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  #1  
Old 10-21-2007, 01:39 AM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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When were the greek & roman gods worshipped?

There's a lot of information about the Greek and roman gods themselves, but I'm having difficulty finding out when they were worshipped; I realize that the Greek gods are a bit older but I suspect there's a fair amount of overlap timeline-wise.

The only thing at all relative to this that I've found so far states that the body of mythology was fully developed by 700 B.C. and mentioned three works of writing about the gods from then. I assume this isn't close to the beginning of either culture's worship of those gods given that's when literature about them dates back to - the gods must have been well known by that point. Were people like Euripides, Sophocles and Homer writing from the perspective of "about our Gods" or "Gods we used to believe in"?

Anyway, does anyone know (approximately) when the Greek gods were widely worshipped and about when they stopped being worshipped? Was the end before or after Christianity?
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  #2  
Old 10-21-2007, 08:16 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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The Roman gods were worshiped until Constantine, & then things began to fade for them.

Eventually, it became an illegal faith.

However, small cults, especially those devoted to Artemis, continued into the 18th Century CE, in Italy.
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Old 10-21-2007, 12:25 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
The Roman gods were worshiped until Constantine, & then things began to fade for them.

Eventually, it became an illegal faith.

However, small cults, especially those devoted to Artemis, continued into the 18th Century CE, in Italy.
I would quarrel with this last statement, but from a more neutral perspective let's just say that authorities differ on (1) how authenitic the original data so alleging was and (2) the interpretation of that data.

In more general terms, both the Greek and Roman gods are, for the most part, continuities of deities that can be reconstructed for the common Indo-European religious system (some parts of which survive, albeit in a dramatically different evolved form, as Hinduism). So they go back, in one form or another, to about 4000 BCE if not earlier.

These were polytheistic systems without a single central religious authority (for Greece and for early Rome, anyway), so there was undoubtedly a variety of practices. I can recommend books on the subject though I'm afraid I don't know any good websites. Try Ken Dowden's Religion and the Romans and Walter Burkert's Greek Religion.

As far as survivals, it is generally agreed that many pagan practices survived into Christianity. Whether they were understood as pre- or non-Christian by practitioners is one really sticky point; whether we should now analytically understand them as non-Christian is another sticking point. The institution of Pope has its origins in the pre-Christian Roman pontifex maximus, the top flamen of Rome; does that mean the Pope is Pagan?

The old gods continued to be important to Christian writers and artists right up until modern times, usually as allegorical figures, but there is evidence that at least some of the pagan philosophers also saw them this way. It certainly didn't survive as an independent religious system in Greece or Rome much beyond the fourth or fifth century, though there may have been pockets in rural areas as late as the sixth. Related Indo-European pagan systems lasted much longer in northern and eastern Europe.

There is a contemporary religion, Neo-Paganism (to use the broadest term), for whom it is very important to believe that they are engaged in a revival of ancient practices which did survive, albeit tenuously, as folklore and secret practices in the keeping of European women. The claim is unlikely but unprovable, and personally I'd like it to be true. But this means that the OP's question is just as fraught in some quarters as the evolution / creation question is in heartland America these days, and you should be prepared to "scrutinize with an intense scrute" the claims of all sides. My own bias is as a mythologist who studies the traditions from an academic perspective.
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Old 10-21-2007, 12:47 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Remembering bits and pieces here, so I can't be as thorough as I'd like.

Classical paganism had long been in a decline by the time Constantine took power. Christianity spread like wildfire, especially in the East, and while the devout will say it was because of the miraculous promises of its message, it was more likely due to the fact that the old religion seemed to have lost its way. Many other cults circulated around the empire, the most notable being Mithraism.

Theodosius outlawed the classical religion around 390, although pockets of adherents to the old faith remained here and there: when Benedict the Great arrived at Monte Cassino to found the Benedictine order, in the mid 6th century, he found the villagers all turned out for a festival of Apollo. This makes sense since the very word 'pagan' comes from pagani, or 'rural people'.

As for pockets of paganism persiting to the 18th century, I think here it would be impossible to distinguish between authentic adherents, and those doing it just for shock value, or as part of a secret society ritual.

