The Discovery of the Mind in Greek Philosophy and Literature by Bruno Snell

By Bruno Snell

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We might divide them into two groups: Hera and Aphrodite representing woman in her capacity as mother and loved one; Artemis and Athena typifying the virgin, one lonely and close to nature, the other intellectual and active in the community. It may fairly be said that these four women signalize the four aspects of all womanhood. The four goddesses help to bring out the spiritual peculiarities of the female sex; more than that, they are instrumental in making the notion of femininity intelligible.

All this was foreign to the Greeks; they looked upon their gods as so natural and self-evident that they could not even conceive of other nations acknowledging a different faith or other gods. To the Christians who landed in America the gods of the the Indians were of course idols and devils; to the Jews the gods of their neighbours were enemies of Yahweh. But when Herodotus visited Egypt and encountered the native deities, it never occurred to him that he might not find Apollo, Dionysus and Artemis there too.

The awesome and the mysterious first confront man under the guise of the numinous or the demonic; the primitive seek to control and exorcise them through religion, and consequently the conquest of terror is for them tantamount to a change in religious ideology. This change has already been effected in the creed of the Olympian gods who rule in the Homeric poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The presuppose a transformation so radical in spirit that we find it hard to understand how a faith can be so completely devoid of terror and mystery.

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