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Before ReligionA History of a Modern Concept$
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Brent Nongbri

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780300154160

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300154160.001.0001

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The Modern Origins of Ancient Religions

The Modern Origins of Ancient Religions

(p.132) Seven The Modern Origins of Ancient Religions
Before Religion

Brent Nongbri

Yale University Press

This chapter examines the history of the modern perception of ancient religions. It first outlines how, during the period of European colonial encounters with the modern “pagans” and “idolaters,” the entities now designated as Greek and Roman gods went from being demons in a biblical Christian system to being the central figures of what is now called “ancient Greek and Roman religions.” It then investigates the interconnected stories of Greek and Roman religions through the twentieth-century to offer some background for the current state of affairs, in which most classicists, despite recognizing the concept of religion, who are ill-suited to the materials they study, continue to speak of ancient Greek and Roman religions. It then analyzes how a “new” ancient religion is constructed. Finally, it considers some of the tensions involved in the study of ancient religions.

Keywords:   religion, ancient religions, Greek, Roman classicists, European colonial encounters, Christian system

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