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 10-21-2007 at 12:48 PM..
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Old 10-21-2007, 12:57 PM
Quartz Quartz is online now
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People still say, "By Jove". The Christian festival of Easter is oddly near the spring equinox. The Christian festival of Christmas is oddly near the midwinter solstice. Are there similar parallels in Islam and other modern faiths?
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Old 10-21-2007, 03:31 PM
matt_mcl matt_mcl is offline
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Incidentally, not all or even most Neo-Pagans believe that we're practising traditions that have descended in an unbroken line. Many are quite content to reconstruct traditions that have passed away, or work out traditions for ourselves that suit modern life.
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Old 10-21-2007, 04:16 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Ovid, at least, seemed to regard the gods as interesting fictional characters, the same way we might regard Superman or Luke Skywalker. His great collection of myths, the Metamorphoses, begins with the line "I prate of ancient poets' monstrous lies".
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  #8  
Old 10-21-2007, 04:26 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_mcl
Incidentally, not all or even most Neo-Pagans believe that we're practising traditions that have descended in an unbroken line. Many are quite content to reconstruct traditions that have passed away, or work out traditions for ourselves that suit modern life.
What he said.

I'd wager that most of us, in fact, will be very glad to admit that we're not practicing in an unbroken line if asked outright. But our mythology is often that we're practicing "The Old Religion". It has spiritual and psychological significance, not historical accuracy. It's pretty similar to Christians who are not Biblical literalists, but hold the Bible holy nonetheless. It's one of those things which doesn't make sense if you're not a part of it, and makes perfect sense if you are.

I have had a couple of people insist to me that they really are following the traditions of their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmothers, passed down in secret oral tradition. My response is usually an outward "Oh, how nice..." and an inward and then I go find someone not crazy to talk to instead.
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Old 10-21-2007, 07:00 PM
Dusty Dusty is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos
Ovid, at least, seemed to regard the gods as interesting fictional characters, the same way we might regard Superman or Luke Skywalker. His great collection of myths, the Metamorphoses, begins with the line "I prate of ancient poets' monstrous lies".
No, it doesn't. The first line of Metamorphoses is:
Quote:
In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
corpora; di, coeptis (nam vos mutastis et illas)
adspirate meis primaque ab origine mundi
ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen!

--

My mind inclines me to speak of forms changed into new bodies. Ye gods, breathe favorably on my undertakings (for you also changed them) and send an uninterrupted song from the origins of the world through to my own times!
That line (or one similiar to it) is burried in the third book of Amores (the chapter called "The Flooded River"):

A lover is attempting to go to his girl, but is stopped by a flooded river for which there is no crossing. He laments that he doesn't have Perseus's winged sandals or Ceresís chariot, then laments further that neither ever existed. Of course, directly following that, he tries to persuade the river to return to its normal depth for a lover's sake, citing mythological precedents for when rivers did just that.
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  #10  
Old 10-21-2007, 07:12 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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Originally Posted by matt_mcl
Incidentally, not all or even most Neo-Pagans believe that we're practising traditions that have descended in an unbroken line. Many are quite content to reconstruct traditions that have passed away, or work out traditions for ourselves that suit modern life.
Quite right. To matt_mcl, WhyNot, and other Neo-Pagans on the board, I'm sorry if my post was glib, and I meant no disrespect. It was too hastily written. My experience agrees with what the two of you have posted. Some do believe in the unbroken tradition, but these days most (though not all) people I have met accept it as mythologically important but not literally true.
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  #11  
Old 10-21-2007, 07:38 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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You'll find Greeks and Romans from every period that believe in th gods and all their legends, side by side with those who think them merely symbolic of a more austere supernatural world, and with those who are atheistic. Just like today, in fact. Plato was pretty damned skeptical, but that didn't stop him from asking for a sacrifice to Asclepius at his death (although that was probably a clever bit of snark) The rites of the various gods were celebrated from antiquity through the Roman Empire and beyond. Anthropologists were recording traditional practices that probably went back to Roman times as recently as the 19th century. (See Chadwick Hansen's book "Witchcraft at Salem" for some cites)
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Old 10-21-2007, 08:11 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham
Just like today, in fact. Plato was pretty damned skeptical, but that didn't stop him from asking for a sacrifice to Asclepius at his death (although that was probably a clever bit of snark)
Wasn't that Socrates?
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Old 10-21-2007, 10:53 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Wasn't that Socrates?
Touchy.
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  #14  
Old 10-21-2007, 11:12 PM
Paul in Qatar Paul in Qatar is offline
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If you asked an ancient Roman or Greek which religion they practiced, what would they say? "The Old Religion" wasn't old then. Certainly they knew of other religious systems What were the names for the state religions of Greece and Rome?
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  #15  
Old 10-22-2007, 12:05 AM
matt_mcl matt_mcl is offline
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By the way, besides Neo-Pagans living in other parts of the world, there's currently, in Greece, an attempt to revive the ancient Greek religion, out of a sense of being the heirs thereof. This is controversial both because the Greek state tightly controls religion (and has a distinct preference for the Greek Orthodoxy practised by 99% of the population) and because they would like to use ancient sites such as temples.

