Epicureans and the Ancient Greek Gods (Imagery of "Gods" / "Gods Among Men")

  • There has been an enormous amount of discussion in the past in regard to the theological aspects of Epicurean philosophy. There is, as of this moment, no consensus of opinion in regard to that subject and it continues to remain inconclusive.

    However, this post is not focused on that generalized subject, but rather on the gods of Ancient Greece and Rome and the use of them specifically as "role models" either aesthetically or in a practical manner for an Epicurean.

    The gods of Ancient Greece and Rome were derived from common Indo-European deities. These deities, such as Zeus, Aries, Athena, Poseidon etc., have their counterparts in the ancient Indian, Iranian, and Celtic/Germanic pantheons. Almost every deity has a foreign counterpart that fulfills the same role. So the only particular reason why an Epicurean might adopt the specific Greco-Roman versions of these polytheistic deities would be for culturally aesthetic purposes.

    Much of what what we know of the myths and legends of the gods come from Hesiod and Ovid. It is clear that the known Greco-Roman myths derive much of their character from Mesopotamian, Levantine and Hittite archetypes. Some examples are: Cronus castrating Uranus, Zeus battling Typhon, the deluge of Deucalion etc. Like their foreign counterparts, the Roman and Olympian deities are far from an Epicurean ideal and do not represent the Epicurean archetypal deity.

    These deities are described in the Theogony and Metamorphosis as having identical emotions as mortal beings. They interfere in human affairs constantly and are petty, wrathful, cowardly, amorous etc. The latter emotion of being amorous is particularly prevalent among some of the gods including Zeus, king of the gods, who is polyamorous. Zeus had multiple divine relationships, but worse Zeus was also a seducer of mortals and was described as taking the form of a Swan to seduce a human female and even worse he is described as the pederastic abductor of Ganymede. There is no other way to described the latter except as debauchery. This is only one example, there are many, many more throughout the myths implicating many of the gods.

    So where does that leave the Epicureans? Hopefully far, far away from the traditional Greco-Roman deities. The deities are far from what is described in PD.1 as they interfere constantly in human affairs and are exceptionally emotional, often troubled by minor offenses committed by mortals.

    Should modern Epicureans be partnering with neo-pagan reconstruction religious groups? Or promoting the aesthetic ideals of Greco-Roman religion?

    In my opinion, I say emphatically NO. Such a relationship would be an endorsement of superstition and it contradicts the core principles of Epicurean theology. In my opinion there is no room for Zeus or Jupiter in modern Epicurean iconography or thought as it would be the same as glorifying Indra or Ba'al of foreign pantheons. It would simply be hypocritical and a denial of PD.1.

    So the question becomes, what can modern Epicureans use for an aesthetic image for their specific philosophic deities in lieu of the debauched Olympians?

  • Thanks for the detailed commentary. I've been thinking about this recently too, and incorporating some of the imagery in several graphics more as a discussion starter than anything else.

    As you know LD from my prior posting, I am one who takes the position that Epicurus was serious about "gods" as he defined them existing. But for the moment that is not the part on which I would like to focus.

    The reason I am comfortable incorporating Greek imagery into my graphics is that regardless of the "real" angle, I believe that Epicurus thought that the gods were useful as images of perfect happiness toward which to aspire. Certainly he rejected the myths about them doing all sorts of crazy things, but I suspect that even after rejecting that aspect he still found it useful to discuss the issue of how gods would be perfectly happy by personifying them. I am not aware that Epicurus spoke about "god" or in generic terms, rather than using the standard names - but of course I know the record is difficult to assess.

    There is of course the call to live as "gods among men," and it is apparent that he embraced the public festivals, and did not argue at all (to my understanding) that they were disembodied spirits.

    It appears to me, consistent with the reference to using the Phaeacian imagery from Homer as an example of the best life, that Epicurus believed it was useful to visualize the best life as one not altogether unlike the Greeks pictured the gods as living on Olympus, without all the childish melodrama.

    To take this further, as you also know I believe that it is worse than useless to define the best life as "absence of pain." I believe that description applies only to the "limit of quantity" for the reasons discussed elsewhere. I also believe that anyone challenged to visualize what "absence of pain" means in realistic terms will end up visualizing an experience that any ordinary human being can understand in sensual terms, and not as a non-sensual abstraction.

