The Hero Cult and Its Influence on The Birth of the Polis
One of the most interesting facets of the ancient Greek religion was the hero cult. A hero in this time was considered to be greater than a human but less than a god. The hero cult essentially united a group of unrelated people in a kin-like manner, which in turn made the bond between these individuals even stronger. The archeological evidence for the hero cult begins around the second half of the 8th century BC (Seaford, 109). On an unrelated note, the term polis in ancient Greece was defined to be the body of citizens, which is why polis is often translated to city-state. The interesting fact concerning these two is that the polis first emerged in the Archaic period, which began around the end of the 8th century to the beginning of the 9th century BC, coincidentally coinciding with the emergence of the hero cult (Filos). The hero cult in ancient Greece was a significant factor in the development of the Greek polis. The special unity it created amongst involved citizens in different areas of Greece accelerated the establishment of the polis, and the hero cult remained to be influential even after the polis’s formation.
The rise of the hero cult is said to have become widespread by the end of the 8th century BC in ancient Greece (Seaford, 109). Many reasons have been given for the expansion of the hero cult, ranging from the rise in population in certain parts of Greece to the resettlement of land by the free peasantry (Seaford, 110). But, the overlap between the time and distribution of the hero cult and the polis certainly suggests some sort of relationship between the two. The hero cult’s power to bond people not related by blood or locality was its most significant benefit that led to the development of the polis. The hero cult gave an area opportunities for collective memory through three distinct ways. The location of the hero, his identification, and the occasion of his death related to...
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