A short time ago, a small group of followers went to a temple site and performed a ritual there. The action was apparently technically illegal, but nobody got in trouble.

Last edited by matt_mcl; 10-22-2007 at 12:06 AM..
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  #16  
Old 10-22-2007, 02:21 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by Quartz
People still say, "By Jove".
Precisely because saying "By Jehovah" is considered blasphemous. IOW it's done precisely because nobody believes in Jove. People use "Crikey" or "Jiminy Cricket" and "Gordon Bennet" for exactly the same purposes, ie they sound like Christian blasphemies but actually aren't.

Quote:
The Christian festival of Easter is oddly near the spring equinox.
Nothing odd about it, it is the result of a series of deliberate choice on the part of either Gods or men depending on your viewpoint. Passover coincided with the equiniox as a deliberate slap for the Egyptian sun god, IOW killing the Egyptian firstborn on the holiest day of Ra was a deliberate chow to prove how powerless they were, and that remains true whether the event atcually happened or not.

Jesus' execution coincided with passover for complicated reasons including sticking it to the Jewish orthodoxy and making it clear that Christainaity was the success to to Judaism, and once agin that is true whether the events are real or not.

IOW easter coincides with the solstice not because of coincidence but because of a deliberate usurping of bronze age Egyptian solstice events. A deliberate effort at all stages to say "We have usurped the Pagan gods".

Of course Easter by name and by the rituals we now associate with it is just a retouched verison of a pagan ritual devoted to the godess Oestre, but that hasnothing to do with the timming of Jesus' death or the date of passover which were set thousands of years earlier.

Quote:
The Christian festival of Christmas is oddly near the midwinter solstice.
That at least is because Christmas was a deliberate attempt to co-opt the Pagan midwinter rituals.
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  #17  
Old 10-22-2007, 05:31 AM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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Wouldn't Pantheons have largely been formed out of the regional "patron saint" gods of the important cities of a region? (That's a question not an answer.)
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Old 10-22-2007, 10:05 AM
CJJ* CJJ* is offline
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Originally Posted by Paul in Saudi
If you asked an ancient Roman or Greek which religion they practiced, what would they say? "The Old Religion" wasn't old then. Certainly they knew of other religious systems What were the names for the state religions of Greece and Rome?
For the ancient Greek, the question would be difficult to phrase, since there was no equivalent term for "religion" as a set of beliefs about the supernatural. Generally, the worship of Greek divinities was a cultural validation; praying to Athena meant praying for the fortunes of Athens, her city.

Superstition developed as a way to offer people some control over the forces of nature. Thus, along with the traditional gods, you often hear of people praying to abstractions like Chance or Victory. This likewise made divination a major component of religious practice--hence the existence of places like the Oracle of Delphi--but it seems the more educated Greeks took a dim view of this practice (e.g. Thucydides' well-known account of the plague of Athens is especially hard on fools who put their trust in oracles).

Finally, there were many religious groups we would characterize as cults, usually built around some hero-figure (the myth of Dionysus is an example) or a collection of secret/exotic knowledge (the Eleusian mysteries). These may be closer to what we think of a religion today: They offered a communal experience, mysticism, and in many cases promised something very specific about the afterlife.

