Category Archives: Good and bad polytheists

Good and bad polytheists (part 6): Phillip II and Alexander III

PHILLIP II

Philip1[1]The 4th century BCE was an age of such decline and decay for the Greeks, that it became difficult for any notable person, whose name is recorded in history, to be considered truly as a good polytheist, except in comparison with bad ones. The huge Peloponnesian War of the preceding century, which had raged for 20 years between Athens and Sparta, resulted from ambitious greed and moral corruption, causing great destruction throughout Greece. This horrible war and dangerous decay was anticipated by the Second Sacred War, a conflict that broke out between Athens and Sparta in 449 BCE, each striving to control the pre-eminent religious sanctuary in Delphi for its own interests. During the middle of the 5th century also, we also see the rise of philosophy in Greece and its defiance to traditional polytheism, most especially in Athens with such characters as Protogoras, Antiphon the Sophist, Hippias, Diagoras of Melos, and to some degree, Socrates and Euripides, among others. The old conflict between the Greeks and the Persians was now forgotten as the Greek city-states fought amongst one another for domination, especially Athens and Sparta. In 371 BCE, the situation grew more complicated when Thebes entered as a third great player in the game for the domination of Greece, after defeating their Spartan rival in battle and capturing large territories. About this time, when Thebes invaded the northern region of Thessaly, bordering on Macedonia, a young Phillip II of Macedon, the future father of the famous Alexander, was taken as a hostage to be raised up in Thebes, where he received a fine military education.

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Good and bad polytheists (part 5): Potitus & Barbatus, and Appius Claudius Crassus

POTITUS & BARBATUS

roman_eagle_design_by_erebus74-d4t2bly[1]Lucius Valerius Potitus and Marcus Horatius Barbatus were two senators who distinguished themselves during the troublesome time of the Decemviri as well as the secession of the Plebeians in 449 BCE. Conflicts between the aristocratic senate and the common citizens of Rome had increased since the overthrow of the monarchy in 509 BCE, and in time the bad blood in the state made the Plebeians (or common citizens) secede, or break away, in 494 BCE. Although the troubles ended when the senate conceded some power by the formation of the office of Tribune of the Plebeians, with inviolable privileges, new disturbances began to brew about forty years later. Because Rome was not in a condition for civil broils during a time of war with its neighbors, it was determined by the senate to appoint a special committee of 10 men to establish a code of laws that would prevent future disagreement at home. These men, who were all senators, were called the decemviri, and were given extraordinary powers for each term in office, which lasted one year. However, upon the end of their second term in 450 BCE, they remained in office by force and suspended indefinitely the office of Plebian Tribune as well as the Plebian right to appeal.

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Good and bad polytheists (part 4): Herodotus and Empedocles

HERODOTUS

220px-Herodotos_Met_91.8This is the great father of history, who flourished in the middle of the 5th century BCE. He was born a subject of Persia in the Ionian city of Halicarnassus, and from there he may have witnessed, as a young boy, some preparations for the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BCE, which the treacherous queen of the city took part in on the side of Xerxes. What is certain, however, is that he grew up among veterans of both the Ionian revolt of 499 BCE against Persia and (after he left his city) veterans of the Persian invasion. He also seems to have belonged to a patriotic family, because his cousin Panyassis (a poet of some renown) was executed after an uprising in Halicarnassus, against a treacherous Greek tyrant. Nevertheless, whether he left the city by force or by curiosity is not known; as a subject of Persia, he probably thought little of his citizenship within such a vast empire, or at least wondered what had happened to change his world so much. His interest in the event surely drove him to gather and consume many stories, but he was also concerned about various inquiries, especially how and why could Persia, as far as it was in another part of the world, come at the door of Greece and attempt to break through it? For this reason, he composed a work called ‘Ιστοριαι, meaning Inquiries, but more commonly translated as Histories.