    Therefore I believe that Epicurus intended that his students incorporate godlike imagery as visualizations of the best life, such as described by Torquatus:

    "The truth of the position that pleasure is the ultimate good will most readily appear from the following illustration. Let us imagine a man living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous and vivid pleasures alike of body and of mind, undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain: what possible state of existence could we describe as being more excellent or more desirable? One so situated must possess in the first place a strength of mind that is proof against all fear of death or of pain; he will know that death means complete unconsciousness, and that pain is generally light if long and short if strong, so that its intensity is compensated by brief duration and its continuance by diminishing severity. Let such a man moreover have no dread of any supernatural power; let him never suffer the pleasures of the past to fade away, but constantly renew their enjoyment in recollection, and his lot will be one which will not admit of further improvement."

    To me, there is nothing wrong, and much that is right, and perhaps a lot that is inevitable, in visualizing this picture in human form much as Zeus or any other idealized Greek god might appear. Of course I don't mean to particularize this to Greece or Rome and to exclude other nations and ethnicity, as they will likely have their own equivalents that is perfectly appropriate for them to use.

    But Epicurus spoke of the "enemies of Hellas," and I do not believe he would think it appropriate to abstract out to ideal form a "human" stripped of all background, family, friends, and culture. So use of the Greek/Roman imagery among those of us who follow in that heritage (which very likely includes everyone reading this, no matter what nation they may currently reside) seems very appropriate to me.

    This is an excellent thing to discuss and I have an open mind as to the basic point.

  • LD let me ask you that question I am discussing -- If you were trying to visualize the highest and best life you could live, what kind of imagery would you visualize?

    I think this is a good question for anyone studying Epicurus. The Epicurean world is real - it's this one, between birth and death - and whatever goal we set for ourselves also has to be real, and therefore should be something we can visualize.

  • In my opinion there is no room for Zeus or Jupiter in modern Epicurean iconography or thought as it would be the same as glorifying Indra or Ba'al of foreign pantheons. It would simply be hypocritical and a denial of PD.1.

    my understanding is that PD1 is meant to DENY the common beliefs about the gods, and replace them with wholesome ones, to correct them. Every religion has its superstitions and errors: EP is meant to reform religion so that it produces pure, effortless pleasure.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • LD wrote : <<So where does that leave the Epicureans? Hopefully far, far away from the traditional Greco-Roman deities. The deities are far from what is described in PD.1 as they interfere constantly in human affairs and are exceptionally emotional, often troubled by minor offenses committed by mortals.

    Should modern Epicureans be partnering with neo-pagan reconstruction religious groups? Or promoting the aesthetic ideals of Greco-Roman religion?

    In my opinion, I say emphatically NO>>.


    In my opinion, if I would be so thirsty for a glass of water, I'll say emphatically YES to the more clean, and emphatically NO to the more muddy.

    And that is because it is not wise while someone tries to clean a mess inside his home, when a neighbor enters to that home without offering a helpful hand for cleaning that mess, but in opposite that neighbor is placing more mess. It is of what someone is doing when speaks about Epicurean Greek gods. Since the vision of gods in Epicureans’ minds is engraved clean and obvious either when are awake or they are asleep. Because their desire is to practice the art to live like god among men. And the desire to live like god among men, can't be if someone follows the tradition of monotheistic false religions of our era. This is the obvious definitely and irrevocably.

    Since with the usage of the Canon every issue is measured in accordance with the experiences and the circumstances in the reality we live. And the now-days we live, the circumstances are leading better to follow the Greek-Roman polytheistic gods, since they were acting more humanitarian and more natural !

    Because if Epicurus lived in our era what would say emphatically on the issue of Greek-Roman gods? What he would choose among polytheistic tradition of Greek-Roman Gods and the monotheistic Christianism/Judaism/Islamism God of our era? Well, he would say emphatically YES to the former! Since the vision of the former have turned upside down not only by the opposite philosophical schools in Epicuru’s era, but by the monotheistic religions of our era. Because Epicurus insists: if the vision of gods that is engraved to the peoples’ mind is without fears is clear, and pleasurable. If the vision of gods that is engraved to the peoples’ mind produced fears is unclear and painful. If the vision of gods is heavy loaded with the burden of responsibilities on how the celestial phenomena are occurred, is unclear. If it is not, so then it is clear. What is then producing more fear and pain as a religion ? The polytheistic Greek Roman religion or the monotheistic religion?

