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Greek hero cults and ideas of immortality - Richard Farnell - PDF ebook

Greek hero cults and ideas of immortality

Greek hero cults and ideas of immortality
Greek hero cults and ideas of immortality



This work, of which the main contents were delivered last year as Gifford Lectures in the University of St. Andrews, was planned many years ago as a continuation and supplement of my Cults of the Greek States, but the difference of the subject has necessitated a somewhat different method in the presentation of the facts. 

I had collected and arranged geographically a complete table and ' Schriftquellen ' of all the hero-cults in the Greek world recorded by literature, inscriptions, and art monuments. That I have not published this in extenso here is no loss to scholars, nor to the public, nor to myself. For I did not wish to write a mere Encyclopaedia, and scholars can always avail themselves of Roscher's Lexikon, which is nearing completion and is fairly exhaustive; also a large part of this material turns out to be merely barren, mere names about which nothing positive, nothing that concerns religion or history, can be said. Here, as so often, the half may be better than the whole. 

One of my objects has been to reduce the chaotic mass of facts to some order, by defining the categories under which the different hero-personalities may be classified, and to discuss under each the salient examples and those of whom something of interest for religion, history, or psychology may be proved or surmised;

I have dealt at length, therefore, with the greater personages of the saga, for they are part of the fabric of the literature of Europe. I am not dealing with the whole heroic mythology of Greece, but only with that part of it — a very large part — that concerns a certain religious phenomenon, the worship of the human personage after death; and for this purpose, I have had to face the much-debated and sorely mishandled problem whether the heroes and heroines worshipped were mainly human personages. 

And the question of hero-worship is part of the larger question, considered at the close of the volume, concerning Greek opinion about existence after death and the possibility of a blessed immortality. The work has been long delayed by other literary tasks and the cares of official life. And delay, whether chosen or enforced, gives a writer the advantage of living through many temporary phases of theorizing and of chewing the cud of long reflection before making up his mind. I was glad to find that the settled conviction that at last, I had reached concerning Greek heroic saga and saga-personages was the same as that which inspires Mr Chadwick in his admirable treatise The Heroic Age. 

For a general exposition of my views on the right and wrong methods of mythologic interpretation, I may be permitted to refer to my paper published by the British Academy on ' The Value and the Methods of Mythologic Study ' in 1919. If this treatise is censured as a revival of ' Euhemerism ', it will only be censured on this ground by those who have not followed recent researches in anthropology and the comparative study of the saga. And if, though that is not its main intention, it helps to corroborate Mr Chadwick's contention that saga is imperfect history, I shall be content; for I have long felt the unreality of the distinction between the ' prehistoric ' and the ' historic ' periods. But my main task has been to track and collect the evidence of the worship of the dead, the apotheosis of the human being, from the earliest days of Greece to the latest, and my interest in this religious phenomenon has been sustained by the light that it throws upon much of the religion, the history, and the mentality of the Hellenic race. A serious and systematic treatment of this theme has long been a desideratum in our literature; it is for criticism to pronounce whether this treatise supplies it.


 book details :
  • Author: Lewis Richard Farnell FBA was a classical scholar and Oxford academic, where he served as Vice-Chancellor from 1920 to 1923
  • Publication date: 1921
  • Company: Oxford, The Clarendon Press

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