THE MEASURE OF ALL GODS: Religious Paradigms of the Antiquity as Anthropological Invariants

As it is known, Oswald Spengler considered the religion to be the essence of every culture. Indeed, the people’s theology (representing the story of its gods from the outside) unfolds (from the inside) as its anthropology, where correlation with the sacral allows for appropriate positioning of a person. From this, in particular, it follows that the study of the culture of certain peoples should begin with the reconstruction of their religious patterns. However, often the reconstructions, which are supposed to be working models, turn out to be only static models, more or less dexterously adapted to historical reality. Dissecting a foreign religion, the researcher is inclined to lose sight of the fact that it was filled with living acts of faith, without which all its charm disappears, integrity crumbles, and intimate depth transforms into a popular print.

How to Cite:
Halapsis, A. V. (2018). The Measure of All Gods: Religious Paradigms of the Antiquity as Anthropological Invariants. Anthropological Measurements of Philosophical Research, 14, 158-171. doi:10.15802/ampr.v0i14.150756
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Starting from Modernism, the heaven jurisdiction is becoming increasingly limited, and in all areas of theoretical activity classified as “scientific”, God’s participation gradually shifts from the necessary, as in previous ages, towards the optional, and subsequently, completely undesirable. Already in Hegel, God is forced to put on the mask of the Absolute Spirit only in order to blend into the crowd of Friedrich Wilhelm III’s subjects. Today, only a politician or a street preacher can speak of a divine presence in this world; still, perhaps, a theologian, and even then, not everyone. And although the rumors about the death of God turned out to be greatly exaggerated, nowadays no one of the sane people would ever think to compose a philosophy of history modeled after St. Augustine’s “The City of God”.

Nevertheless, the gods, who were dismissed by the thought leaders from the duties of managing life and death of people, contrary to forecasts, did not leave this world at all. They remained and reincarnated, they enter into breathtaking alliances between themselves and lead exhausting and fierce wars. And if many opposing gods find themselves in the same territory, the consequences of their hostility affect even those who deny their reality. The gods are alive as long as they are believed in, and as much alive as much they are believed in. Protagoras, who did not consider it possible to reliably establish the existence of the gods, was convinced of the need to venerate them. After all, even if you personally do not believe in any gods, it would be extremely presumptuous of you to exclude the factor of their influence from life.

The Protagorean position “Man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not” makes evident not only the ontology of our ideas about reality for us, but also the fact that these ideas can become a reality not only for us. It can be a creative plan that was realized in a Gothic cathedral or a musical symphony, a physical theory or a philosophical treatise — where the personal, sometimes even intimate aspects of the spiritual life of the author(s) reach the “objective” level of social being. But the matter is not limited to this kind of visual (to a greater or lesser extent) objectivations, because when the famous sophist spoke about this human privilege, he meant the relationship of people with heaven (it cost him accusations of godlessness and exile from Athens).

The question can be, of course, not about gods as such, but about sociocultural ideas about gods, which are made up of people’s ideological patterns, and, in turn, influence these patterns (Halapsis, 2015). They can be called egregors in the spirit of some mystical teachings, or interpreted in the manner of Neil Gaiman (remember his famous “American Gods”), or somehow else. In any case, no matter how we treat belief in the existence of gods as personalities, the fact of faith in them is quite clearly historically fixed, and since belief causes the actions of participants in historical processes corresponding to it, it is quite impossible to dismiss such facts. Since the religious forms of identity previously had no less significance than today (and in most cases much more), then the conversation about the religions of antiquity should be conducted with no less seriousness than about the religions of modernity. To understand the ancient culture, one should get rid of the habit of viewing its religious sphere as an amusing fable, where even a beautiful retelling does not negate the fact that its content — in the opinion of the narrator himself — is a lie.