    Frankly being greek and living in our days, my vision of the image of Zeus does not produce to me any fear or any pain. I like the image of Zeus as the natural phenomenon of the thunder and the rain, which is falling like sperm to fertilize bravely the thirsty land. That's why I know that Greeks near other things, they create him as the lover of the more magnificent mortal women Lida, Europe, Ious, Leto, Alcmene, Semele, Olympiad of Philip. I prefer a god acting as human being than a god acting like an ascetic unnatural being.

    So, if Epicurus lived in our era he would say (paraphrasing this paragraph from his epistle to Meneoceus which shows that he is not absolute and aphoristic on the issue on Myths for greek gods) : For, indeed, it were better to follow the myths about the polytheistic Greek-Roman gods as were more humanitarian and more naturalistic than to become a slave to the painful deeds and the necessity that provoked by the monotheistic false religions and false unnatural gods : for the former suggest a hope to lead you in the pleasure to love your city and be friendly with your fellow citizens by worship them, whereas the latter involves pains and sacrifices and fears that are imposed by authorities with such powers which know no placation.

    And that also means : for the former there is a hope to lead the people to the constitution of real Democracy and pleasure, but the latter it is evidenced that lead to the sufferings of oligarchy and tyranny.

    Epicurus’ Description of the Wise Man : The wise man will not become a tyrant. What the wise man will become ? A citizen that loves his city, respecting the laws when they are beneficial and pleasurable, to such an extent to live as autonomous for changing the laws if are harmful. Because the epicurean man is friendly firstly to his fellow citizens participating to the common affairs that are also the feasts of his city with the worship of the polytheistic gods. Since how you will be friendly with the strangers if you are not friendly with the familiar ones firstly? So, the Epicureans are opposite to the ideology of "globalism" that lead the people to live without identity. And the identity is rooted and in the DNA as the first principles (anticipations) that are came by Epicuru's greek ancestors.

    Pericle's words in his epitaph : "Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighboring states; it is rather a pattern for others. Its administration favors the many instead of the few. This is why it is called Democracy. Our laws afford equal justice to all in their private differences. Advancement in public life depends on reputation for capability, not social standing. Class does not interfere with merit, nor does poverty bar the way. If a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition.

    "The freedom that we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbor for doing what he likes. Yet freedom in our private lives does not make us lawless as citizens. We respect and obey our legislators and our laws, particularly those that protect the injured, whether these laws are actually on the statute books, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace.... Because «τὸ εὔδαιμον τὸ ἐλεύθερον, τὸ δ' ἐλεύθερον τὸ εὔψυχον κρίναντες». i.e. we are judging that bliss means freedom; and freedom means bravery. …and they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger...And "our city also provides means for the mind to refresh itself from labor. We celebrate [athletic] games and worship [to the gods] all the year round, and the elegance of our homes and businesses forms a daily source of pleasure. Our city draws the produce of the world into our harbor, so that to Athenians the fruits of other countries are as familiar a luxury as those of their own".

    So, Epicurus, when he established his school/Garden in Athens, he had in his mind the above words by Pericles that survived by Thucydides. This was Epicuru's identity that came by his ancestors, these were his anticipations, since inside these words by Pericles someone could realize that the participation to the feasts of the city produced also to the epicureans pleasurable feelings indeed. That identity is proved also in their arts as well as with the building of the Parthenon that is the same proof of the pleasure they enjoyed. This is the big picture inside the Parthenon : it had neither mummies of monarchs and kings, nor relics of ascetic saints and innards of ascetic Popes, i.e. it had had not the worship of death, but the worship of life itself. It had had not the worship of the unnatural, but the worship of natural. That was the reason that inside the Parthenon was a huge statue of Athena that was virgin and remained virgin as she did not give birth to any child. In opposite Mary of christians gave birth to four children and they keep her as virgin. This is unnatural and ridicule, this is madness Epicurus would say, if he lived in our era, as he would say emphatically YES to the natural, and the humanitarian that was inside to the polytheistic Greek-Roman Gods !

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • I prefer a god acting as human being than a god acting like an ascetic unnatural being.

    Yes, I do too. I think this is a very important subject to discuss.

    Aside from Epicurus' statement that "gods" exist, what is more primary about how we discuss anything than "that which has no sensation is nothing to us" as part of PD2?

