August 12, 2008


Dionysus and friends, courtesy of wikipedia.

The series on the Odyssey continues, although you'll also find links and comments about current events. If you like an occasional ancient Greek fix, please click on earlier posts. The series started Aug. 4.

As noted yesterday, the Greek gods who were such major characters in the Iliad and the Odyssey were a lot different from what we're used to these days.

Here's a striking contrast. In a monotheistic framework, it is idolatrous and impious to worship more than one god. In the Greek religious system, it would be just as impious to worship only one at the expense of the whole. That was one theme in the Greek tragedy Hippolytus by Euripides, in which the title character worshiped only Artemis the hunter goddess and neglected the love goddess Aphrodite to his own destruction. Like the letters of the alphabet or chess pieces or a deck of cards, the gods only made sense as part of a system.

Greek religion had no creeds or scriptures and didn't place an emphasis on personal piety or beliefs. Nor did it have as elaborate a system of priests and religious officials as many other societies.

The Greek gods weren't all that interested in micromanaging human morality either, although they did have some standards. Zeus, for instance, was the patron of oaths and the laws of hospitality which protected guests and hosts. Hera was the goddess of marriage (not entirely successfully). The gods tended to punish human excess and arrogance to protect the rights of supplicants and sanctuary.

If they didn't crave personal piety, they wanted respect. In a way, the gods couldn't exist without people to worship them and they enjoyed the aroma of sacrifices.

Aside from that, they didn't care too much about people. Some had their favorites, such as Odysseus' patron Athena, but in general they probably cared less for people than some people care for their pets.

On the positive side, it probably would occur to the Olympians to punish the majority of mankind in eternal fire, although they did reserve special punishments for people who personally ticked them off.

Next time: the lineup.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN should be welcomed back to the public sphere like the Prodigal Son, as this piece argues.

TIMETABLE? McClatchy reports that the US and Iraq are approaching an agreement on the withdrawal of US troops.

LEAVING WAR TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR. The US has spent $100 billion on private contractors in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

CREDIT CARD DEBT is a serious issue for college students. In one survey, typical respondents will graduate with more than $2,600 of it. That's not counting student loans.

BIG BOXES GO SOLAR. A number of retail giants are installing solar panels on their roofs to capture energy.

ALMOST UFO HEAVEN. El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia has yet another distinction, as the Beckley Register Herald suggest:

West Virginia prides itself as a land of majestic mountains, sparkling streams, coal to feed hungry power plants, a unique place in American history and a fiercely independent people accustomed to overcoming hard times with a resiliency unrivaled by anyone else.

Now add another chapter to the 35th state’s storied history — more documented UFO activity than any other place in America.

Even eclipsing Roswell.


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