In Rome, the same elements are present up to the time of the empire, with perhaps a greater emphasis on supersition/augury; it is on these latter grounds alone that most of the priestly offices were instituted. For example, you constantly read in Livy's early history about some portent that somene observed (a sudden collapse of a building, a stroke of lightning), followed by a consultation with the priests and some ritual act of purification (e.g. the appointment of a dictator for a sdingle day to drive a nail into the wall of a temple). This sense of religion is clearly not much more than organized superstition.

However, there was one key difference in that the Romans practiced ancestor worship, usually organized by the families/tribes of the old Roman society (ancestor worship existed in Greece as well, but not to the same extent). By the time of the empire, ancestor worship gave birth to the cult of the imperial family, and this perhaps is close to what we would consider a state religion today. It was this test--making public sacrifice to the cult of the emperor--which the younger Pliny used to test the Christians in his province, and though the penalty for refusing this was probably death, even here he gave them plenty of chances to get it right.

Last edited by CJJ*; 10-22-2007 at 10:10 AM..
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  #19  
Old 10-22-2007, 10:27 AM
Malachi Throne Malachi Throne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drake
There is a contemporary religion, Neo-Paganism (to use the broadest term), for whom it is very important to believe that they are engaged in a revival of ancient practices which did survive, albeit tenuously, as folklore and secret practices in the keeping of European women. The claim is unlikely but unprovable, and personally I'd like it to be true. But this means that the OP's question is just as fraught in some quarters as the evolution / creation question is in heartland America these days, and you should be prepared to "scrutinize with an intense scrute" the claims of all sides. My own bias is as a mythologist who studies the traditions from an academic perspective.
My sister is just such a revivalist. I'm positive that her sect was founded in fun or tongue in cheek, but the current lot are quite serious.
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Old 10-22-2007, 10:42 AM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drake
It certainly didn't survive as an independent religious system in Greece or Rome much beyond the fourth or fifth century, though there may have been pockets in rural areas as late as the sixth.
I'd quibble with this only very slightly - as late as the reign of Justinian, Athens was still "the intellectual factory of late paganism." The Neoplatonist Academy there was officially shut down in 529, but pagan philosophers were apparently still lecturing in Alexandria until the opening of the seventh century. So there was some, very limited urban survival that late. But the general trend that it was a largely rural holdover is quite correct.


Quote:
Originally Posted by CJJ*
For the ancient Greek, the question would be difficult to phrase, since there was no equivalent term for "religion" as a set of beliefs about the supernatural.
Again pretty much correct, but it is worth pointing out that as above that the very late Neoplatonist movement, reacting to Christianity, did produce a somewhat more regularized creed of sorts.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 10-22-2007 at 10:42 AM..
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Old 10-22-2007, 10:48 AM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_mcl
Incidentally, not all or even most Neo-Pagans believe that we're practising traditions that have descended in an unbroken line. Many are quite content to reconstruct traditions that have passed away, or work out traditions for ourselves that suit modern life.
There's a strong thread among folks who gravitate to neopaganism: it's not a different orthodoxy, a different box of obligatory dogmatic belief systems and concomitant rituals, that attracts us; but rather a sanctification of the notion that orthodoxy (any orthdoxy) is wrong. Evil, even. That whatever is sacred is something that has to be sensed anew and freshly understood, with those new experiences not forced to correspond or get filtered through a rigid structure of text and tradition and whatnot.

That also may not have been a key component of the beliefs of actual ancient wiccans and druids. I for one do not know and do not greatly care.

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Old 10-22-2007, 11:59 AM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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When were the greek & roman gods worshipped?

Sundays at 10:30am with a Greek service at noon, and Gothic at 2pm.

What, you thought that schedule was invented by Christians?
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Old 10-22-2007, 01:23 PM
CJJ* CJJ* is offline
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Originally Posted by Tamerlane
...it is worth pointing out that as above that the very late Neoplatonist movement, reacting to Christianity, did produce a somewhat more regularized creed of sorts.
For that matter, Stoicism (and for the more daring, Epicureanism) answered the "meaning of life" question most people expect from modern religious systems. Many Stoic ideas in fact were incorporated into Christianity from an early date.