    If a subject cannot be considered in terms of sensations, then it seems to me that the subject can have no relevance at all. Which means to me that if the subject of the best and highest life cannot be considered in terms of sensations that are intelligible to us, then the subject is essentially nothing to us.

    So you can take that and go in two directions:

    (1) You can say that since "gods" do not appear immediately in front of us and interact with us the subject has no relevance at all, just like being dead.

    (2) Or you can say that "gods" conveys a manner of living which is intelligible to all of us in the form of our picture of human-like beings experiencing the best possible sensations - "living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous and vivid pleasures alike of body and of mind, undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain."

    If Epicurus stood for anything, he stood on the position that the soul cannot survive absent the body, and therefore all that is good must be experienced from birth to death. (Cited by DeWitt as encapsulated in VS 42. "The same time produces both the beginning of the greatest good and the dissolution of the evil." Or, as DeWitt translates it: "The same span of time includes both the beginning and termination of the greatest good." (p 219)

    All this appears to mean that the greatest good has to be experienceable by humans in a way that humans can understand, and humans can't understand anything which is not understandable in terms of sensation. And what better way is there to convey anything than to describe by analogy how a thing "feels" to us?

    Torquatus again in On Ends: "Further, every mental presentation has its origin in sensation: so that no certain knowledge will be possible, unless all sensations are true, as the theory of Epicurus teaches that they are. Those who deny the validity of sensation and say that nothing can be perceived, having excluded the evidence of the senses, are unable even to expound their own argument. Besides, by abolishing knowledge and science they abolish all possibility of rational life and action."

    Also, and even more to the point from Diogenes Laertius: " For all our notions are derived from perceptions, either by actual contact or by analogy, or resemblance, or composition, with some slight aid from reasoning.

    So in my view, do we have to convey the meaning of godhood with a picture of Zeus? No. But we have to convey the image of godhood with something, and in the absence of better alternatives in the form of images that mean more to us, then I would think continuing to use Zeus and the rest makes as much sense for at least some of us today as it did for ancient Epicureans.

  • LD let me ask you that question I am discussing -- If you were trying to visualize the highest and best life you could live, what kind of imagery would you visualize?

    Cassius, to answer your question in regard to how I would visualize the highest "deified" good in life from an Epicurean perspective, I would say that it would have to correspond entirely to the description of the Epicurean specific deities. Anything short of that might as well be nothing at all. This issue of visualizing the Epicurean gods becomes immensely difficult as they are described in a very specific way. This could be a subject of discussion for another thread entirely...building a physical image of an Epicurean god from what has been given to us from Epicurus. If that is even possible I do not know.

    As for just imagery that corresponds to just the "highest and best life" in our non-divine realm it would have to be imagery of pleasure that is available to mortals on a daily basis food, sex, friends etc. These images are of common things that give us pleasure. Down to earth images etc.

    And to respond to Elli...Hi Elli!

    Once again in my opinion, to accept the Greco-Roman gods for the purposes iconography is in my opinion continuing to add attributes to the divine beings that Epicurus said was considered impious. Zeus is the Zeus of the Theogony, no matter how you try to swing it. There is no Epicurean Zeus, if it is argued that the pederastic and wrathful Zeus of the Theogony is some aberration of impious poets, then it can be argued that all deities could be models for Epicurean iconography regardless of culture. You would not be constrained to Greco-Roman deities but would be free to utilize the Hindu and Mesopotamian Pantheons as well. Logically it doesn't make any sense to argue in favor of them.

  • As always the reason for this post is to keep everyone talking and thinking. I, as you know, am not a believer in the Epicurean deities as they are described. I believe they are purely idealistic.

    But my point here was to refine this argument further to examine whether it is wise to use the images of the debauched Greco-Roman deities, since they certainly do not represent the Epicurean ideal.

    It's like the expression "having (keeping) my cake and eat it too."

    If you argue against other deities and religious ideas as being superstitious or perverse yet wholesale accept obviously perverse deities as being acceptable. Then it is my opinion that it becomes an exceptionally hypocritical position to take.

    If anything the abandonment of the polytheistic deities of the ancient religion actually helps the Epicurean concept of deity, but keeping them, in my opinion, opens you up to serious criticism.

