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Greek Popular Religion
by Martin P. Nilsson

“This is a short survey of Greek religious practice and beliefs from ground level. The texts of Homer, Hesiod, and the Greek dramatists and philosophers, who defined Greek beliefs, have long been known and understood. There is a conventional view of Greek mythology which is taught by rote to school children (at least until recently), which relies on a neat set of ‘myths and legends.’ It was not until the pioneering efforts of Jane Harrison and other scholars in the 19th century that a picture emerged of what actually constituted Greek religion, and how it evolved. This monograph covers what was known by the middle of the 20th century. It gives a fascinating look at the very earthy popular side of Greek religion, with its noisy (and often messy) festivals, initiations, secret societies, oracles, and a practical but very superstitious belief system. He also discusses how some of these beliefs and festivals, under the guise of Christianity, have persisted to this day.”

About the Author:

“Martin Persson Nilsson was a Swedish philologist, a mythographer who specialised in Greek mythology and a historian of religion. In his prolific studies he combined the literary evidence with the archaeological evidence, linking historic and prehistoric evidence for the evolution of the Greek mythological cycles.
Beginning in 1900 as a tutor at the University of Lund, he was appointed Secretary to the Swedish Archaeological Commission working in Rhodes, in 1905. In 1909 he was appointed Professor of Ancient Greek, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Lund. Later, Nilsson was Secretary of the Royal Society of Letters in Lund and an Associate of the Koniglich Schwedischen Akademie der Literatur, Geschichts- und Altertumsforschung, in Stockholm. In 1924 he was made a corresponding associate of the Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. In 1939-40 he visited the United States.”

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