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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...

holy men, pagan

holy men, pagan   Reference library

Richard L. Gordon

The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2018

...skills—maintaining a balance between asceticism , control of the marvellous (especially divinatory powers), and the promulgation of traditional ethical values. The penalty for failure was to be accused of thaumatopoeia (‘mere wonder-working’), atheotes (‘godlessness, atheism’), asebeia (‘impiety’), and goeteia (magical practice). Lucian attacks Peregrinus on grounds of mere showmanship; Philostratus defends Apollonius of Tyana on all these counts. The Cynics provided models of ascetic virtue widely appropriated under the Empire from Nero to...

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...

Hypatia

Hypatia (c.355–415ce)   Reference library

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Classical studies, History
Length:
955 words

...well as pagan students. Modern authors persist nonetheless in exploiting her legend to romanticize pagan-Christian conflict: a 2008 film directed by Alejandro Amenábar presents Hypatia as young, beautiful, and the object of the love of one of her slaves, with emphasis on her atheism in contrast to his Christianity. [ See also Women, subentry Women as Members of Philosophical Schools .] Bibliography Primary Works Socrates Scholasticus. “Ecclesiastical History.” Translated by A. C. Zenos . In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the...

Church Fathers

Church Fathers   Reference library

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Classical studies, History
Length:
3,225 words
Illustration(s):
1

...earlier advised Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, that he was to leave Christians in peace unless they drew attention to themselves. As Pliny the Younger records, if an accusation was brought against Christians, they were to be tried, and only if they were found guilty of atheism or of disbelief in the Roman gods should they be punished ( Epistulae 10, 97). Tertullian complains in Apology 2: Trajan “says that they should not be sought [out]—as though they were innocent; then prescribes that they should be punished—as though they were guilty!” In his...

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