  • I want to think more about this before I go too much further. At this moment I am acutely reminded that I am not an Epicurean god because I think I have an allergy attack going on, and when my mind is not clear I cannot receive those clear images as data from which to discuss this! ;)

    Unless you purge your mind of such conceits, and banish them your breast, and forebear to think unworthily of the gods, by charging them with things that break their peace, those sacred deities you will believe are always angry and offended with you; not that the supreme power of the gods can be so ruffled as to be eager to punish severely in their resentments, but because you fancy those beings, who enjoy a perfect peace in themselves, are subject to anger and the extravagances of revenge: and therefore you will no more approach their shrines with an easy mind, no more in tranquility and peace will you be able to receive the images, the representations of their divine forms, that form from their pure bodies and strike powerfully upon the minds of men: From hence you may collect what a wretched life you are to lead.

  • And to respond to Matt. Hi Matt !

    Wherever is a hypothesis with an immortal and blissful being there is also and the hypothesis that that being is able to feel the continuous pleasures, so then why that immortal being could not chose and the "peaderasty" ? And when the greeks spoke about peaderasty (paedi+eros) they did not mean sex with the little children i.e. under the age of sexual consent that is called as "peadophilia", but their admiration of the beautiful bodies and forms both of young men and women. The period of time of youth was from 18 years until 29 years old. The myth of Zeus that had the pleasure to admire the young beautiful Ganymedes is natural as natural is the sensation to realize that one of the moons of Zeus/Jupiter is called Ganymedes.

    Homer, Iliad, Book XX, lines 233-235 wrote : Ganymedes as the loveliest born of the race of mortals, and therefore the gods caught him away to themselves, to be Zeus' wine-pourer, for the sake of his beauty, so he might be among the immortals. —

    In greek language we use the greek word "παιδί" [paedi] and "παίδαρος" [paedaros] that means "big boy/guy". When we see a young man with handsome and attractive features, we say "αυτός είναι παίδαρος" means he is gorgeous, he is a very good looking big boy/guy".

    According to the sources we have the natural and humanitarian Epicurus when he is addressing to his friends both the young boys/guys and mature guys i.e. men and women.

    "He (Epicurus) basely flattered Mithras, the viceroy of Lysimachus, bestowing on him in his letters Apollo's titles of “Healer” and “Lord". They further charged that he extolled Idomeneus, Herodotus, and Timocrates, who had published his esoteric doctrines, and flattered them for that very reason. Also that in his letters he wrote to Leontion: “0 Lord Apollo, my dear little Leontion, with what tumultuous applause we were inspired as we read your letter.” Then again to Themista, the wife of Leonteus: “I am quite ready, if you do not come to see me, to roll around three times on my own axis and be propelled to any place that you, including Themista, agree upon”; and to the beautiful Pythocles he wrote: “I will sit quiet and await with desire your god-like coming” and, as Theodorus says in the fourth book of his work, Against Epicurus, in another letter to Themista he thinks he preaches to her.

    It is added that he corresponded with many courtesans, and especially with Leontion, of whom Metrodorus also was enamored. It is observed too that in his treatise On the Ethical End he writes in these terms : “I know not how to conceive the good, apart from the pleasures of taste, of sex, of sound, and the pleasures of beautiful form.”

    In the basis of Greek-Roman culture this is the conclusion : Eros is everywhere and in everything around. Eros feels the mother to her little child. Eros feels the friend for his/her friend. Eros feel the lovers. Eros feel the parents for their children. Eros is the positive and the natural of life. Eros is synonym with Zeus and eros is described to the pantheistic GreekRoman gods. Epicureans chose EROS that gives birth and life in this planet Gaia, and the mother of EROS, as Lucretius summons her to his epic work DRN, is Aphrodite/Venus. :love:

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Hi Elli,

    Thank you for your detailed response.

    However, I still maintain my objections to the ancient polytheistic religion on the grounds that they violate PD.1.

    In your response you are equating Eros/Zeus with a mythological reasoning. Basically that Zeus is not a real deity that has any consequence on mortal lives, but rather he is an allegorical idealistic figure of human imagination. He is an imaginary being that is the product of the mind and desires of poets. In this scenario neither Zeus nor Ganymede are real and therefore they are not of any concern to us.


    Conversely, if you say that Zeus is as real as you and I are, and that he resides on top of Mt. Olympus, and his desire for Ganymede caused him to take the form of an eagle and abscond with him then we are dealing with something entirely different. So I ask how this corresponds to the Epicurean doctrine that the gods are remote, removed and unaffected by mortals, how do these two doctrines coexist?