Last edited by CJJ*; 10-22-2007 at 01:25 PM..
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  #24  
Old 10-22-2007, 04:06 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Okay, other than neopaganism (which while interesting isn't what I'm asking about), do folks have dates for when the gods were last widely worshipped by Greeks and Romans?
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Old 10-22-2007, 04:31 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quoth Dusty:
Quote:
That line (or one similiar to it) is burried in the third book of Amores (the chapter called "The Flooded River"):
I sit corrected.

And it's not the Greco-Roman gods precisely, but when my mom visited Iceland last year, she did run into a group of folks who still worship the old gods. The Norse old gods, of course, in this case: Odin, Thor, etc.
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Old 10-22-2007, 09:20 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elfkin477
Okay, other than neopaganism (which while interesting isn't what I'm asking about), do folks have dates for when the gods were last widely worshipped by Greeks and Romans?
I thought that had been sort of covered above. It was a gradual thing, with no really reliable figures for what percentage of the population worshipped what, when. But loosely Greco-Roman paganism was probably the majority at the opening of the 4th century A.D. and undoubtedly the minority and technically illegal by the opening of the 5th. It survived, declining and increasingly oppressed, as a predominantly rural movement through the the 6th century, but with minor urban elements - Zosimus railed against Christianity while still serving as a civil servant under the emperor Anastasius ( 491-518 ) and as noted there was a pagan academy in existence in Athens until 529.
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Old 10-22-2007, 09:26 PM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by Blake
Passover coincided with the equiniox as a deliberate slap for the Egyptian sun god, IOW killing the Egyptian firstborn on the holiest day of Ra was a deliberate chow to prove how powerless they were, and that remains true whether the event atcually happened or not.
Really? I thought it had to do with sacrificing some of the first lambs of spring. I haven't encountered the Ra explanation.
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Old 10-23-2007, 02:25 AM
DrDeth DrDeth is online now
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Originally Posted by Blake
That at least is because Christmas was a deliberate attempt to co-opt the Pagan midwinter rituals.
This last is doubtful. There were serveral dates for the Birth, all calculated by varied means. None of the calculations had anything to do with copting anything, there is no reason to suspect the dudes who did the calculations of anything like this. Now, then, of those various dates, the reasons why the Church picked Dec 25th are unknown, and it is possible that "co-opting" a Pagan holiday might well have entered into them.

But then why Dec 25th? The Solstice was a few days earlier (depends on what year we are talking about the calendar was mutable back then). The big holiday around that time was Saturnalia, which was Dec 17-24, not on the 25th at all. It could have been to co-opt Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, but that was only celebrated by the Mystery Sect of Mithraism,which only become popular about the time Christianity did. Besides the Imperial Roman calendar was littered with holidays- just about any day picked would have come within a week of some holiday.

I suppose it is possible, the Church fathers could have looked at the 3-4 possible dates given by the "experts" and picked the one that had the biggest chance of co-opting a Pagan holiday. But if so, then why didn't they push Christmas? Christmas didn't become the Big Holiday until sometime in the Middle ages, by which time any possible competition with Saturnalia or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti had been completely forgotten by almost everyone.

wiki "The identification of the birthdate of Jesus did not at first inspire feasting or celebration. Tertullian does not mention it as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In 245, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating Jesus' birthday "as if he were a king pharaoh." He contended that only sinners, not saints, celebrated their birthdays.[citation needed]

The earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas is in the Calendar of Filocalus, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354.[2][24] In the east, meanwhile, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as part of Epiphany (January 6), although this festival focused on the baptism of Jesus.[25]

Christmas was promoted in the east as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, to Antioch in about 380, and to Alexandria in about 430. Christmas was especially controversial in 4th century Constantinople, being the "fortress of Arianism," as Edward Gibbon described it. The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400.[2]In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in the west focused on the visit of the magi. But the Medieval calendar was dominated by Christmas-related holidays. The forty days before Christmas became the "forty days of St. Martin" (which began on November 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours), now known as Advent.[26] In Italy, former Saturnalian traditions were attached to Advent.[26] Around the 12th century, these traditions transferred again to the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 26 - January 6).[26] The evening of January 5 was called Twelfth Night, a festival later celebrated in the play of that name by William Shakespeare. The fortieth day after Christmas was Candlemas.

The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800. King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066. Christmas during the Middle Ages remained a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving.[27] Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was practiced more often between people with legal relationships (i.e. tenant and landlord) than between close friends and relatives.[27]

By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas."


