Lecture Seven Greco Roman Religious Experience

Scope: Although our extant evidence is slender, it is sufficient to warn against oversimplifications of ancient religiosity. People in Greco-Roman culture seemed to demonstrate the same range of attitudes toward ultimate power as people do today. At one extreme are the superstitious and at the other are the skeptical. Between them, we find a range of religious responses. Three examples give us a sense of genuine religious experience in antiquity. The first is the piety shown by the philosopher Epictetus. The second is the devotion demonstrated by the chronically ill rhetorician Aelius Aristides. The third is the fictional history of Lucius, whose metamorphoses from human to beast and back to a restored humanity through the intervention of the goddess Isis is described by Apuleius's novel, The Golden Ass.

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