Middle Ages. And yet Homer exerted a very great influence on the whole Greek religion of later times. In the recovery that followed the crisis, religion too had a new structure corresponding to the new civil and social systems. The great new fact was the formation of the city as a super-gentle state body on the ruins of the unigentilitious, monarchical and dynastic order of Mycenaean society. The polis was born aristocratic, because it was the new state of the conquerors. Individual tribes, peoples and families also had their own private cults within the polis, the owners of which were the founders and ancestors. Some of these “heroes” could also become the object of a public cult. But the polis, as a super-gentle and super-tribal organism, needed a religion of its own superior to private cults, of a divinity his and hers alone, which did not belong in his own right to any of its members and therefore could and should be venerated by all. The great Olympic divinities were generally assumed to civic divinities, polyads, who were precisely the great Homeric divinities: those to whom the partially still transparent naturist foundation gave a more universal character, those who through Homer were well known even beyond the restricted territory of the polis. Homer, the poetic expression of a heroic and chivalrous world, was the ideal of the aristocracies organized in the polis. In this lies the reason for his fortune, as well as for his influence on the world of religion as well. The deities of Homer, in the form in which he had molded them, were forever imprinted in the minds and hearts of all Greeks.
The closest approximation to a religious authority is represented, in the history of Greek religion, by the oracle of Delphi. The Greek “Middle Ages” is the epoch of the maximum religious power and influence of Delphi because it is an epoch of upheaval and settlement, in which the need for order is strongly felt, even in matters of religion. The TheogonyHesiod, with its cosmogony and its divine genealogies, is a first attempt at a theological arrangement outside any recognized authority. But this could not be ignored, when vital political interests were at stake, rather than speculative needs. The constitutions of the numerous city-states, the relations between peoples and tribes within each of them, the foundations of colonies and their relations with the mother city: all this had religious implications, and required a religious sanction: it was requested usually at the oracle of Delphi.
Even in social relations the need was felt for an authority, a norm, a law; and it is already echoed by Hesiod in Works and Days. There was the world of the humble below that of the “lords”, of the “citizens”. The lower classes, being excluded from the polis, did not participate in his cultic and religious life: they lived, even religiously, to themselves, devoted mainly to the cults of Demeter and Dionysus, divinities neither Olympic nor Homeric, divinities of vegetation, the most suitable for of the rural classes. This religiosity of the vulgar rustics gravitated towards mysteries. It was then that from an ancient chthonic and agrarian cult, local and noble, dating back to the Mycenaean age according to all likelihood, the famous mysteries took place in Eleusis, destined to ensure a better fate for the initiates in the afterlife, as it already is. said in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter(VII century BC). Dionysus, for his part, was the exponent of partly exotic (Thracian), partly Pre-Greek (Mycenaean) cults, profoundly differentiated from the rest of Greek religion for their orgiastic character, for the collective experience of a communion with the god (enthousiasmós) which was expressed in disordered and unrestrained forms. Initially opposed by the aristocracies, exercising an irresistible fascination on the plebs and especially on the female element, the Dionysian religion was nevertheless attracted into the orbit of the polis: in contact with the civic world it gradually became gentler, stripped of its primitive coarseness, and it ended up urbanizing, bringing with it from the countryside within the walls those sacred representations from which the drama took place. This was a particular aspect and moment of that broader and more general process by which the agrarian and mystery cults in general ended up enrolling and subordinating themselves to the system of Olympic and polyadic cults in parallel with the gradual political ascension of the rural and plebeian classes in the polis.
This political-religious development was favored towards the end of the century. Street. C. from the rise of tyrannies, naturally adverse to the aristocracies and willing to seek the favor of the lower classes. Even Orphism, an extreme exponent of the Dionysian religion, but already a participant in the “prophetic”, “oracular” currents, which, especially under the sign of Apollo, circulated widely in Greece in the century. VII and VI (the Bákides, the Sibyls), but also forced to pour its exotic content into the traditional forms of myth (Dionysus Zagreus and the Titans) and poetry (Theogony, Descent into Hades, etc.), Orphism also had in Athens, at the end of the century. VI, with Pisistrato tyrant and Pisistratids, an ephemeral splendor (Onomacrito). But Orphism, with its doctrine of the divine origin of mankind, of the immanence of the divine in man, was too profoundly different and opposed to the spirit of the Olympic religion founded on distance, on the transcendence of the divine, as expressed by. former. in the Delphic sentences of “know thyself”, “nothing too much” and the like. All the elements of a type of religion totally different from traditional Greek religion: dogma, soteriology, asceticism, the canonical book, the church, proselytism, all this is found in germ in Orphism. The germ did not take root. After the sec. VI Orphism lived a dark and marginal life.