The Temples and Gods of Athens: The Multitude of Images of the Gods
Chapter 20 § 185 A Day in Old Athens, by William Stearns Davis (1910)
Professor of Ancient History at the University of Minnesota
Chapter XX. The Temples and Gods of Athens.
185. The Multitude of Images of the Gods.--Gods are everywhere in Athens. You cannot take the briefest walk without being reminded that the world is full of deities. There is a "Herm"[*] by the main door of every house, as well as a row of them across the Agora. At many of the street crossings there are little shrines to Hecate; or statues of Apollo Agyieus, the street guardian; or else a bay tree stands there, a graceful reminder of this same god, to which it is sacred. In every house there is the small alter whereon garlands and fruit offerings are daily laid to Zeus Herkeios, and another altar to Hestia. On one or both of these altars a little food and a little wine are cast at every meal. All public meetings or court sessions open with sacrifice; in short, to attempt any semi-important public or private act without inviting the friendly attention of the deity is unthinkable. To a well-bred Athenian this is second instinct; he considers it as inevitable as the common courtesies of speech among gentlemen. Plato sums up the current opinion well, "All men who have any decency, in the attempting of matters great or small, always invoke divine aid."[+]
[*]A stone post about shoulder high, surmounted by a bearded head. Contrary to modern impression, the average Greek did not conceive of Hermes as a beautiful youth. He was a grave, bearded man. The youthful aspect came through the manipulation of the Hermes myths by the master sculptors--e.g. Praxiteles.
[+]Timaeus, p. 27 c.
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