The following text is an attempt to interpret the religious patterns of the ancient Greeks and Romans as anthropological invariants that define the existential patterns for subsequent eras. And besides purely historical, there are other reasons that make the reconstruction of the religious beliefs of classical Antiquity relevant to people of the XXI century. Traditionally, the Greek and Roman religions are regarded as past practices and plots that have little or no effect on our own relationship to the divine world. We readily recognize ourselves as the spiritual heirs of the Greeks and Romans in the fields of science and philosophy, the theory of state and law, art and life, but not in the religious sphere. In accordance with church tradition, a line is built from Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from him to the rest of the prophets (Old Testament), then to Jesus and the apostles (New Testament), and further to modern Christianity (of course, each the confession treats the history of the last two millennia in favorable optics). Homer and Hesiod, Orpheus and Musaeus, the Delphic oracle and the Sibyls, the Greek philosophers and the Roman legislators simply do not fit into this scheme. However, as Simon Goldhill notes, “the problem is that ancient Greece cannot just be “different”. It is one of those privileged sources from which modern Western culture derives its own values​​” (Goldhill, 2004, p. 87). Taking over the forms of the ancient worldview, the people of the West simply could not but adopt the forms of their religiosity, even if in a veiled form. What are these forms? This article reveals some of them to the attention of readers.

Literature review

Ancient Greek religiosity has been the object of numerous studies, because it is difficult to overestimate the significance of religion for the formation of the Hellenic civilization. The Greeks had words for “customs”, “sacrifices”, “prayers”, “temples”, “hymns”, “priests”, “sacred things”, “gods”, “piety”, but they did not have a word that could collectively denominate all the above under a general term such as “religion” (Polinskaya, 2013, p. 3). According to Jan Bremmer, “religion was such an integral part of Greek life that the Greeks did not have a separate word for “religion” (Bremmer, 1994, p. 2). Indeed, “it is almost impossible to separate religion, as a category, from the rest of life in the ancient world” (duBois, 2014, p. 57).

On the other hand, it is possible to speak about the “religion of the Greeks” quite notionally, as each city had its own cult, only partly associated with the common Hellenic one. The ancient Greek religion is largely a reconstruction of the later eras than something that existed as a “religion” in our understanding. The geopolitical fragmentation of the Greek world resulted in the existence of many centers of religious life in ancient Greece (Mikalson, 2010, pp. 47-49; Parker, 2005, p. 70; Versnel, 2011, pp. 88-102). In different polises and localities of Hellas, the same gods were worshiped under different epithets, sometimes in the same polis there were several temples of the same gods, who, in accordance with their epithets, were honored in different ways. Fustel de Coulanges noted: “The fact that two cities gave their god the same name should not lead us to conclude that they worshiped the same god” (Fustel de Coulanges, 2010). Ian Bremmer also notes that «Every city had its own pantheon in which some gods were more important than others and some gods not even worshiped at all… Yet the various city-religions overlap sufficiently to warrant the continued use of the term “Greek religion”» (Bremmer, 1994, p. 1).

Walter Burkert stated that the ancient Greek religion was a plurality in unity, because despite local peculiarities, “the Greeks themselves viewed various manifestations of their religious life as essentially compatible, because the diversity of practice in devotion to the same gods was not questioned even by Greek philosophy” (Burkert, 1985, p. 8). In one degree or another, the unity of Greek religiosity is recognized by other researchers (Parker, 2005, pp. 66-67; Price, 1999, p. 3; Sissa & Detienne, 2000, p. 155; Versnel, 2011, pp. 240-241).

In forming the spiritual unity of the Greeks, poetry played an enormous role (Vernant, 1993, p. 100), however, it is necessary to distinguish between the gods of poetry and the gods of cults, for “Deities of Greek poetry, in a sense, both were (by name, physical appearance, and sometimes function) and were not (by local cult myths, ritual, and sometimes function) the deities whom each Greek personally worshiped (Mikalson, 2010, pp. 35-36).

Here we see the amazing anthropological responses to myth-theological challenges. The diversity of reality, suggesting the parallel existence of the same gods in different lacunae, allowed opposite interpretations of divinity, which required special skill in the transition between different registers or foci of consciousness (Versnel, 2011, p. 90). Herewith the Greeks managed to do this procedure so skillfully that their models (interpretations of divinity) were not directly opposed to each other. And philosophy was born as an interpretation: if they had had a single cult and strict creed, it might not have arisen.

