Monday, August 30, 2021


Ruler Worship

E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951 = Sather Classical Lectures, 25), p. 242 (notes omitted):
That Hellenistic ruler-worship was always insincere—that it was a political stunt and nothing more—no one, I think, will believe who has observed in our own day the steadily growing mass adulation of dictators, kings, and, in default of either, athletes. When the old gods withdraw, the empty thrones cry out for a successor, and with good management, or even without management, almost any perishable bag of bones may be hoisted into the vacant seat. So far as they have religious meaning for the individual, ruler-cult and its analogues, ancient and modern, are primarily, I take it, expressions of helpless dependence; he who treats another human being as divine thereby assigns to himself the relative status of a child or an animal.

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