Quotes About Hellenism

Quotes tagged as "hellenism" (showing 1-3 of 3)
Christopher Hitchens
“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea. The same applies to the seder at Passover, which is obviously modeled on the Platonic symposium: questions are asked (especially of the young) while wine is circulated. No better form of sodality has ever been devised: at Oxford one was positively expected to take wine during tutorials. The tongue must be untied. It's not a coincidence that Omar Khayyam, rebuking and ridiculing the stone-faced Iranian mullahs of his time, pointed to the value of the grape as a mockery of their joyless and sterile regime. Visiting today's Iran, I was delighted to find that citizens made a point of defying the clerical ban on booze, keeping it in their homes for visitors even if they didn't particularly take to it themselves, and bootlegging it with great brio and ingenuity. These small revolutions affirm the human.”
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

Christopher Hitchens
“One of the questions asked by al-Balkhi, and often repeated to this day, is this: Why do the children of Israel continue to suffer? My grandmother Dodo thought it was because the goyim were jealous. The seder for Passover (which is a shame-faced simulacrum of a Hellenic question-and-answer session, even including the wine) tells the children that it's one of those things that happens to every Jewish generation. After the Shoah or Endlösung or Holocaust, many rabbis tried to tell the survivors that the immolation had been a punishment for 'exile,' or for insufficient attention to the Covenant. This explanation was something of a flop with those whose parents or children had been the raw material for the 'proof,' so for a time the professional interpreters of god's will went decently quiet. This interval of ambivalence lasted until the war of 1967, when it was announced that the divine purpose could be discerned after all. How wrong, how foolish, to have announced its discovery prematurely! The exile and the Shoah could now both be understood, as part of a heavenly if somewhat roundabout scheme to recover the Western Wall in Jerusalem and other pieces of biblically mandated real estate.

I regard it as a matter of self-respect to spit in public on rationalizations of this kind. (They are almost as repellent, in their combination of arrogance, masochism, and affected false modesty, as Edith Stein's 'offer' of her life to expiate the regrettable unbelief in Jesus of her former fellow Jews.) The sage Jews are those who have put religion behind them and become in so many societies the leaven of the secular and the atheist.”
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

Gore Vidal
“The failure of Hellenism has been, largely, a matter of organization. Rome never tried to impose any sort of worship upon the countries it conquered and civilized; in fact, quite the contrary, Rome was eclectic. All religions were given an equal opportunity and even Isis—after some resistance—was worshipped at Rome. As a result we have a hundred important gods and a dozen mysteries. Certain rites are—or were—supported by the state because they involved the genius of Rome. But no attempt was ever made to coordinate the worship of Zeus on the Capitol with, let us say, the Vestals who kept the sacred fire in the old forum. As time passed our rites became, and one must admit it bluntly, merely form, a reassuring reminder of the great age of the city, a token gesture to the old gods who were thought to have founded and guided Rome from a village by the Tiber to world empire. Yet from the beginning, there were always those who mocked. A senator of the old Republic once asked an auger how he was able to get through a ceremony of divination without laughing. I am not so light-minded, though I concede that many of our rites have lost their meaning over the centuries; witness those temples at Rome where certain verses learned by rote are chanted year in and year out, yet no one, including the priests, knows what they mean, for they are in the early language of the Etruscans, long since forgotten.

As the religious forms of the state became more and more rigid and perfunctory, the people were drawn to the mystery cults, many of them Asiatic in origin. At Eleusis or in the various caves of Mithras, they were able to get a vision of what this life can be, as well as a foretaste of the one that follows. There are, then, three sorts of religious experiences. The ancient rites, which are essentially propitiatory. The mysteries, which purge the soul and allow us to glimpse eternity. And philosophy, which attempts to define not only the material world but to suggest practical ways to the good life, as well as attempting to synthesize (as Iamblichos does so beautifully) all true religion in a single comprehensive system.”
Gore Vidal, Julian

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