This Greek “postmodernism” is very different from the Roman religious worldview already because the latter spread from one center, and at the level of the base code it had a much greater degree of integration (another thing is that having already become a world empire, Rome experienced the actions of deities, not all of whom were supportive of it, and some were clearly hostile). Charles King identifies three basic conceptual mechanisms of the Roman religion: polymorphism, meaning that gods can have multiple identities with incompatible attributes, orthopraxy, focusing on standardized ritual rather than standardized faith, and piety (pietas), the Roman ideal of mutual commitment, which was flexible enough to allow the Romans to maintain relations simultaneously with several gods at different levels of personal commitment (King, 2003). In my article I will also focus on other features of the Roman religion, as well as on its differences from the Greek one.


The purpose of the article is the reconstruction of ancient Greek and ancient Roman models of religiosity as anthropological invariants that determine the patterns of thinking and being of subsequent eras.

Statement of basic materials

Arguments about the essence of man will remain empty without being tied to the specific cultural and historical conditions within which this personality is developing. The very idea of “personality” and its inherent properties, rights (let us recall the doctrine of “natural law”, etc.) is also historically conditioned. And the tradition, thanks to which our contemporaries talk about such things, did not arise yesterday or the day before yesterday. The basic patterns of our thinking and our relationship to the world began to form in Antiquity; therefore, turning to it has the meaning of self-knowledge. Science and philosophy, the doctrine of state and law, ethics and fine arts, inherited from the Greeks and Romans, were considered by them in close connection with religious concepts and ideals, only in the context of which they acquired their meaning. Therefore, the reconstruction of ancient religious paradigms is necessary for a deeper understanding of those ideological patterns that underlie the worldview of modern man.

For most of our contemporaries, the differences between the Greek and Roman religions are almost entirely reduced to different designations (names) of the same gods. The facts of the mutual influence of Greek and Roman religiosity and the parallelism of mythological plots can be cited in favor of this point of view. However, even if the Greeks and Romans prayed to the same gods, it is not at all the fact that they treated them equally. The actual absence of professional clergy in the sense that it was established in later times was also greatly contributed to the absence of any dogmatism, which is why the corresponding religious beliefs did not have a rigid framework.

The Greek gods did not hide from people in other worlds, they were near, accompanying man from birth to death. They gave strength to his sails, and they smashed his ships, they pulled him into the abyss, and they gave him salvation, they took care of his harvest, and they sent diseases to him. And although not all the Greeks took the poets’ stories at face value, few of them doubted the very existence of the gods. How can you doubt those who are present here, near, whose strength you feel in the tumult of the elements and the change of seasons, in the storm at sea and lightning breaking the skies, in the noise of the forest and the greatness of the stars, in the breath of the earth and the whisper of the stars?

The intimate relationship with the gods was also manifested in the absence of intermediaries between man and the gods. The priests only maintained the temples in decent condition, but they did not take over the function of the representatives of heaven. Each Greek could independently appeal to the gods, who were specific individuals, whose visualization (for example, in the form of marble statues) served only as an auxiliary means for establishing special relations with the higher forces. Here, one of the markers will be exactly the fact with what forces these relations are established and the nature of their features.

Anyone who wishes to form a holistic view of the ancient Greek religion has every chance of despairing very quickly in the performance of their intention. It is difficult to find gods, regarding the origin, details of the biography, and sometimes — the functions, in relation to which numerous myths come to consensus. Robert Parker compares the Greek pantheon with a heaped line basket that no one considered necessary to tidy up (Parker, 2005, p. 387). However, it is possible to try to clean up this basket. But for this, one should turn not to the myths themselves, but to their background.

The absence of universally recognized dogma texts by the Greeks and Romans creates considerable difficulties for the reconstruction of their spiritual life, but we have enough data on religious practices to derive from them the canonically unformed, but effective, due to its motivational potential, content of the views that determined the fundamental parameters of the evolution of relevant civilization projects. Philosophy is primarily interested in the experience of the spirit from its ancient laboratory — experience, the consequences of which continue to influence our own projects.

Throughout the entire historical period, and almost everywhere in Greece, Zeus was considered the supreme Greek god. However, the supreme god was not the main addressee of the prayers of the Greeks, being the personification of abstract cosmic justice, too far from the needs of a particular Hellene. Therefore, “religious holidays in honour of Zeus are few, since a number of his functions were entrusted to other gods — executors of the will of Zeus, who were in much closer relations with man (italics added by me. — A.H.)…” (Losev, 1991b, p. 221).

