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The Gods of Ancient GreeceIdentities and Transformations$
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Jan Bremmer and Andrew Erskine

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780748637980

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748637980.001.0001

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What is A Greek God?

What is A Greek God?

(p.19) 1 What is A Greek God?
The Gods of Ancient Greece

Jan N. Bremmer

Andrew Erskine

Edinburgh University Press

The Greeks were polytheists who believed in a multitude of gods. In the modern discussion of Greek religion the gods take second place to ritual, and the study of individual gods is privileged over attempts to define their general characteristics qua gods. While studies of the functions and personalities of gods like Apollo, Demeter, Dionysos or Herakles abound, no comprehensive treatment of the generic properties of the Greek gods exists. The question “What is Greek god?” is considered too ‘theological’ and therefore shunned. This chapter examines four divine qualities that are shared by all the Greek gods—their immortality, anthropomorphism, foreknowledge, and finally their power.

Keywords:   Polytheism, Gods, Greek religion, Apollo, Demeter, Dionysos, Herakles, Immortality, Anthropomorphism

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