    We can see now that there are multiple levels to this discussion:

    First, whether or not the Epicurean gods are even possible. Whether they are real or simply allegorical figures. (Which the debate continues ad infinitum without resolution.)

    And second, pertaining to this specific post, if the Epicurean deities should be associated with the Greco-Roman polytheistic deities.

    If the gods (Epicurean or polytheistic) are not real and figments of the mind only, there is no need to utilize any images whatsoever of any deity because what they represent strongly contradicts with what Epicurus spoke of. Which ultimately collapses back onto itself because there are no gods of any kind Epicurean or otherwise.

    If the gods are real then we arrive at the usual debate over how they can be real given the specific requirements placed on them by Epicurus, and how we should even be able to imagine them. This of course opens up Epicureanism to strong, strong criticism.

    Either way it is my opinion that attempting to hold on to Zeus and Hera, will overall not be beneficial when trying to explain away Allah or Vishnu.

  • Sorry Matt, but you did not read carefully whatever I wrote above. Who told you that Ganymedes was not real ? And who told you that Homer wrote just fairy tales ? The Trojan war as described by Homer was real. Every greek myth can be interpreted very clearly in accordance with reality and Nature. Ganymedes maybe was a handsome young boy that died young and had been sung by the poetical tradition. And that's all.

    Morever, these were the gods of Epicurus as described by Dimitris Liantinis, and as I can understand them!

    What defines the difference between Greeks and Christians? A difference that from a certain point and beyond is being opposed, opposition, rift, a fight fire with water.

    This which is defines the difference is something else and clear, as the olive leaf. But for this reason exactly is ultimate and extreme.

    The difference between the two is that the Greeks built a world based on observation and understanding, while the Christians built a world based on the assumption and imagination.

    The observation of the Greeks is of such of a quality that always is to be ensure in practical from what is happening in Nature, and always demonstrated in tangible from the experiment in the laboratory.


    The Religion of the Greeks

    Ιf we count the strong position that the gods and the religions gave birth in primarily level from the fear of human towards life, and in advanced and to a second level of this matter from the fear of human towards death, then we will find that the religion of the Greeks is an exception as occurred that differently constitutes a unique mission.

    The religion of the Greeks did not come from their fear, but it came from their sorrow to overcome the pain caused by rational vision for Nature and life, and death.

    In other words, the religion of the Greeks created by their honest and brave attitude to overcome their pessimism and melancholy.

    But between the fear of life and death, and the need of the Greeks to capitulate with their pain from what gave birth to their knowledge that the world is heavy, there is a little difference which gives the maximum effect.

    The religion of the Greeks, i.e. is not the case and offspring of the imagination, like all other religions, but it is the aesthetic representation of the phenomena of Nature.

    Thus, the gods of the Greeks are not neither secret and invisible presences. They are not ghosts of the mind, and wind’s constructions, hypothetical words and invents of reasons, and beings of a waking sleep.

    Instead, the gods of the Greeks are the images made up from the natural phenomena with slender intelligence and dexterity. They made by fluttering of a rational imagination, the whole, the simple, the non trembling, and the prosperous.

    And above all this: the gods of Greeks they attested by sensory, touching them with the hands, facing them with the eyes, there are factual and materialistic.

    Apollo suddenly, is the sun and the music regularity of the Nature.

    Artemis is the Moon. Both of those two sisters symbolize the light of the day and night and were born on the island of Delos, word which means the same the clarity and the light.

    Neptune is the sea.

    Hephaestus is the fire and the metals.

    Athena is the intelligence of the human, for this she is the protector of the ingenious Odysseus.

    Aeolus is the sixteen airs to the seas.

    Demeter is the joy of the fruits, the wheat, the rhubarb, the apple trees and vines, as the verse of Artsivald Maklis says.

    And Jupiter is the thunder and the rain, which is falling like sperm to fertilize bravely the thirsty land. That's why the Greeks near other things, they create him as the lover of the more magnificent mortal women. Lida, Europe, Ious, Leto, Alcmene, Semele, and Olympiad of Philip.

    Thus, the story goes and with the thirty thousand gods of the Greeks. Everyone is also a real, functional, indestructible, the beneficial and harmful true and a beautiful natural phenomenon.

