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On Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 11:40 PM, R A Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Sai Emrys wrote:
> [snip]
>>
>> On Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 11:55 AM, R A Brown
>> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>
>>> BTW it derives from the ancient Greek adjective
>>> _agno:stos_ = "unknowable."
>>
>> Is that unambiguously accurate? I.e. is it not conflated
>> (as in this discussion) with merely "unknown"?
>
> It's not exactly a commonly occurring adjective. True there is an instance
> in the Odyssey (1.175) where it means no more than "unknown"; but the more
> common use is "unknowable, not an object of knowledge."  The inscription the
> St Paul saw in Athens is IMO better translated as the "to the unknowable
> god."
>
> There are also instances of the adjective being used in an _active_ sense,
> i.e. "ignorant of"
>
> But the modern way we choose to use words of ancient Greek origin does not
> always relate directly to their ancient use  ;)
>
> =========================================================
> <deinx nxtxr> wrote:
>> On 6/9/10 1:41 PM, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:
> [snip]
>> True, as I mentioned this before. First you really need
>> to understand just what type of god one believes in
>> before you can say you doubt its existence.  Would a
>> Christian have been "atheist" to the Romans because he
>> didn't worship the Roman gods?  Or vice versa?
>
> Nope, and nope.
>
> The Romans were very well aware that the Jews, for example, did not (and
> would not) worship the Roman gods; but the Jews were not regarded as
> 'atheists'.
>
> Christians of the time (generally) regarded the Roman gods as demons. I
> don't think the concept of 'atheism', as we have been discussing it on this
> thread, was really known in the ancient world.
>
> Christians got into trouble from time to time in the Roman Empire because
> they would not subscribe to the imperial cult, i.e. were not willing to burn
> incense in honor of the 'genius' (guardian spirit) of 'Roma et Augustus'
> (Rome & the emperor). It was seen as a _political_ act of treason.
>
> The Empire contained a multiplicity of religions and the Romans weren't
> particularly concerned who or what you worshiped as long it your practices
> involved nothing illegal or immoral. The Imperial Cult had been introduced
> under Augustus as a way of unifying all the various peoples of the Empire -
> but the Jews were excused because their religion was a long established
> ethnic cult and the fact the priests in the Temple at Jerusalem offered
> sacrifice for the emperor's welfare was deemed sufficient.
>
> Had Christians been regarded (as at first they were) as a Jewish sect, they
> would not have had any problem from the Roman authorities. It's when they
> became regarded as a separate cult that trouble began - they were also from
> time to time accused of human sacrifice & cannibalism, which didn't help.
> But the persecution was essentially political - they were regarded as a
> subversive movement, dangerous to the state (alas, the 20th century saw
> similar many examples of the same attitude).
>
> The only other religion AFAIK that came unstuck under the Romans was
> druidism. There are plenty of altar stones in Britain with the names of
> British and Roman gods on them; the worship of different deities wasn't the
> problem. The druids, according to the Romans, practiced human sacrifice (not
> nice) but, more importantly, were seen as a source of opposition to the
> Roman state, i.e. their suppression was politically motivated.

The Romans certainly weren't against worship of other gods. They'd
even join in if it looked appealing to them. Roman soldiers were big
on Mithra pretty late in the game, and that's a Zoroastrian deity.