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atheism

Subject: Religion

The theory or belief that God does not exist. The word comes (in the late 16th century, via French) from Greek atheos, from a- ‘without’ + theos ‘god’.

atheism

atheism   Quick reference

Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2007
Subject:
Classical studies, History
Length:
350 words

... The Greek for atheism is ‘not to recognize the gods’ or ‘deny that the gods exist’ or, later, ‘to remove the gods’. The Greek word atheos can be applied to atheism (e.g. in Plato's Apology ), but in the earliest instances it means ‘impious, vicious’ or ‘hated, abandoned by the gods’, and these senses persist along with the other. Christians and pagans were to swap charges of atheism, by which they meant ‘impious views about the divine’. The gods of popular polytheism were rejected or drastically reinterpreted by all philosophers from the 6th cent. ...

atheism

atheism   Reference library

Robert Christopher Towneley Parker

The Oxford Classical Dictionary (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2012
Subject:
Classical studies, History
Length:
580 words

... , The Greek for atheism is ‘not to recognize (νομίζειν) the gods’ or ‘deny that the gods exist’ or, later, ‘to remove (ἀναιρεῖν) the gods’. (The old doctrine that θεοὺς νομίζειν never means to ‘believe in’ but always to ‘pay cult to’ the gods is wrong; but it is true that borderline cases exist.) The Greek word ἄθεος can be applied to atheism (Pl. Ap. 26c), but in the earliest instances it means ‘impious, vicious’ or ‘hated, abandoned by the gods’, and these senses persist along with the other; so too with ἀθεότης. Thus Christians and pagans were to...

atheism

atheism   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Literature, Classical studies
Length:
625 words

...gods. Out-and-out atheism as a serious belief, as opposed to the expression of thoughts of an atheistic nature, never attracted a following. Ideas akin to atheism emerged in the Greek world in the sixth century bc among the Milesian philosophers ( see Miletus ), whose work marked the emergence of Greek rationalism. They rejected mythological explanations for the origin of everything, seeing the universe as operating naturalistically according to laws comprehensible to human reason. However they each believed in a first principle (Thales in water,...

Pro'dicus

Pro'dicus   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Literature, Classical studies
Length:
102 words

...men whose sons he taught. He was particularly interested in precise semantic distinctions between words of similar meaning. Socrates sometimes professes himself indebted to Prodicus' work, perhaps not always ironically. In late antiquity he was regarded as an atheist ( see atheism ) but his contemporaries do not mention him as such. His writings do not survive, except for a paraphrase by Xenophon of his fable of the Choice of Heracles between Pleasure and...

Prōta'goras

Prōta'goras (b. c.485 bc)   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Literature, Classical studies
Length:
228 words

...affairs with emphasis on skill in public speaking. In his wide travels he made several visits to Athens where he associated with Pericles, who invited him to draw up a code of laws for the new colony of Thurii in 443 . The story that Protagoras was expelled from Athens for atheism is improbable since Plato reports that he was universally admired. His two famous books (which have not survived) were On Truth and On the Gods . In the former he expressed scepticism about the possibility of objectivity and absolute truth. His doctrine is usually summed up...

religion

religion   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Literature, Classical studies
Length:
968 words

...Thracian Bendis and, influenced by special circumstances, Pan and Asclepius . Greeks in foreign countries naturally paid homage to the local gods, many of whom were regarded as the familiar Greek deities under different names. See references for after-life ; see also atheism ; Cybele ; daimon ; divination ; festivals ; gods ; herms ; magic ; monotheism ; mythology ; oracles ; pollution ; prayer ; ruler cult ; sacrifice ; Tyche . Roman. Roman religion is essentially a fusion of early Latin beliefs and of Greek religion, from which in...

Plūtarch

Plūtarch (ad c.46–after 120)   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Literature, Classical studies
Length:
1,333 words

...uxorem ) on the death of their infant daughter. There is a religious group, in which Plutarch appears as the interpreter and defender of the old beliefs. It includes the treatise ‘On superstition’ ( De superstitione ), in which he regards superstition as the opposite extreme to atheism, and piety as the mean between the two. Plutarch was a (not altogether orthodox) Platonist and was opposed to some of the doctrines of the Stoics, and still more to the Epicurean school and its encouragement of withdrawal from the duties of social life: see his treatises on ‘The...

Diagoras

Diagoras (5th cent. bc)   Reference library

Jan N. Bremmer

The Oxford Classical Dictionary (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2012
Subject:
Classical studies, History
Length:
119 words

...last decades of the 5th cent. bc ( Hermippus fr. 43 K–A; Ar. Av. 1071 ff., Nub. 828 ff.). Renowned for his ‘ atheism ’ ( Cic. Nat. D. 1. 2, 63), he mocked the mysteries of Eleusis—perhaps in reaction to the capture of Melos by the Athenians. He was condemned to death, and fled (Diod. Sic. 13. 6, 7). Fragments of his poem survive, but they contain no trace of ‘atheism’. In the Arabic tradition Diagoras was notorious for his atheism. F. Jacoby , Diagoras ho atheos (1959); M. Winiarczyk , Diagorae Melii et Theodori Cyrenaei reliquiae (1981); L....

Flavia (RE 227) Domitilla

Flavia (RE 227) Domitilla   Reference library

John Brian Campbell

The Oxford Classical Dictionary (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2012
Subject:
Classical studies, History
Length:
91 words

...( RE 227) Domitilla , Domitian 's niece, was exiled and her husband, the consul Flavius Clemens , executed in ad 95 on a charge of atheism, or disrespect for the Roman gods. Domitilla perhaps espoused Judaism, though Eusebius ( Hist. Eccl. 3. 18) believed that she favoured Christianity (his reference to her as niece of Clemens is probably a simple error). The Christian ‘Coemeterium Domitillae’ on the via Ardeatina may be connected with her. E. M. Smallwood , CPhil. 1956, 8; M. Sordi , Atti Congr. Inter. Std. Vespasiani (1981), 150. John Brian...

Athenagoras

Athenagoras   Reference library

David S. Potter

The Oxford Classical Dictionary (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2012
Subject:
Classical studies, History
Length:
97 words

.... The latter is a defence of Christianity composed in the form of a letter to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus . This work is an extremely important, early assertion of Christian propriety against commonplace charges that Christians were atheists and cannibals ( see atheism ; cannibalism ). One of its most interesting features is the extensive use of classical literature to justify or explain Christian practice. Ed. W. R. Schoedel , Athenagoras (1972); Apologia , ed. M. Marcovich (1990). David S....

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