Why did ancient people in the Greek and Roman worlds sometimes consider political leaders as gods? That’s the question I’m dealing with in this series of posts. And I think now, after a good bit of background, I’m able to begin to answer it.
The gods in Greek and Roman thought were considered to be superhuman. Unlike, say, the (animal-shaped) gods of Egypt, the Greek and Roman gods were literally in human form. When they appeared here on earth to humans they were often “bigger than life,” but they could assume regular human form when they wanted to and they were human-shaped even when attending to their heavenly duties. In the Greek and Roman myths, they acted in human ways, they experienced the range of human emotions, they manifested human foibles, and so on.
But they were different from humans in several ways. For one thing, they were far more powerful than mere mortals. They could accomplish things that no human could. None of them was infinitely powerful, but on the scale of power, they were off the charts. Moreover, they did not have a lifespan. They did come into existence at some point, but (with few exceptions) they would never go out of existence. They were immortal.
I should stress at this stage a very important point. One of the ways…
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