    In other words, the religion of the Greeks is an aesthetic status of Nature’s elements, and in this way it is a variant of the Greek’s art.

    The Geometric evidence of this proposal is given by the fact that the religion of the Greeks is all in their art.

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Ionic, by C.P. Cavafy

    That we’ve broken their statues,

    that we’ve driven them out of their temples,

    doesn’t mean at all that the gods are dead.

    O land of Ionia, they’re still in love with you,

    their souls still keep your memory.

    When an August dawn wakes over you,

    your atmosphere is potent with their life,

    and sometimes a young ethereal figure,

    indistinct, in rapid flight,

    wings across your hills.

    The Trojan horse, the deception and the great duplicity of Cavafic irony is: Julian, Emperor of Rome.

    For Cavafy, Julian is the one brought up a christian. He is the covert fourth Hierarch. As a child in church he was a reader. As a youth he was a deacon at mass. He was raised in the cloisters, courtyards and cells of priests, monks, ministers and bishops. For years and years his mind was purged by the endless cycle of chanting, praying and leaning over liturgical books. Julian is a theurgic scientist. He is the emperor subservient to the Holy Synod and is responsible for organizing state governance according to the ecclesiastical system of the christians. A shame for his lauded victories in Germany as a young man which were reminiscent of that illustrious Caesar, Germanicus. Who was the ruler of mighty Rome three hundred years before. Julian denounced the Greek Epicurus and Pyrrho the skeptic. And praised the anatolian influences of Pythagoras with his communes, mysticism, belief in reincarnation and his theurgies. The primary deities in his “new religion” were not Zeus and Dionysus but Mithra and the great mother Cybele. For all intents and purposes the man was hazy and confusing. For Cavafy, Julian is the covert fourth Hierarch. The three hierarchs supposedly imbued the church with the hellenic spirit. Julian attempted to imbue hellenism with the spirit of the church. The debilitating effect is the same. An absurd conjunction so the deception may continue.

    It is upon this deception that Cavafy sets up his great engine. A siege engine of such exquisite craftmanship that far surpassed the capabilities of Demetrius the Besieger for whom the poem King Demetrius was written. A powerful poem like its subject: Death. The design of the engine is such that on the face of it he seems to be ridiculing Julian and the Greeks, while in essence he is waging war against the christians. Cavafy uses the character of Julian to suggest and symbolize the contradictions and bastardization of the modern Greek. Someone who boasts and brags about their hellenism, but who in essence is christian and jewish. For Cavafy understood it deeply that hellenism and christianity are like fire and water.

    The entire body of work of Cavafy, as a philosophical treatise, crystallizes into three questions. First, the matter of Theodicy and of Death. In other words, the matter of the tragic fate that awaits every human being in the world. Second, the analysis of both worldviews, the Hellenic and the Jewish. A quick reading, for example, of the poem Of the Jews (50 A.D.) will teach you more about the differences between the two perspectives than you would learn by studying a routine academic treatise 400 pages long. Third and last, his interpretation of the decline and fall of modern civilization, perceived through the kaleidoscope of the decline of the alexandrian and roman years. Cavafy is not a christian. He does not believe in heavenly kingdoms or the kingdoms of ruffians. In the Horses of Achilles, a brilliant and monumental poem about man's woe in front of the eternal calamity of death, he says that the body of Patroclus returned “to the great Nothingness”. Which is where you, I, and everyone else will return. And let us not forget that he persistently regarded the “Hellenic” idea as the noblest pursuit and attribute ever achieved by mankind upon the planet. (Dimitris Liantinis, from his book "Gemma")

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Sorry Matt, but you did not read carefully whatever I wrote above. Who told you that Ganymedes was not real ? And who told you that Homer wrote just fairy tales ? The Trojan war as described by Homer was real. Every greek myth can interpret very clearly in accordance with reality and Nature. Ganymedes maybe was a handsome young boy that died young and had been sung by the poetical tradition.

    "Sorry Matt, but you did not read carefully whatever I wrote above."

    Actually Elli, I read it very closely, and have been reading your responses to these questions in the past extremely closely (for some time now). I've been trying to understand what you and others actually believe in regard to this subject. Please do not think that I am confused by anything that you or others have said. I have a full and clear understanding of this subject. :)

  • I can tell you (from my personal observations) that all modern adherents of Epicureanism have varying views of the gods.