Usually the role of the mortals in establishing close relations with the heavens is rather passive; they act only as objects to which the interest of higher powers is directed. Practically in all religions of the world there are plots about how gods choose individuals for expressing their will, often gods patronize those who could draw their attention to themselves, sometimes whole nations become favorites of gods. But for the gods themselves to participate in the casting for the favor of the mortals — such examples are few. But the Greeks have them at least two. Paris became a judge in the contest of divine beauty, the participants of which did not hesitate to commit acts of corruption in relation to him. The second well-known example is the dispute between Athena and Poseidon over the right to rule Attica, and this dispute was resolved by people who determined the degree of usefulness of the divine gifts. In both cases, the rival gods tried to please the mortals, and in both cases the result had far-reaching consequences. The decision of Paris led to the Trojan War, but the audience award received by Athena turned out to be much more significant.  

Athena had the subjects whom she favoured with knowledge and skills, and to whom she granted her patronage. Her rule turned out to be very beneficial, because most of the achievements that the Hellenes were proud of — craft, science, art, polis organization of public life — were due to Athena. Therefore, the most luxurious temples were dedicated to her, majestic statues were put to her, her image was decorated with vases, coins, etc. A.F. Losev noted that Athena is equal in importance to Zeus, and sometimes even surpasses him (Losev, 1991a, p. 72).

A close relationship with (some) gods means that the celestials live the life of their people, they support and take care of it. Gods share victories and holidays with people, but also in trouble they do not abandon their wards. And when hard days came, a resident of Attica knew whose help he could count on. However, it should be borne in mind that although in the inter-Hellenic conflicts Athena behaves as befits the ruler of Attica, in the conflicts of the Greeks with the barbarians she is always on the side of the Greeks. Thus, this goddess acts in two roles: as the ruler of one of the regions of Little Greece (there was even the epithet “Athena of Athens” (Polinskaya, 2013, p. 10)) and as an all-Hellenic goddess-protector. Each Greek polis had its own palladium — a sacred image of Athena, which was a city talisman; her image, and not the image of the supreme god Zeus, or the military god Ares. An idea of ​​the power of the warrior goddess can be obtained from a story about how, pursuing the running giant Enceladus, she brought down the island of Sicily on him (Apollodorus, 1921, p. 45).

The Greeks were convinced that every nation has its own celestial curator, who not only protects his own subjects (to the extent that the supreme god allows), but is also responsible for their well-being. (By the way, interesting parallels can be found in Deuteronomy (chapter 32, verse 8), where the number of nations is related to the number of heavenly inhabitants. The Synodal Bible, however, refers to the “sons of Israel”, but in modern translations the word “angels” is used in this place or even “gods”; for example, in the New Revised Standard Version we read: “When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 2010, p. 304). Apparently, it was this fragment that allowed Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to assert that God had assigned one of the angels to every people (Dionysius the Areopagite, 1899, pp. 36-40)). Such an idea was implicitly implied behind the external outline of the narration of Greek myths; Plato himself writes about the division of the world between the gods as a well-known fact (Plato, 1997, p. 1295). The lovers asked for help from Aphrodite, the sailors from Poseidon, the merchants from Hermes; while all the Greeks prayed to Athena. The Greeks worshiped other gods; they loved Athena, not sparing their efforts and means, in order to express their gratitude to her. The gods ruled the whole world; Athena was their — Greeks’ — goddess, she was their Ruler, Protector and Benefactor.

Being subsequently ridiculed and anecdotized by Christian authors, the Hellenic myths were much more flexible than the ingenuous straightforwardness of the main plot of the Old Testament books. Reading the latter, you never get tired of being surprised by the fantastic persistence with which the “chosen people” resisted the will of their divine Patron. But if we consider the Old Testament history not as a reliable story, but as a metaphysical concept, a lot falls into place. In essence, Yahweh combines the features of a universal God with the features of a pagan deity, but if the presence of Zeus and other gods diverted from Athena possible reproaches of insufficient support, then Yahweh had no such “justification”. The “ingratitude” of the Jews plays a key role in the concept of Judaism, making it possible to explain the fact that the people chosen by the One and Almighty God are being defeated by wicked polytheists.