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Good and bad polytheists (part 3): Homer and Orpheus

HOMER

Homer

Although there is little that we can be certain of regarding the life of this man, his immense influence on the Hellenic people by means of his epic poems is the essence of what ought to be considered. It is generally thought that he was a blind poet who flourished in the 9th or 8th century BCE. Like others of his profession, he composed poems orally and travelled to recite them for pay, especially at festivals or in the houses of nobles. Sometime after his death, his epic poems, the famous Illiad and Odyssey, were written and preserved for posterity. They concerned a remarkable time in Greek history, when, 400 years before, during the Bronze Age, a great war broke out between several Greek states and the city of Troy, which afterwards spread further; the first poem relates the events of the war, and the second the return of the king Odysseus home, after the siege of Troy. After they were written, the poems rose to such fame and admiration for many centuries, that they actually inspired and educated the Greek peoples more than any author before, and hence were almost considered as a sacred authority to learn from.

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Good and bad polytheists (part 2): Ahmose I and Amenhotep IV

AHMOSE I

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Ahmose was born a local king of the Upper Egyptian city of Thebes, towards the end of the Second Intermediate Period, a period of disorder which lasted from 1650 to 1550 BCE. During this time, Lower Egypt was ruled by Semitic invaders from the Levant, called the Hyksos. They were a warlike and cruel people who took advantage of a weak government, seizing and plundering towns, destroying temples, and capturing slaves. Having found an abundance of opportunity and wealth there, they founded a dynasty and ruled by force, setting up fortresses to protect their possession of the land. Their kings styled themselves as pharaohs, but they were, like many or most Semitic rulers, henotheists, that is, worshippers of one God while acknowledging others, a practice that later contributed to monotheism. The Hyksos kings only worshipped Set, the God of the desert, which was looked upon suspiciously by Egyptians, who had known no such custom before. 

But after a reign of 100 years, the invaders grew comfortable enough to relax its absolute power, nor did it have the ability to maintain their rule completely over Egypt. Hence, in Thebes, where a dynasty of local kings had grown in power gradually, Ahmose sought to restore the independence of Egypt and carry on the military exploits of his grandfather Seqenenre Tao and his father Kamose, who had both died in battle. Ahmose proved himself worthy of his noble and brave paternity by conquering and expelling the Hyksos, after a long campaign of several years. In order to maintain independence, he afterwards invaded and pillaged the Levant, and then withdrew to his borders to restore his country. Prosperity returned to Egypt by means of trade and construction, and antique examples were followed in art that preceded the invasion of the Hyksos. Besides this earnest revival, he also attempted to build the last pyramid of Egypt, but the project was unfinished and dropped upon his death after a few years of his short reign as Pharaoh. Nevertheless, even though Egypt was not to be as glorious as it was before, Ahmose was great enough to be remembered as the restorer of Egypt’s independence and the founder of a new age in Egyptian history, namely, the New Kingdom. As great as the acknowledgment is due, it is perhaps a testimony to his modesty and diligence as Pharaoh, that only 3 mediocre statues of his have been found.

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Good and bad polytheists (introduction and part 1): Ur-Nammu and Sargon

As devout polytheists, we often view the ancient times of our ancestors as perfect and beyond any reproach. Nor is it untrue that such days of old shine too much in their original beauty, especially in comparison with the world as it stands today. However, it is not only our duty to praise our ancestors and emulate them, but also to learn of their faults where they occurred and avoid them. By this means, we can become wise and successful in our current and future endeavors, as well as distinguish ourselves from the Abrahamic and atheistical fanaticism which calls for the total adoration of all their founders and leaders. In my attempt to achieve this end, I will strive as much as possible to form a fair view that concurs with the principles of traditionalism that I have already set forth to the best of my ability. I don’t always expect agreement with my views, but I hope it will offer some important consideration for the reader, if not discussion. In some imitation of the ancient biographer Plutarch, I will present a good and a bad polytheist, in a sort of parallel, with an explanation of their most important actions, justifying such a distinction between them. In doing so, I will also aim at representing as many traditions of polytheism in the world as possible, and these will be put in chronological order beginning with the most ancient.

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