Monday, April 26, 2010

nomizein tous theous

These absences make it difficult to speak of Greek "religion," at least in the positive sense in which the term is used in the context of monotheistic tradition. The Greek language does not even possess a term whose semantic field coincides with that of the word "religion." The nearest term, eusebia, is defined by the priest Euthyphro in the Platonic dialogue named after him as "the care (therapeia) that men have of the gods" (Plato Euthyphro 12e). In this sense, the term covers the punctual observance of services in order to express respect toward the gods, during which proper signs of homage and deference are displayed. These services usually took the form of votice and sacrificial offerings. The Greek equivalent of the word "faith" is equally weak. In everyday language, the expression "to believe in the gods" (nomizein tous theous) does not indicate a rational conviction of their existence (as it will come to do in a more developed philosophical language), but "to respect" or honor the gods by performing certain acts. Nomizein thus comes to mean the same as therapeuein: to devote the appropriate ritual care to the gods.
Mario Vegetti, "The Greeks and their gods", in: The Greeks, (ed.) JP Vernant, University of Chicago Pressp.256