Ancient Greek Religion

Definition

In the ancient Greek world, religion was personal, direct, and present in all areas of life. With formal rituals which included animal sacrifices and libations, myths to explain the origins of mankind and give the gods a human face, temples which dominated the urban landscape, city festivals and national sporting and artistic competitions, religion was never far from the mind of an ancient Greek. Whilst the individual may have made up their own mind on the degree of their religious belief and some may have been completely sceptical, certain fundamentals must have been sufficiently widespread in order for Greek government and society to function: the gods existed, they could influence human affairs, and they welcomed and responded to acts of piety and worship.

More about: Ancient Greek Religion

Timeline

  • c. 1500 BCE
    First temple to Demeter & Persephone is built at Eleusis.
  • c. 800 BCE
    The site of Delphi first acquires a religious significance.
  • c. 800 BCE
    The oracle of Zeus is established at Dodona.
  • 776 BCE
    First athletic games in honour of Zeus are held at Olympia with one event, the stadion foot race.
  • c. 700 BCE
    Greek poet Hesiod writes his Theogony and Works and Days.
  • c. 700 BCE
    The site of Sounion first acquires a religious significance.
  • 700 BCE - 379 CE
    The Letoon sanctuary dedicated to Leto is active at Xanthos in Lycia.
  • c. 700 BCE
    The temple of Apollo is built on the island of Delos.
  • 700 BCE - 600 BCE
    Temples are built in honour of Apollo, Demeter and Dionysos on the island of Naxos.
  • 650 BCE - 600 BCE
    Heraion, temple dedicated to Hera built at Olympia.
  • c. 650 BCE
    The first temple in honour of Apollo is built at Delphi.
  • 600 BCE - 550 BCE
    The Dionysia becomes a major Athenian festival in honour of Dionysos.
  • c. 600 BCE
    The Eleusinian Mysteries become part of the official Athenian religious calendar.
  • 573 BCE
    First athletic games at Nemea in honour of Zeus.
  • c. 550 BCE
    The temple of Apollo is constructed at Corinth.
  • c. 540 BCE
    Athens removes and prohibits further burials on Delos to purify the sacred island.
  • c. 510 BCE
    The second temple to Apollo is constructed at Delphi, replacing the first temple destroyed by fire.
  • c. 500 BCE
    Asclepius becomes principal god of worship at Epidaurus.
  • 480 BCE
    Persians destroy the sanctuary at Sounion.
  • c. 460 BCE - 457 BCE
    Temple of Zeus is built at Olympia with a statue of Apollo dominating the west pediment and containing the cult statue of Zeus by Phidias.
  • c. 460 BCE
    The bronze Poseidon or Zeus statue (of Cape Artemesium) is sculpted.
  • 449 BCE
    The Hephaisteion, temple to Athena & Hephaistos, built in Athens.
  • 447 BCE - 432 BCE
    The construction of the Parthenon in Athens by the architects Iktinos and Kallikrates under the direction of Phidias.
  • c. 444 BCE - 440 BCE
    Temple of Poseidon at Sounion re-built.
  • 438 BCE
    The cult statue of Athena Parthenos is dedicated in the Parthenon of Athens.
  • c. 430 BCE - c. 420 BCE
    Sanctuary of Aphrodite constructed at Argos.
  • c. 430 BCE
    The cult statue of Zeus by Phidias is dedicated in the Temple of Zeus, Olympia. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
  • c. 425 BCE - c. 420 BCE
    The Temple dedicated to Athena Nike is constructed on the acropolis of Athens.
  • 421 BCE - 406 BCE
    The Erechtheion of Athens acropolis is constructed with six Caryatids in the south porch.
  • c. 380 BCE - c. 375 BCE
    Temple to Asclepius constructed at Epidaurus.
  • c. 330 BCE
    Temple of Zeus built at Nemea.
  • c. 330 BCE
    The third temple to Apollo is constructed at Delphi, replacing the earlier temple damaged by earthquake.
  • c. 320 BCE
    Temple dedicated to Aphrodite constructed at Epidaurus.
  • c. 292 BCE - c. 280 BCE
    The Colossus of Rhodes, a representation of Helios, is built in Rhodes town harbour, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
  • 379 CE
    Theodosius I orders the closure of all Greek pagan sites.
  • 393 CE
    Roman Emperor Theodosius definitively ends all pagan Games in Greece.
  • 426 CE
    Emperor Theodosios II orders the destruction of Olympia.
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