Religion and Politics in 5th Century Athens Term Paper

This paper examines the connection between politics and religion in 5th Century Athens.
# 146459 | 2,719 words | 22 sources | MLA | 2010 | NZ

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In this article, the writer begins by defining the terms religion and politics as they would have been understood by an ancient Athenian audience. Following this is a brief outline of the nature of the Greek gods, the nature of which together with the gods' provenance directly results in the close relationship between religion and politics. After briefly outlining the mechanics of this relationship the writer then turns to the specific examples of the Kerameikos, the Panathenaiac Way and the Agora to further illustrate this relationship. By drawing on these sites together with inscriptional evidence from casualty lists, the Parthenon frieze and literary sources, the paper demonstrates that religion was not only a mechanism utilized for political propaganda, both internally and externally directed, but the preferred tool employed by the polis to explain the dichotomy between the exclusive political citizenship inherent in the Athenian democracy and its inclusive religious citizenship. Photographs are included with the paper.

From the Paper:

"For the purposes of this paper I have defined politics as being the relationship between a citizen (or group of citizens) and the polis and, the relationship between the polis and other poleis. In the fifth century BC, Athenians practiced a polytheistic religion which expressed itself primarily through civic festivals and cults. These festivals served to provide a basis in Athenian worship, gave a sense of meaning in life, and provided an identity as human beings. The polytheistic religion provided a simple and safe explanation for all the facts of life, for their existence and for all the things they could not understand. Athenian religion did not simply comprise the commonly recognized twelve Olympians (each of which could manifest in a vast number of aspects) but many other minor deities as well as heroes and spirits. The gods were capricious and amoral; they had their own personalities, their own goals and their own aspirations. While the gods were more insightful, knowledgeable, and powerful than humans, they were not infinitely so. The most distinctive quality of the Olympian gods is not therefore goodness, but power."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Andocides. Against Alcibiades. Text retrieved online from
  • Herodotus. The Histories in The Landmark Herodotus, translated by A.L.Purvis. New York: Pantheon Books, (2007).
  • Pausanias. Guide to Greece 1: Central Greece, translated by Peter Levi. London: Penguin, (1971).
  • Plato. Euthyphro. Text retrieved from
  • Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, translated by R Warner, London: Penguin, (1972).

Cite this Term Paper:

APA Format

Religion and Politics in 5th Century Athens (2010, December 28) Retrieved January 30, 2023, from

MLA Format

"Religion and Politics in 5th Century Athens" 28 December 2010. Web. 30 January. 2023. <>