Cecil has said this http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_034b.html
"
History records no observation of Christmas before 354, and by that time there was no one around who remembered exactly when Jesus was born. Today, historians have all but given up trying to figure it out. They give his birth date as 6-8 BC (good trick, but this was no ordinary dude) and leave it at that.

Nobody knows exactly why Christ's birthday is celebrated on December 25. One theory holds that this is the right date, postulating that Zachary was high priest and that the Day of Atonement fell on September 24, ergo, John the Baptist was born on June 24 and Christ dropped in exactly six months later on December 25. Modern scholars use this theory to get laughs at cocktail parties.

Another guess works backward from the supposed date of the crucifixion (March 25), figuring that Christ was conceived exactly 33 years before he died, True Believers having no use for fractional numbers. According to the most tenable hypothesis, Christ's birthday was assigned to the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian) because the date had a ready-made pagan holiday, the "Birthday of the Invincible Sun" (or "ancient Saturnalia debauch," as you put it)."


So, although I admit your hypothesis is popular, there is no solid evidence for it.

Last edited by DrDeth; 10-23-2007 at 02:26 AM..
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  #29  
Old 10-23-2007, 03:20 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
Sundays at 10:30am with a Greek service at noon, and Gothic at 2pm.

What, you thought that schedule was invented by Christians?
Actually, it was.

The Romans did not have names like 'Sunday' for days of the week, in fact they didn't even have weeks at all. Their month was divided into 8-day sections, roughly corresponding to the phases of the moon. Days were just referred to as x days before or after the new moon (Kalends), half-moon (Nones), or full-moon (Ides).
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Old 10-23-2007, 07:40 AM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by t-bonham@scc.net
The Romans did not have names like 'Sunday' for days of the week, in fact they didn't even have weeks at all. Their month was divided into 8-day sections, roughly corresponding to the phases of the moon. Days were just referred to as x days before or after the new moon (Kalends), half-moon (Nones), or full-moon (Ides).
Why, then, are the days of the week named after Roman gods in Romance languages (e.g., Spanish Miercoles (Wednesday) named for Mercury, French Mardi (Tuesday, as in Mardi Gras) named for Mars)? We even have Saturday named for Saturn in English.
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Old 10-23-2007, 09:35 AM
CJJ* CJJ* is offline
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Originally Posted by Uncertain
Why, then, are the days of the week named after Roman gods in Romance languages (e.g., Spanish Miercoles (Wednesday) named for Mercury, French Mardi (Tuesday, as in Mardi Gras) named for Mars)? We even have Saturday named for Saturn in English.
They are actually named after the known heavenly bodies. The custom of naming the days is explained by Dio.

The ancients could observe seven "planets", and deduced an order (in what they presumed was an earth-centric system) based on their apparent movement against the background stars. From farthest to closest: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. Astrologers cast horoscopes based on the hour of birth, so each hour was assigned a planet. However, with seven planets and 24 hours, each day would begin its first hour with a different planet than the last day.

Astrologers kept track of this pattern and named days according to their first hour, to make the business of casting horoscopes easirer. If you start day 1 with Saturn, then move ahead in the order 24 mod 7 = 3, you end up at "Sun"; add another 24 mod 7 you get to "Moon", etc.

Using the French names as an example, it's easy to see the rest of the pattern: Mars -> Mardi, Mercury -> Mercredi, Jupiter (Jove) -> Jeudi, Venus -> Vendredi, and back to the beginning with Saturn -> Samedi.

Last edited by CJJ*; 10-23-2007 at 09:36 AM..
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  #32  
Old 10-23-2007, 10:35 AM
DrDeth DrDeth is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJJ*
They are actually named after the known heavenly bodies. The custom of naming the days is explained by Dio. .
Except that they are named after various Norse dieties mainly.
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Old 10-23-2007, 04:02 PM
CJJ* CJJ* is offline
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Originally Posted by DrDeth
Except that they are named after various Norse dieties mainly.
Not in the Romance languages, which is the question that was asked.
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  #34  
Old 10-23-2007, 04:11 PM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is offline
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Because the Roman Empire did have a seven day week. When Constantine became emperor, he got rid of the old Roman nones-kalends system and adopted a seven day week, using the older astrological seven day week referred to by CJJ*.
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Old 10-23-2007, 05:55 PM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by CJJ*
They are actually named after the known heavenly bodies. The custom of naming the days is explained by Dio.
Makes sense. However, since Dio seems to have written a century before Rome became Christian, this appears to suggest that the Romans made some use of the seven-day week in pre-Christian times. I suppose, though, that he could have been describing systems used by non-Romans. I always imagined that if anyone had adopted the week as part of converting to Christianity, they wouldn't have used names of Pagan gods.