Still the Greek concept of separation of the supreme and beloved (domestic) deities both allowed to consistently describe the divine world and provided motivation for human actions. After all, although the gods have the capabilities incomparable with those of the mortals (what would the island thrower do to the enemy army?), the justice of the supreme god actually leveled these capabilities (when Zeus directly forbade Athena to use her Wunderwaffe, or when he opposed the power of other gods to her power). Consequently, the outcome of this or that battle is more dependent on weak and mortal people than on strong and immortal celestials.

The Romans built relationships with the world of the gods in other way. Although they borrowed Greek mythological plots, and their poets tried to imitate Homer, the equivalence of the mythological component should not be misleading, because it plays far from the main role. After all, the sacred history in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is also almost identical, which in no way testifies to the identity of the religious models that serve as a guide to action for their followers.

The abundance of myths does credit to the creative imagination of the Greek people, but their storylines do not always contribute to piety. The Roman religion did not give grounds for licentiousness and irreverence, and in this, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the main merit belongs to the legendary founder of Rome. The Greek historian noted with approval that Romulus dismissed all the myths in which the gods appear in an unattractive form, setting people to say only the good things about the gods (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 1960, p. 363). Plutarch, however, attributed the beginning of the formation of a specific Roman religiosity to the rule of Numa Pompilius, who (in his opinion) was under Pythagorean influence. It is interesting that Plutarch ascribes to Numa the doctrine, in accordance with which the first principle of being is sensually imperceptible, invisible, indistinct and intelligible; from this followed the prohibition to honor God in the form of a man or animal, as well as to create his images; for a long time (170 years) the Romans allegedly followed this prohibition (Plutarch, 1967, pp. 333-335). This suggests parallels with Judaism and Islam, which prohibit the image of God, as well as with the tradition of iconoclasm — from the Isaurian emperors of Byzantium to the Protestants.

The majority of contemporary historians following Theodore Mommsen consider Romulus and Numa to be mythological characters (Cornell, 1995; Momigliano, 1990; Rodríguez-Mayorgas, 2010; Wiseman, 1995). As Mary Bird noted, it was not Romulus who gave his name to the city, but, on the contrary, his name is derived from the name of the city; so Romulus is the archetypal “Mr. Rome” (Beard, 2015, chap. 2). However, there are those (for example, the Italian archaeologist Andrea Carandini), who hold the opposite point of view, considering the first kings to be historical figures (Carandini, 2011).

I will not interfere in the discussions of historians. For me, the historicity of Romulus and Numa (as well as the historicity of other characters in early Roman history) is not critical. For historians it is important to find out how it really was, and for the tasks of my research it is much more important what the Romans thought about how it really was. I call a historical figure the person about whom the history speaks as about a “historical figure”, who could fit into it. Since one has become part of a mythologema, taken into account and used by the spirit in its historical evolution, he or she has become history, and this fact itself is sufficient to state that in a historical sense this one is not at all nobody (even if there are doubts about his or her physical existence). It is indicative that both Greek authors point out the differences between the Roman version of religiosity and the traditional Greek beliefs that are familiar to them, and Plutarch points out the closeness of the Roman code to the most mysterious philosophical and mystical teaching of Hellas.

Athena in the Roman pantheon corresponds to Minerva, who is part of the Capitoline Triad (along with Jupiter and Juno). But the Greek parallels were made later, and Minerva was originally the Etruscan Menrva who “changed citizenship”, the goddess of motherhood and craft; she was also a protector of the cities, portrayed in military armament and with a spear, was part of the Etruscan triad (along with Tinia and Uni) (Nemirovskiy, 1991, p. 361). Having “enticed” the goddess of their enemies, the Romans could not fail to find in her the similar features with the patroness of their teachers.

However, the Minerva for the Romans is not at all the same as Athena for the Greeks, and the matter is not only in its national sympathies and political projects. Unlike the Greeks, whose gods besides external anthropomorphism were human-like also in actions, the Romans were inclined to perceive gods as abstractly universal cosmic entities. If Greek mythology is dramatic (the amorous adventures of the immortals, their quarrels and intrigues, causing the indignation of philosophers by their simplicity, were considered by most Hellenes to be quite permissible pastime), then Roman religiousness stays away from all this. An exception can be considered poetic works created as direct imitation of Greek originals, which, incidentally, have almost no religious significance. Therefore, Minerva is Athena, and not Athena, Venus is both Aphrodite and not Aphrodite, and of course Jupiter is the one the Greeks honored under the name “Zeus”, but this is “not quite” Zeus.

