(Read Greek Gods, Part 1 First)
Greek Gods - Life after Death
The Greek gods represented the ancient Greek belief that when an individual died, his vital breath or psyche left the body to enter the palace of Hades (king of the dead). In the earlier periods of ancient Greece, the psyche was not the same as the Christian view of a soul. Once it left the body, the psyche was a phantom image that could be perceived, but not touched. The wall separating the living from the dead was impenetrable. Gradually, the concept of the psyche became similar to the concept of a soul. The soul was separate from the body, but responsible for an individual's personality. The soul was also responsible for an individual's moral decisions.
The early Greeks did not believe that a person's action in this life had any bearing on their afterlife. However, by "Classical Times" (480-323 BC), the belief that a moral person would be rewarded in the afterlife was prevalent. At the same time, the idea that a person who repeatedly transgressed deserved eternal punishment developed. The concern of how one spent their afterlife led to many burial rituals and commemorative ceremonies for the dead.
Greek Gods - The Lasting Effects
The Greek gods continue to impact modern society, and the lasting effects of ancient Greek civilization cannot be exaggerated. In fact, most of Western civilization can trace its origins to ancient Greece. When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks they inherited an extensive empire. The Romans also adopted the beliefs of the Greeks and Greek mythology became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This lasted for centuries, until the Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Rome in 312 AD.
Although there are no modern formal religions that worship the ancient Greek gods, their legacy continues throughout the entire world. In particular, the arts have been greatly influenced by Greek mythology. Many well-known masterpieces in painting, music, literature and theater use themes from Greek mythology. Today, the influence of Greek mythology and the ancient Greek gods shows no sign of diminishing. Computer games frequently use stories of the ancient Greek gods as a backdrop for their quest orientated games. Motion pictures that utilize characters from Greek mythology are still popular. It seems that the moral and intellectual themes of the stories behind the ancient Greek gods have proven easily adaptable to many cultures over many centuries. It shows mankind's inherent need to explore origins, meaning and morality - it shows man's need to explain why he is here and where he is going
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