Thursday, January 27, 2011

The people of Greece part 1

        Many people here in Bethel College hear me talk about how different my Greek culture and its' people are from Americans. When they ask me to list some of the differences I can't seem to recall all of them. Here i will take some time to talk the history of my people. Somebody's past tells you a lot about who they are and why they are the way they are today. Hopefully through my ideas you guys will be able to spot the similarities and differences Greek people from Americans.

 People from the Past
  Thousands of years ago,on the southeastern leg of Europe, bordering with the Mediterranean sea, was a land known as Hellas. Its occupants were known by the rest of the word as "Ellines" (pagan worshipers). These people were considered strange and mysterious to the rest of civilizations. Sharing -for the most part- the same language, culture, and religious practices, they were divided in city- states, some survive to this day (Athens, Sparta). What's very interesting about these city- states is that despite their acknowledgement that they have the same faith and culture as the other states of the region, they still proceeded in fighting each other. Civil warfare between these city-states was common.  This is the reason why many scholars today debate on whether or not ancient Hellas should be considered a country or not. The city-states acted as individual countries with their own government, army, and social events. They all knew however that they were a part of a whole and stuck by each other in the presence of a greater evil, but that's something we'll talk about later on.

Their Faith

        As stated earlier, religion was the same throughout all regions of Hellas and the islands. There were slight variations in certain areas. Ellines were polytheists, they believed in the existence of various gods, but they mainly focused their worship on 12 of them. These are the famous 12 gods of Olympus.
Olympus is the tallest mountain in all of Hellas. It was believed that it was the home of these 12 gods. Each god represented either an element of nature, an art, or an idea. There are hundreds of gods and other mythical creatures according to ancient Hellenic beliefs. Ellines worshipped many of these gods but each city-state had an appointed god- protector. Devoted followers built temples to honor and please these god protectors. The Parthenon, a temple still surviving to this day was dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom, and protector of Athens. The city takes after her name.

Ellines believed that their soul was trapped in their human body and could only be set free through death. They believed that living honorably would please the gods and in return they would grant them peace and prosperity. In this Hellenistic belief there is no heaven and hell. They knew that in the afterlife, the same fate awaited those who lived accordingly to their gods requests, and those who defied them. So trying to understand those who chose the narrow path of living a good life isn't an easy task. There are some accounts in their tales and myths of people who defied the gods and spent afterlife in a more painful manner than others. Their place of residence from the others, however, remains the same. Hades.

(to be continued)
p.s. Any questions you guys have on any of this material or how it relates with the modern Greeks you are welcome to either ask me or wait to read the next parts.

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