The supreme god of the Romans is not at all like the hero-lover who is fed up with power; he is the universal principle that rules the world and can manifest himself in a particular personality. The Olympians dispelled the boredom of eternal life by rivalry with each other, in which they gladly involved the mortals, while the Roman gods did not confront each other at all, not because of corporate ethics, but because the entire Roman pantheon represented different aspects of the unified cosmic principle. So, Mars is an expression of the power of Jupiter, Ceres — fertility, Venus — love, etc. This multidimensionality of the supreme deity partly corresponds with the concept of “hypostasis” in Neo-Platonists and in Christian theology.

No matter what thunders and lightning Christian writers threw at the pagans, they themselves, with all their desire, could not completely get rid of pagan intellectual patterns when adapting the Middle Eastern religion to forms acceptable to the descendants of Romulus and the heirs of Athena. These latter (Greeks) relatively easily accepted Christianity to a large extent precisely through the traditions of the Roman religion of Jupiter, since, although the cult of Olympians was preserved in Greece conquered by Rome, the ideas were undoubtedly intertwined. E.M. Shtaerman noted that “… as the monotheistic tendencies increased, Jupiter was considered not only as supreme, but as the only god (“everything is full of Jupiter”), as the soul or mind of the world, the ether that generates and accepts into itself” (Shtaerman, 1991, p. 647). Roman (and already under its influence — Greek) polytheism in its most elite version turned out to be much more universal (and therefore less “pagan”) than the strict monotheism of the Old Testament, tied to the interests and history of only one people (however, there is an opinion that a clear transition to monotheism among the Jews was outlined only in the Roman period of their history, in particular, by Philo of Alexandria, and in the Hebrew Bible it is virtually absent (Serandour, 2005)). The Roman religious paradigm basically allowed the reduction of all divine aspects to one Personality. Of course, it was not monotheism in the truest sense of the word; rather, Jupiter embodied the supreme will of the “community of gods”, which acted as one.

As Christopher Jones notes, many pagans are inclined to monotheism or to modified monotheism, who considered one god to be far superior to all others (Jones, 2012). There is even the term “pagan monotheism”, which was devised to describe monotheistic tendencies in the Greco-Roman world (Mitchell & Van Nuffelen, 2010; Van Nuffelen, 2012). Such a construction is not devoid of meaning, but it may be misunderstood, given the tradition of using the respective terminology.

In essence, monotheism and polytheism are habitual clichés that have a very conventional relation to the content of belief in the supernatural. Pure monotheism is extremely rare; it is not so much a religion as a philosophical concept. Christian theologians and mystics used up a lot of paper, describing the angelic hierarchy. With their vigorous imagination, pious authors tried to level out the simple idea that an omnipotent and self-sufficient God does not need helpers or a bureaucratic apparatus. Protestantism is closer to the idea of ​​monotheism than Catholicism and Orthodoxy (with their cult of saints and the Virgin Mary), but it is also far from pure monotheism, because Protestant theologians cannot ignore those places in the Bible where angels and demons are mentioned (by the way, what do the latter expect, entering into the struggle with the Almighty?).

It is quite another thing if monotheism is declared in milder forms, sprouting through polytheism in the form of one of its versions, as is the case with the Roman religion. Jupiter could have many aspects, so there was no contradiction in the appearance of “new” gods, for these gods were only other forms of worship of Jupiter. And there was no contradiction in his veneration under various names. If Jupiter manifested himself here and in this way, it is logical to worship him in that way, if there and in other way, then he will be worshipped accordingly. The main gods are the main aspects (“hypostases”), the minor gods corresponded to the minor aspects (minor from the point of view of the interests of the whole community, but for the current interests of a particular person this aspect could turn out to be the most important, and for another person — the other one). The main gods had their official (appointed by the community) priests — pontifices, and the pontifex board was headed by a great pontifex, which symbolized the integrity of the cult. At the same time, Jupiter was not directly positioned either as the only one or as the almighty.

