Homer’s gods (187) also send messages to their mortal counterparts, adopting and then abandoning them at various times. The relationship that Homer, therefore, sees between man and god is a capricious one. The ancient Greeks created a polytheistic religion that during the Hellenic age offered a diversity of religious practice (Martin 217). The traditional cults of the oldest Greek religions remained popular, but new cults responded to new political and social conditions. The new Hellenistic cults encompassed a shared concern, focusing on the relationship between the individual and what appeared to be the controlling, unpredictable power of chance. It is there that Plato took a different position than that of Homer. The chaotic course of Greek history following the Peloponnesian War made the unpredictable aspects of human existence appear more popular than ever (Martin 218).
Plato (476) saw man as possessing a soul that itself had life and consciousness. He believed that the association between the Greek religion and the Greek city-state (a social organization unknown in Homer’s time) was reciprocal, with one supporting the other. A state religion was also understood as distinct from a private prayer. For the Greeks of Plato’s era, the city-state or polis was the center of communal and political life. The Greeks looked to the polis for peace, order, prosperity, and honor in their lifetime. Most of the Greek city-states had a primary deity. In Athens, for example, the cult of Athena was dominant.
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