Makrides considers the religious cultures of Greece both historically, from the ancient Greek through the Byzantine and the Ottoman periods up to the present, and systematically, by locating common characteristics and trajectoriesacross time. Weaving other traditions including Judaism and Islam into his account, Makrides highlights the patterns of development, continuity, and change that have characterized the country's long and unique religious history.Contrary to the arguments of those who posit a single, exclusive religious culture for Greece, Makrides demonstrates the diversity and plurality that has characterized Greece's religious landscape across history. Beautifully written and easy to navigate, Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches offers an essential foundation for students, scholars, and the public on Greece's long religious history, from ancient Greece and the origins of Christianity to the formation of "Helleno-Christianity" in modern Greece.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6448-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    When visiting the Greek capital of Athens for the first time, a contemporary foreign visitor might be struck by the unfamiliar: a different mentality; peculiar habits and practices; indeed, another way of life. Manuals likeThe Xenophobe’s Guide to the Greekscan provide clues only to a certain extent. Things are, in principle, the same when it comes to religion. The visitor may have some inkling from school days about the glory that was ancient Greece in Classical times and may even remember the names of a few ancient Greek heroes or thinkers. Certainly, it is a must to know...

  5. I Religious Profile of Greece:: An Overview Across Time
    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 15-16)

      It should come as no surprise that I begin this overview of Greece’s religious cultures with a succinct summary of their underlying historical and systematic basics from antiquity to the present. This overview starts with the Hellenic and Christian religions, whose historical interactions form the main focus in part 2. It subsequently considers the rest of Greece’s religious scene, including important religious and cultural traditions, such as Judaism and Islam. In addition, it explores various marginal and minority religions, both broad movements and small groups, which were oft en controversial once (Orthodox) Christianity took hold and became predominant. Although there...

    • 1 Hellenic Polytheism, Hellenism, Hellenic Tradition
      (pp. 17-47)

      This was the Athenian answer given in 479 BCE to the Spartan envoys, who feared an alliance between Athenians and Persians. This categorical statement cited by Herodotus (484–ca. 425 BCE) reveals that, even then, there was considerable consensus among the Greeks as to what constituted “Hellenicity” (τό Έλληνικόν)—namely a common Hellenic identity. He depicted common religious traditions, involving deities, temples, shrines, and sacrifices, as playing a crucial role. Herodotus’s witness is a strong one, but were things quite as he would have us believe?

      No matter how one might consider Greek Antiquity, the rich and manifold tradition of...

    • 2 Christian Monotheism, Orthodox Christianity, Greek Orthodoxy
      (pp. 48-80)

      Alivisatos’s statement makes clear that Orthodox Greeks pride themselves on having a church of apostolic origins. First, the advent, spread, and establishment of Christianity in Greece had an enormous impact on the destiny of Hellenic religion and ancient Greek culture. Second, it was a groundbreaking event with far-reaching consequences, especially in terms of Christianity’s wider dissemination on the European continent. This became more evident after the Christianization of the Roman Empire and its continuation in the East during the Byzantine Empire, in which Orthodox Christianity under the guidance of the Patriarchate of Constantinople was to become not only the established...

    • 3 Judaism, Islam, and Other Religious Cultures
      (pp. 81-112)

      The magnificent metropolis Salonica or Thessalonica is, indeed, an important port city in northern Greece with a remarkably diverse and cosmopolitan history, a unique meeting place for all three major monotheistic cultures and religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—that also drew together other ethnic and religious subcultures. By no means were Christians the majority of its population at different stages of the city’s modern history. Yet, eventually, the historical multicultural and multireligious character of the city fell victim to nationalism, physical destruction, wars, and other adversities, finally stamping it with a Greek and Orthodox Christian image. From a modern Greek...

  6. II Hellenism and Christianity:: Interactions Across History
    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 113-116)

      In our context, interaction signifies mutual actions of all sorts (positive, negative, explicit, implicit, planned, random, and so on) undertaken by actors belonging to two different but coexisting cultures. Because contact is unavoidable, both cultures feel the effects of these actions and are shaped accordingly. This process may include conflictual engagements, assimilating policies, occasional mergings, new formations, individual trajectories, and numerous other phenomena. The actors coming from these cultures take on these roles for a wide range of reasons—from necessity, defense, and curiosity to demarcation, enmity, and decided opposition. Such was the case with the two core, historically articulated...

    • 4 Antithesis, Tension, Conflict
      (pp. 117-151)

      One of the most dominant modes of interaction between Hellenism and Christianity has been that of confrontation—which is no surprise given that we are dealing with two different religious cultures, both in structure and in orientation, distanced from each other with different levels of intensity (yet often “dancing together”) over history. An influential Latin Christian author, Tertullian (ca. 160–235), articulated this antithesis with his famous question, What do Athens and Jerusalem, or the Academy and the Church, have in common?² This rhetorical question was interpreted ideologically in later centuries—for example, to demonstrate the fundamental incompatibility between Hellenism...

    • 5 Selection, Transformation, Synthesis
      (pp. 152-191)

      Stemming as it does from the fourth century, a period of intense conflict between Hellenism and Christianity, Basil’s prose about selecting the “good things” from Hellenic culture had extraordinary significance for the Christian appropriation of Hellenism. Basil’s short text about the right use of Greek literature appears in about one hundred separate manuscripts and has been quoted in both the East and West over the centuries, a testament to its wide reception and popularity.² His work underscores a time-tested Christian policy—that of picking selected elements from preexisting religious and cultural settings and integrating them into its own religious culture....

    • 6 Symbiosis, Mixture, Fusion
      (pp. 192-229)

      A shared premise of today’s interdisciplinary research on religious phenomena is that religious life is extremely complex, multilayered, and varied. Yet religion as it is practiced is often, perhaps inadvertently, neglected in favor of attention to its official, institutional, or intellectual aspects. This is even more oft en the case when scholars examine Christianity, with its historically stable institutional structure and the importance attached to doctrinal issues, normative texts, and rigid prescriptions. Yet the level of religious practices and rituals under the wide umbrella of popular or unofficial religion is equally important. Social anthropological research on Greece in recent decades...

    • 7 Individuality, Distinctiveness, Idiosyncrasy
      (pp. 230-269)

      So spoke John Mauropous, an eleventh-century Christian bishop in Byzantium. His was the plea of a learned individual Christian on behalf of two sages of Greek Antiquity, Plato and Plutarch, so that Christ might show mercy on them and save them. A few centuries later, another Byzantine intellectual and polymath, Nikephoros Gregoras (1290/94–1358/61), found the “divine Plato” to be so much in accord with the Bible that he could be accounted as Orthodox Christian.² This kind of selective choice of seminal figures from the ancient Greek world characterized a number of Christian thinkers from the time of the early...

  7. Epilogue
    (pp. 270-276)

    My hope is that this concise panorama of Greece’s religious cultures—along an impressive time-line from antiquity to the present—illustrates a picture rich in traditions, options, and preferences. Greece’s religious scene is a study in diversity. It is useful now to recapitulate some major points.

    Due to its polytheistic character, the religious landscape of ancient Greece has always been plural by nature, even more so in Hellenistic times and throughout the Greco-Roman world. But even after the establishment of Christianity, religious diversity continued to exist in a modified form, oft en under conditions of radical change. The period of...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 277-318)
  9. Index
    (pp. 319-344)
  10. About the Author
    (pp. 345-345)