What Is Greek Theology?

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  • Written By: Sandi Johnson
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  • Last Modified Date: 22 February 2020
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Greek theology, much like modern theology, varies in definition based on the context and the era under which the term is used. As an area of discourse, discussion, or public debate, Greek theology, known in ancient times as theologia, was the analysis of all things relative to divinity. In terms of the modern interpretation of Greek religion, Greek theology encompasses a variety of tales and beliefs regarding gods, goddesses, and other deities from before the emergence of Christianity in Greece. Some of the first recorded texts regarding both analysis and belief in matters of divinity were written in Greek, forming the basis for future understandings of both Greek and modern theology.

Unlike modern times, ancient Greeks did not refer to their religious beliefs as Greek theology. Rather, Greeks held to certain religious understandings regarding gods and other divine matters as a matter of fact, debating on grounds of philosophy instead of religious truths. Prior to the emergence of the term theologia, Greek writers and educators often published philosophical works regarding divine beings and society's associated beliefs in divinity. Few ancient Greeks distinguished between philosophers and theologians until well-known philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato, made the distinction. The progression of Greek theology as an area of discourse continued, with writers such as Plutarch furthering the application of the word theologi to any philosopher who expounded primarily on the divine.


Modern theologians typically use the term Greek theology to mean the religious beliefs of the ancient Greeks, often referred to as Greek mythology. Citizens of ancient Greece believed in the Twelve Olympians, a pantheon of deities including Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus/Hestia, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Poseidon, and Zeus. These twelve deities resided on Mount Olympus, while another deity, known as Hades, resided in the underworld. Each god or goddess was representative of the various aspects of Greek life, including love, war, pestilence, good fortune, death, weather, and other attributes the Greeks could not otherwise explain.

Along with the Twelve Olympians, ancient Greek theology also included additional deities and demigods. While these divine beings played important roles in Greek religion, they were considered lesser deities because they did not reside on Mount Olympus. Gods and demigods included Aura, Dione, Eris, Iris, and Kratos, to name a few. Many of the additional gods, demigods, and deities were attributed to unions between deities or deities and humans. Others were attributed to humans who were granted or punished by the gods with divine powers.


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