Religion in the Military of Ancient Greece
The Ancient Greeks held their religion to be a personal experience, to be practiced by the common man on a daily basis. Thus, it comes as no surprise to read in the historical works of the period that the people also relied on religion to aid them in military matters. This paper will give historical examples of the people's reliance on the deities and attempt to explain the psychological necessity of these rituals. An examination will be made of the typical forms of rituals, and cite their effects, whether ill or benign, on the military endeavors of the peoples in the age of the Ancient Greeks.
RITE OF PASSAGE
Many people who experience battle for the first time find themselves panicked, totally unprepared for the horrors of war. Waging war is not a task for the inexperienced civilian. As a result, religious rituals were formed that would brace the aspiring warrior for the obscenities he would face as well as fill him with a sense of obligatory duty through ritual ordaination. Walter Burkert's Greek
Religion gives ample detail on the subject: Crete is also the place where myth localizes the Kouretes, who by their name are just young warriors. This reflects a cult association of
young warriors meeting at the grotto of Mount Ida, and brandishing their shields in war dances to
which the bronze tympana and votive shields of Orientalizing style give their testimony. Every year the birth of Zeus in this cave is celebrated with a great fire, but mention is also made of the
burial of Zeus by the Kouretes, and there are rumours of child sacrifice. Birth, the cave, the
death of a child, and war dances, are all clear initiation motifs (Burkert 262).
The whereabouts of Dirke's grave were known only to the cavalry commander, the Hipparchus of Thebes. When he retired from office, he would take his successor to her tomb at night; there the two men would make sacrifices without using fire and cover up all traces of...