Worshipping Virtues

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The Greeks, in Dr. Johnson's phrase, 'shock the mind by ascribing effects to non-entity'. The culture of ancient Greece was thronged with personifications. In poetry and the visual arts, personified figures of what might seem abstractions claim our attention. This study examines the logic, the psychology and the practice of Greeks who worshipped these personifications with temples and sacrifices, and addressed them with hymns and prayers. Emma Stafford conducts case-studies of deified 'abstractions', such as Peitho (Persuasion), Eirene (Peace) and Hygieia (Health). She also considers general questions of Greek psychology, such as why so many of these figures were female. Modern scholars have asked, Did the Greeks believe their own myths? This study contributes importantly to the debate, by exploring widespread and creative popular theology in the historical period.

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Editorial Reviews

Amy C. Smith
[This book] dispels many unfounded arguments that have wrongly asserted great antiquity for some of these cults and simultaneously brings attention to the seriousness with which these personifications were treated, as cult figures, under certain conditions.'

‘...provides a wealth of useful information and perceptions that reward the careful reader.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780715630440
  • Publisher: Classical Press of Wales, The
  • Publication date: 12/28/2000
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Emma Stafford is the author of numerous papers on Greek mythology and iconography, and is currently preparing a source book on Greek religion.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations Acknowledgements Abbreviations and conventions 1. Personification, allegory and belief 2. Themis: archaic personification and the epithet theory 3. Nemesis: 'myth into logos?' 4. Peitho: the seductive power of rhetoric 5. Hygieia: 'not a goddess but a gift of God'? 6. Eirene: propaganda and allegory 7. Eleos: the Athenian 'altar of Pity' and its god 8. Conclusion Appendix: bibliographic note Bibliography Index

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