Ted Peters counted nine different conceptual models of God: atheism, agnosticism, deism, theism, pantheism, polytheism, henotheism, panentheism, and eschatological panentheism (Peters, 2007). If we talk about the Roman religion, it seems to me that it is closest to henotheism. The latter is a point of view, according to which there are many gods, but all of them are subject to one supreme god and carry out his will. Dirk Baltzli even claims that henotheism was the dominant approach to the gods among the pagan philosophers of antiquity (Baltzly, 2016), and it is difficult to disagree.

Judean monotheism was not only unwilling to part with its “paganism” (as a national commitment to the detriment of the universal), but also refused to recognize the possibility of considering the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in “aspects”, even if they were hypostases of Trinity; the expected Messiah must be a divine Messenger and a King, but not God. This, by the way, is one of the reasons why, for the most part, the Jewish people did not accept Christianity. And the same hypothesis explains the fact that the distance between universalist polytheism and universalist monotheism occurred much shorted than between the monotheistic paganism of the Old Testament and the universal monotheism of the New one.


The multiplicity of Greek mythology to a large extent contributed to the diversity of expression forms of the Greek genius, who manifested himself in various fields of cultural activity, without being concerned about bringing the results to a certain unity — political, philosophical, religious-dogmatic. The myths, in which people chose gods, can be seen as a symbol of the mutual obligations of people and celestials, and hardly any other culture could have the idea of ​​man as the measure of all things, at least in the Protagorean sense. Although religion was a state (polis) creed, there were many cults and interpretations far removed from any kind of Olympic orthodoxy (the Orphic movement, the Pythagorean order, etc.). Philosophy itself appears as an intellectual interpretation of religious experience. The variability and selectivity of the ideological system provoked a creative understanding of reality and in many respects contributed to the formation of the “Greek miracle”.

The poverty of the mythological component of the Roman world outlook system was compensated by a clear awareness of the unity of the community, which for all historical vicissitudes had always remained an unchanging ideal, and which was conceived as a reflection of the unity of the heavens. The Romans were neither inclined to create grandiose mythological constructions, nor to reflect on the place of the divine in the world. However, they were scrupulous about the observance of standard religious procedures in order to be confident in the approval of their actions from heaven. The auspices that accompanied each more or less significant event in the life of both the Roman community and the individual citizen were a symbol of such a strategy (the need to maintain pax deorum). And if Greek anthropology developed under the sign of creative diversity, then the sign of Roman anthropology was the integrity of the collective, which was the only environment where a person could realize himself.

These two approaches to the divine predetermined the formation of two interacting, but conceptually different anthropological models of Antiquity.


I suppose it would not be a great exaggeration to assert that Western ideas about divinity are invariants of two main theological concepts — “Greek” (naturalism and paganism) and “Roman” (transcendentalism and henotheism). Of course, we are talking about ideal types, so these two tendencies can co-exist in the same society. So, speaking of Greek naturalism and paganism, I have in mind the popular religion, and not the philosophical speculations, which were often far from both of them. In Roman society too, besides monotheistic (henotheistic) tendencies, the researcher will easily find both pagan and naturalistic tendencies. Nevertheless, the selected ideal types allow a deeper understanding of the culture of both the two ancient societies and their heirs.

The mole of history turned out to be a great joker. The Roman trend continued to be implemented by the anti-Roman religion, which took the Roman form and the Roman name. Modern “Romans” are trying to get rid of the last elements of religious naturalism, so it is not surprising that at the Second Vatican Council the Roman Church made fasts non-binding, and the “Roman” Protestants proclaimed renunciation thereof even earlier. On the other hand, it is not by chance that it was the Greek tradition that retained the fast and many other “Hellenic” elements when the two “Roman” branches of Christianity abandoned them in whole or in part. Patterns can be fancily transformed, but the observational view will still be able to identify their lineage. Thus, iconoclasm was a Byzantine version of the Reformation, promoted by the Isaurian emperors and failed due to the strong Hellenistic naturalistic lobby. I believe that the reader will have no difficulty to draw other parallels.


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Халапсіс Олексій Владиславович — доктор філософських наук, професор, академік Академії політичних наук України, завідувач кафедри міжнародних відносин та соціально-гуманітарних дисциплін Дніпропетровського державного університету внутрішніх справ.

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