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Download Inventing Superstition: From the Hippocratics to the by Dale B. Martin PDF

By Dale B. Martin

The Roman writer Pliny the more youthful characterizes Christianity as "contagious superstition"; centuries later the Christian author Eusebius vigorously denounces Greek and Roman religions as useless and impotent "superstitions." The time period of abuse is similar, but the 2 writers recommend completely various things by means of "superstition."

Dale Martin presents the 1st particular family tree of the belief of superstition, its heritage over 8 centuries, from classical Greece to the Christianized Roman Empire of the fourth century C.E. With illuminating connection with the writings of philosophers, historians, and scientific lecturers he demonstrates that the concept that of superstition was once invented through Greek intellectuals to sentence renowned non secular practices and ideology, in particular the idea that gods or different superhuman beings may damage humans or reason disorder. Tracing the social, political, and cultural impacts that expert classical wondering piety and superstition, nature and the divine, Inventing Superstition exposes the manipulation of the label of superstition in arguments among Greek and Roman intellectuals at the one hand and Christians at the different, and the practical alteration of the belief by way of Neoplatonic philosophers and Christian apologists in overdue antiquity.

Inventing Superstition weaves a powerfully coherent argument that would rework our realizing of faith in Greek and Roman tradition and the broader historical Mediterranean world.

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Extra resources for Inventing Superstition: From the Hippocratics to the Christians

Sample text

Deisidaimonia is despicable partly because it is unnecessary fear and because it incites shameful behavior. It is easy to see why this should be the case in the honor-shame culture of ancient Greece with its hierarchical social structure and assumption that honorable people will behave honorably. According to such notions, fear of the gods is wrong because it humiliates human beings. To the Greeks, the Eastern barbarians looked ridiculous when they prostrated themselves before the Great King of Persia.

5, 8). 8). ” Theophrastus labels as “superstitious,” therefore, all sorts of religious practices and attitudes that he considers excessive. The Mean, Balance, and Moderation At work here is the ancient ideological notion of “balance” or “the mean,” famous from the works of Aristotle. And the principle informs not just Theophrastus’s attitudes toward religion but, as we will see throughout this book, all sorts of notions held by Inventing Deisidaimonia 27 philosophers about appropriate behavior and belief.

Theophrastus does not provide a theological argument intended to demonstrate why such behavior is wrong. He never provides “rules” people could use to gauge their behavior. Rather, he merely describes behavior taken to be selfevidently embarrassing or socially inappropriate, and he expects his reader to understand why. 7); or walking behind his slave (18). As we might expect from someone in a culture that highly prized gift-giving, benefaction, hospitality, and generosity, Theophrastus is so disgusted with stinginess that he provides portraits of four different kinds of “cheapskates” (see 30).

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