Writing about Greek and Roman art in recent days has me thinking about that strange conundrum of our American indebtedness to all things Greek…save religion.
We profess to love and adore all of the ancient Greek gifts, excepting the horse…and religion. There’s democracy, of course, and the Olympics. And the theater. Art and architecture. Feta cheese. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The list goes on….
But Greek religion? Sure, we love mythology. But do we believe it? Nope. It’s one of the few Greek gifts to the world that just never caught on, even after the Romans adopted the same system and changed some names.
With the birth of Jesus Christ, right smack dab during the height of the Roman Empire, the old pagan ways took a direct hit. The message of Christianity spread like wildfire and even today, some two thousand years later, we all know that Jesus Christ is much more influential in America than Zeus, Hermes or Athena. Although Dionysus is making a heady comeback…
For a truly excellent treatment of this subject – the intersection of Greek thought with the Hebraic tradition / biblical Christianity, see Louise Cowan’s essay titled “Jerusalem’s Claim on Us” found here, or you can click here to read it at Memoria Press. This essay by one of our country’s most brilliant scholars is not just beautifully written – it’s also convincing. I hope you’ll read it and and let me know what you think.
I’ll leave you with a Dorothy Parker nugget called “The Flaw in Paganism”:
Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
Love, the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)