Names day in Greece derives from the names of the saints in the Orthodox church. Image black and with window with the image of three saints

What role has religion played in Greece throughout history?

Today, 81.4% of the Greeks are Orthodox Catholics. This is a huge percentage if you compare this to Christians in the UK or Protestants in the US. More impressive is the number when you imagine that modern Greece only exists since 1830. Before, the Greeks have been under Ottoman and Roman rule for years. Besides, when you mention Greek religion, you might think about Nike and Zeus. Ancient Greek goddesses and gods who lived long before the Orthodox religion. Confusing, the Greeks. So here is the story behind religion in Greece, and its impact on society.

From Temple to Church

Ancient Greece

Let’s start at the beginning, with Zeus and Nike. The ancient Greeks had a polytheistic religion. They worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses who were believed to control various aspects of the natural world and human life. These gods were thought to reside on Mount Olympus and were often depicted in art and mythology. Religion was deeply ingrained in everyday life, with festivals and rituals held regularly to honor the gods and goddesses.

Religion also played a role in politics. The city-states often had a chief priest or priestess who served as an intermediary between the people and the gods. In addition, religion was a source of cultural identity for the ancient Greeks. Each god or goddess was often associated with specific regions or city-states.

The Romans

The ancient Greek gods and goddesses were worshipped by the ancient Greeks. However, with the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 B.C., the ancient civilization died as well. Now comes the time of the Roman influence in Greece, and with the Romans, Christianity. A process that took place over several centuries.

The ancient Greek polytheistic religion was practiced for thousands of years and deeply ingrained in society. The spread of Christianity in Greece was initially slow and faced resistance from some members of society. Early Christian communities in Greece were often small and faced persecution from the Roman authorities.

However, as Christianity began to gain acceptance and support from powerful members of society, it slowly began to spread and gain followers. The adoption of Christianity as the official state religion was a major turning point in the spread of the religion in Greece. This happened in the Byzantine Empire in the 4th century A.D. Emperor Constantine the Great, who was himself a convert to Christianity, supported the spread of Christianity He provided funding for the construction of churches and other religious institutions throughout the empire.

The start of the Orthodox Church

With the support of the state, Christianity began to gain widespread acceptance in Greece. Many of the traditional polytheistic religious practices and beliefs were gradually replaced with, or re-explained as, Christian ones. The ancient Greek gods and goddesses were often reinterpreted as Christian saints. Besides, many of the traditional religious festivals and holidays were replaced with Christian ones. It was the syncretism of Christianity with the traditional religion that helped it to spread in Greece. And so the history of the Orthodox religion in Greece begun.

The Orthodox religion in the history of Greece

The Orthodox Church has been an important institution in Greece, playing a central role in the cultural, social and political life of the country. It has played a role in shaping the country’s education, social welfare, and cultural heritage. The Orthodox Church has also been an important force in the preservation of Greek language, culture and tradition. Additionally, the Orthodox Church continues to play an important role in the Greece’s identity. Many religious festivals and holidays are still celebrated and are an important part of Greek society today.

Religion was what defined the Greeks

After the 4th century A.D the main religion in Greece has been the Orthodox religion. However, in these 1700 years, many other things changed in the country. There has been a Byzantine Greece, a Latin Greece and an Ottoman Greece. The country has been occupied by many other empires. Greece has split up and has been attacked. Yet, the Orthodox church survived.

This is what makes religion in Greece something special throughout history. There where times that the Church was the only thing preserving the Greek language, culture and traditions. However, occupants also had an influence on the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox religion during the Ottoman Rule

During the Ottoman period (1453-1821), the Greek Orthodox Church was placed under the authority of the Ottoman millet system. Which recognized the Greek Orthodox Church as an autonomous community within the empire. The Greek Orthodox Church was allowed to continue its religious practices, but its leaders were appointed by the Ottoman authorities. The Church’s property and finances were controlled by the state. The Church was also expected to support the Ottoman government and its policies.

This had a significant impact on the Church’s role in Greek society. The Church was not able to play its traditional role as an independent institution and was instead used as a tool of the Ottoman government.

The Orthodox religion in WWII

During the period of German occupation in WWII, the Greek Orthodox Church was initially seen as a potential ally by the occupiers. However, the Church and its leaders soon became vocal opponents of the occupation. Many priests and bishops actively supported the resistance and many were arrested and executed by the Germans. The Church’s property was also seized and its leaders were exiled.

After the war, the Church regained its independence and played a significant role in the reconstruction of the country. The role of the Church during the war helped to establish the Church as a symbol of national resistance and identity.

Religion in Greece today

Today, the Greek Orthodox Church is still the dominant religion in Greece. The religion plays a central role in the cultural, social, and political life of the country. Many schools and hospitals are run by the Church or by Church-affiliated organizations. The Church also continues to play an important role in the preservation of Greek language, culture, and tradition. Many religious festivals and holidays are still celebrated and are an important part of Greek society today. Additionally, the Orthodox Church continues to play an important role in the country’s political and social development, and it is considered as an important element of the Greek national identity

The Church of Greece is self-governed and administrates its own affairs, but it remains under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. However, it also has its own independent hierarchy, the Church of Greece, which is headed by the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece.

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