Anatoly Belyakov: I suspect that one more reason played a role here. With coming of the Dark Ages and collapse of complicated, even delicate social structures of Mycenaen times, the Greeks returned to the clan system. The blood relation became the only understandable social model.
Oleg Matveychev: Exactly! People did not know any other order or societal grid than the family one. I can easily admit that any philosopher could derive one god from another dialectically, just like Hegel derives one category from another. But no one would get that! So a classification should be created that is understood by everybody, including‒and foremostly by the illiterate. Philosophers and priests will snort at this, but there are very few of them. When you explain that this somebody is a brother to somebody else, or a father-in-law, it’s clear, because it’s a familiar order to everybody. Claude Lévi-Strauss in his book The Structural Anthropology has written that the clan order is the most natural one and is a model of any order, as it’s the most simple to understand. So the commission of this imagined Lycurgus stuffed all chaos and diversity of the Greek gods into a family-like grid. So, all manner of “the night gives rise to the day”, or “night and day are the one” by Heraclitus or “goddess truth” by Parmenides, the dialectic and metaphysical properties of gods and their relations are left to philosophers. “The plebeians won’t dig it,” but the clan system is understood by everybody.
So, here we have a very interesting process. On one side, there are priests, mystics, philosophers and theologists that continue to think about gods as metaphysical, supernatural forces or spirits and, like in old days, communicate with them by metaphysical means. On the other side we have the regular folks that found out that all gods are related to each other and begin to see them through the prism of their family relations. Here we have a wife cheating on a husband while he is away making money; this analogy is transferred to gods. Here are children fighting with their father set against him by their mother; and this is applied to the gods as well. Brothers fighting, sisters and the rest of the domestic squabbles. From here appears the specific-to-Greece so-called anthropomorphic character of its religion. It wasn’t such in the beginning and could not be. All studies and findings (see Zaytsev’s work) show that until a certain point, as far as Greek gods go, there was a mess and confusion and after approximately 900-800 centuries B.C. the clan order begins and after that anthropomorphism and wild stories about Zeus cheating on his wife, and enmity between Athena and Artemis about who is more beautiful.
A.B: By the way, the same professor Zaitsev had noted that anthropomorphism of the gods as Greeks practiced it is a very rare occurrence in the history of religion. And that is true…
O.M: To the point, we understand that there was a whole process that took time. First, there was a decision made about gods’ classification. Second, there needed to be a “sociological study” done and measure of gods’ ratings. Third, create a unified concept, test all sticky points. Forth, insert this into the mass consciousness, and fifth, receive anthropomorphism as a response. Therefore, between the time when teachers in schools and bards on the agoras described the new relationships between gods‒between the time when everyone understood that Zeus is the father and Athena is the daughter ‒ there was a period when the people invented a whole Greek soap, much like Santa-Barbara. Only then do we see that Homer weaved the “Santa-Barbara” motives in the fabric of The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Herein lies the major scientific value of our work, as PhD thesis presenters like to say. Some people in the West received their PhD degrees because they related Homer’s poems to a certain period, and proved it by referring to his description of material culture, artifacts and societal relations in the poems‒not from the time of the Trojan War, but a much later time. And we also show that spiritual and religious artifacts used in Homer’s poems trace back to 800-700 BCE. Absolutely not any earlier than that! It’s not important when the integration of Homer’s poems (the ones we know about) occurred, or if this amalgamation was of various disjointed pieces and poems or on the basis of one proto-poem about Achilles’ anger. The main thing is that integration happened on the basis of the matrix of a family clan of the gods.
A.B: I will note, by the way, from cyclic epics about the Trojan War there was practically nothing left. These bits were translated to Russian not so long ago. So, I don’t know how the things were in the original versions of them, but in the surviving fragments there are no “Santa-Barbara” happenings between gods. Maybe a few hints that Zeus is everybody’s father and Athena is his daughter; a blood relation. But no more than that. I think that according to our concept we can suggest with a good deal of confidence that cyclic epics are older than The Illiad and The Odyssey. Many researchers before us have said the same thing; all these Kuhlmanns, Borgias, Pestalocci, etc., although they based it on something else.
O.M: I will say this plainly but graphically. As a former member of the presidential administration, as a political consultant‒as an advisor who has been dealing with research and ideologies all his conscious life ‒ how I see all of this. The imagined Lycurgus (again, I emphasize “imagined”, maybe it was one of his grandchildren or sons that later all blended into one person and was declared god-like) gathers sophists, philosophers, priests and other advisers for a meeting. Same as Surkov or Volodin gathered us, political consultants, in the Kremlin. And he tells them, “Invent ideology common for everybody. We have all these different people, different languages, different temples and gods! And there are also all these foreigners, too, they have completely strange to us languages and gods. We need to do something so everybody agreed that our gods are the main ones; so everyone swore by them, so the newborn children are called their names, our oracles consulted, our plays watched, our temples visited by pilgrims and the dead are buried by our laws. Then only our rule will be strong, and everything will have one cosmos, one law and one order!” They, of course answer: “First we need to conduct a survey, send our men to all lands”.
The survey gets done, they make a matrix. Maybe not just one, maybe there were several concepts. Perhaps, Zeus was the only father at first, and Poseidon was the son, and perhaps not Hera, but Demeter was Zeus’s wife. Same as in the President’s Administration there are different concepts considered, weak spots and risks pointed out; something is taken as a basis and then worked out in details. And at the end the final solution accepted.