How about those Norse deities? Did anyone ever refer to the planet Jupiter as "Thor", or did they name Thursday after a god rather than a planet?
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Old 10-24-2007, 01:54 PM
CJJ* CJJ* is offline
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Originally Posted by Uncertain
since Dio seems to have written a century before Rome became Christian, this appears to suggest that the Romans made some use of the seven-day week in pre-Christian times. I suppose, though, that he could have been describing systems used by non-Romans. I always imagined that if anyone had adopted the week as part of converting to Christianity, they wouldn't have used names of Pagan gods.
I agree that this naming convention predates the widespread adoption of Christianity in the Roman empire. Dio's description aside, I'm not aware of much evidence showing the system was in widespread use prior to the Christians.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncertain
How about those Norse deities? Did anyone ever refer to the planet Jupiter as "Thor", or did they name Thursday after a god rather than a planet?
The Geman tribes appear to have looked for deities equivalent to the ones whose names graced the planets associated with each day. Thor, for instance, is the god of thunder in Norse mythology, so it makes sense to identify him with Jupiter, who was known for throwing thunderbolts. Similarly, Frieda could be seen as somewhat equivalent to Venus (Friday), though I don't know how Wotan and Mercury would be related (Wednesday).
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Old 10-24-2007, 06:35 PM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by CJJ*
The Geman tribes appear to have looked for deities equivalent to the ones whose names graced the planets associated with each day. Thor, for instance, is the god of thunder in Norse mythology, so it makes sense to identify him with Jupiter, who was known for throwing thunderbolts. Similarly, Frieda could be seen as somewhat equivalent to Venus (Friday), though I don't know how Wotan and Mercury would be related (Wednesday).
If this is so, and if nobody referred to the planet Jupiter as "Thor", then the days would in a sense be named after gods, not planets, in Germanic. This is one reason I imagined that they were named after gods in Latin as well. I suppose the distinction was unclear to the extent that people identified the planets with the gods.
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Old 10-25-2007, 10:39 AM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJJ*
In Rome, the same elements are present up to the time of the empire, with perhaps a greater emphasis on supersition/augury; it is on these latter grounds alone that most of the priestly offices were instituted.
In Andrew Robinson's wonderful book Lost Languages, we learn that it was the Etruscans (the culture which preceded the Romans in north-central Italy) who bequeathed many of the practices (and words) related to augury to the Romans.
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Old 10-25-2007, 11:08 AM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat
Wouldn't Pantheons have largely been formed out of the regional "patron saint" gods of the important cities of a region? (That's a question not an answer.)
In part, yes.

It seems to me that in the ancient world, there was very little recognition that truly different religions even existed. Most Greeks and Romans seem to have assumed that the gods of other peoples were, if you like, simply the local versions of the gods they themselves worshipped - Heroditous, for example, says stuff like 'the Sythians sacrificed to Apollo', meaning that they sacrificed to their version of the god that was quite like Apollo (not a quote just my imperfect recollection).

To an extent this may have had a lot of truth in it, as there was probably some form of common ancestry of proto-Indo-European religion (some believe, for example, that the Druids were similar to the caste of Brahmans, or rather that they both shared a common ancestry).

This syncretism was also fueled by the habit of importing cults from one place to another to incorporate into the local pantheon - for example Dyonesos was supposed to come from India, and at a later date the cult of Isis was imported into Rome from Egypt.

The difficulty of course is how such a system would fare when confronted with a religion claiming exclusive monotheism. The answer appears to be that the "exclusively monotheistic" religion of Christianity simply absorbed most of the aspects of local cults into itself and recycled 'em as patron saints.
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