Philosophy and the Divine – Dionysius of Halicarnassus

Here we present a very interesting excerpt from Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ book ‘The Roman Antiquities‘ (The Loeb Classical Library).


“To be sure, the professors of the atheistic philosophies,— if, indeed, their theories deserve the name of philosophy,—who ridicule all the manifestations of the gods which have taken place among either the Greeks or barbarians, will also laugh these reports to scorn and attribute them to human imposture, on the ground that none of the gods concern themselves in anything relating to mankind. Those, however, who do not absolve the gods from the care of human affairs, but, after looking deeply into history, hold that they are favourable to the good and hostile to the wicked, will not regard even these manifestations as incredible.”

NovoScriptorium: As we have already presented in various older articles, ‘Philosophy’ for the ancient Greeks was a very specific thing, unbreakably related to ‘piety’/’godliness’. One who is not pious/godly can never be a Philosopher. Apparently, in Dionysius’ era there have been people claiming the name of the ‘Philosopher’, people who he obviously condemns, of being ‘atheists’ or ‘agnosticists’.

We notice from the text that the decline and distortion of the original definition of ‘Philosophy’ has already started during the 1st century B.C.. Actually, we have found that this distortion begun much earlier, during the Hellenistic years.

Interestingly, ‘atheists’/’agnosticists’ of every era seem to think/act in the same way against religion and religious beliefs. We hardly spot a core difference in behaviour of the ancient ‘atheist’/’agnosticist’ and the modern one.

Finally, the idea that the gods (the Divine) are ‘favourable to the good and hostile to the wicked’ appears as a strong belief among people since deep Antiquity. This further suggests that the Divine is identified with Good and that is irrelevant with any Evil. A theological view still accepted and used. It also suggests that the Divine intervenes, directly or not, in human things.

Research-Selection-Comments: Isidoros Aggelos

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