However, they still had to arrive at some kind of a popular, mass accepted outcome‒so the youth could remember it in schools, therefore they needed a kind of tale, easy to memorize by heart, so, perhaps, a poem. So, some philosopher/poet sat down and wrote The Origin of Gods. Then they started thinking whom it should be attributed to, “An important work like this that talks about origins of gods could not be coming from someone well known to everybody. This is an ancient manuscript, an ancient source.” It always happened this way in history, so many fake “ancient treasures” always float around: The Will of Peter the Great, Constantine’s Gift, History of Little Russia, Velesov’s Book, and “Protocols of the Zionist Wise Men”. Many, many fake ancient documents are out there. So they sat down and decided to attribute “The Origin of Gods” to … Hesiod, who was already in those times a semi-mythological figure, like our bard Boyan from The Lay of Igor’s Campaign. So the singers will come out and say, “Here is the poem of Hesiod, which you have not heard yet, dating from antiquity,” and the antiquity claim shows its power. Here we go! And as soon as the poem of the fake Hesiod was ready, it was launched into the education system, re-written a hundred times, popularized, and since because all these sophists were teachers in schools for youth, they made everyone learn it by heart; got the bards out to the squares. Everything was the same as now. Put together a concept and then implement it through news, films, school programmes, mass media, etc.
A.B: Only often it’s botched up, particularly on the implementation level. Is that why there are so many arrogant semi-educated people declaring “aesthetic differences” with the current authority?
O.M: Ok, and after some time there is a second meeting. Checking in, how are things, how is the propaganda of the new ideas coming along? And political consultants-slash-sophists say:
“In principle, everything is fine, our lord. There are no protests. However, there is a problem with the youth. They have difficulties absorbing the text; they make many mistakes. Who is interested in gods and going to the temple? The grown up men make sacrifices before business deals, old women and widows remember old days and light candles, but young people are not interested in who is whose father-in-law or brother-in-law. They want stories about love, forbidden sex, fights, feats, and only with sour faces do they learn our theogony. And when our bards sing the mantras about origins, who is born from whom‒even flies on the walls get bored. We need action, drive, conflict, scandal, sex and blood; who is fighting with whom, who is cheating on whom, who got hit in the face, and bad news. Only then we will get decent ratings. “
“So what are we going to do?” asks Spartan Surkov-Volodin and maybe even Lycurgus-Putin himself. And they answer:
“Here at the markets our street cripples sing songs about the Trojan War for three hundred years already, about the heroes, about Odysseus, Diomedes, Menelaus, Achilles, and about love of Helen and Paris. We should collect all the songs in one poem and shove our gods and their family relations into it. Like we give our kids bitter medicine with honey, we will wrap the poem around our ideology. There is a bit of a problem in that the songs are all sad, because all of our heroes died in that war, and there is this nonsense that our Spartan woman was kidnapped. By the way we can change that. We should make it that it was us who won over the Trojans. Anybody who steals our Spartan brides will be annihilated and their town destroyed. And the main thing, we gathered all the Greeks from all islands and moved as a united force. We shouldn’t put it all out together like that at markets and squares, as it would sound strange. First we launch one poem with the gods and our winning heroes and if people like it, we will make a second poem in which we will say that we won the Trojan War. And so the folks believe us, we will attribute these poems not to Hesiod but to Homer himself! He, as people think, is even more ancient than Hesiod and therefore has more authority!
They already had the tradition to attribute thoughts to other authoritative figures, for example, Plato attributed his thoughts to Socrates, and how many pseudo-Dionises were there? It’s in our society; the newer the better. But in a traditional one, the older the better.
A.B: This tradition exists now, too. For example, as you remember, while in university I thought up different ancient philosophers “whose works are not yet introduced in scientific circulation,” assigned my thoughts to them, putting the thoughts in a specific stylistic format and successfully cited “the philosophers” in my exams. However, for me it was a literary game á la Borges, and now this trick is used all over the place in advertising and journalism. You can’t imagine how make fake citations are out there! It’s not so bad when used by girls in Odnoklassniki.ru, but some book authors claiming to be scientific and serious are not ashamed to use them either! I would advise them to check one extra time that “famous saying”, as not to look like an idiot.
O.M: Ok, so now walking the talk. Political consultants slash sophists got a bag of gold in the presidential administration. They collected songs about the feats of Odysseus and Diomed and Achilles with Hector in the pile. Whatever didn’t work they threw out, whatever was missing they added, taking as a basis the plot about Achilles being angry and his quarrel. For the second poem the basis was Odysseus’s return. Naturally, a throng of scribes was hired that wrote it all down (the most modern technology of the time borrowed from Phoenicians) and all of that goes to schools and public squares, especially since the same people who go to these meetings are in charge of schools. The bards gladly take the money for performing these new songs and sing them, especially since people get tired of listening to the same old with variations and here we’ve got new hits, and so cheery too.
So, it turns out it’s us, Greeks, that defeated everybody and smashed everything and not like in old songs where everything was dull and tragic. That’s how it was implemented and then as a result in several centuries Greece experienced cultural revival and gave the world its greatest examples of philosophy, politics and art lasting thousands of years.