    Some don't believe. In fact they don't believe in any gods. Some say Epicurus was just mistaken and take the position of atheism.

    Some people truly believe they exist and maintain metaphysical formulas and arguments to uphold these beliefs.

    Others appear to take a rhetorical approach. This approach has less to do with actual knowledge or belief, but more to the effect of attempting persuasion to accept a doctrine without exploring the reason behind it.

  • I imagine Cato the elder that would say in Latin : "ceterum censeo Imperium Romanum Orientale postea Byzantinum esse delendam".

    Because from the Byzantine era has started and there was the final battle for the destruction of the genuine Greek-Roman Cosmotheasis (worldview) and as a way of life.

    And as Dimitris Liantinis Dimitris says to his book “Gemma”: "The space, the spatium or this s the physicists talk about, within which the de-Hellenisation of the Greeks took place, is Christian Byzantium. And the time, the tempus or the t the physicists talk about, within whose duration the process of Jew-ification of the Greeks took place, stretches from the time of Emperor Theodosius until this very day. Theodosius destroyed temples, ravaged ancient statues, closed down stadiums, theatres, Greek schools. All the sources that were the lifestream of the Hellenic way of life. This is why he is remembered as “the Great”. Which is the way his predecessor, Constantine, is also remembered. The Caesar who murdered his own wife and son. And they were first called “Great” by those who also called “Great” the Emperors Athanasius, Basil and all their ilk.

    Destroyers, forgers, vandals of the Hellenic idea. But there is another voice, persistently whispering from the shadows, that all the brutalities the Christians inflicted upon the Greeks mean nothing in the end for those that did not become Jewish-Greeks but remained Hellenic-Greeks. It rises from a distant place and is only heard by a few: Just because we tore their statues down, and cast them from their temples, does not mean that the gods are dead. This is Cavafy, dear reader, not some miser. Not some invented god. And the poem is called Ionian. It is not called Cherubicon.

    The dissolution and extinguishing of the classical Greek by Jewish-minded Christians lasted from the time of Theodosius until the time of Empress Eudoxia. Up to 843AD, with the official restitution of the icons. This holiday in the Orthodox calendar is celebrated annually since then, at the beginning of Spring! It is a grandiose celebration attended by state officials and foreign dignitaries. Viewed from a positive perspective, it symbolizes the triumph of Christianity. But viewed from its negative perspective, it represents the utter destruction of everything Greek. It is the tombstone of the Hellenic idea. That story reached its sad conclusion with the light defeated and darkness triumphant. With the Sunday of Orthodoxy and the appearance of the modern Greek identity. So Greeks only by name and superficially. And Jews to the bone, the blood, the heart, the intestines and the bile. Herein lies the key, the reason and the cause of the national schizophrenia".

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Ok I am feeling a little better and just read the most recent posts. I don't think any of us think that many of the details of the stories of the gods acting childishly are relevant or useful, other than maybe at most in the way that various stories in the Bible (David / Bathsheba?) add depth to the full story.

    But it does seem clear to me that

    (1)Epicurus thought that healthy aspirational images of living deathlessly and pleasurably and without pain can come from the gods, regardless of whether we today want to consider those images as emanating from real beings or from anticipatory constructs of the mind.

    (2) Mental pictures of a type which represent actual attainable examples of living that sort of highest life are useful and necessary not only to children, but to adults, for many reasons, not the least of which is so that we can communicate intelligibly about what we consider to be the highest sort of life available to humans.

    Epicurus through Lucretius said that without a model the gods could not have created worlds, and I think it is safe to say that without a model it is not possible to visualize, work for, or obtain the highest Epicurean life.

    That as much as anything is what I object to about the modern obsession with "absence of pain" - it is a disembodied ghost - an unattainable abstraction no more intelligible than the "trinity."

  • Right now if I knew a young person who was confused and wanted a model of what it would mean to be an Epicurean I would be at a loss to draw such a picture. I might refer them to read "A Few Days In Athens" and of course if they were old enough I might suggest the DeWitt book, but those are not adequate to provide the vision necessary to convey the full picture.

    I don't know if Nate would be interested in commenting here but this is related to the artistry of being able to capture the essence in pictures / music / poetry etc.

    To repeat the allusion, even the gods would have needed models to create worlds.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Epicureans and the Ancient Greek Gods” to “Epicureans and the Ancient Greek Gods (Imagery)”.