The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which sometimes used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. It provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek society: women, slaves and non-citizens. In their final phase the Mysteries shifted their emphasis from a chthonic, underworld orientation to a transcendental, mystical one, with Dionysus changing his nature accordingly. By its nature as a mystery religion reserved for the initiated, many aspects of the Dionysian cult remain unknown and were lost with the decline of Greco-Roman polytheism; the Dionysian Mysteries of mainland Greece and the Roman Empire are thought to have evolved from a more primitive initiatory cult of unknown origin which had spread throughout the Mediterranean region by the start of the Classical Greek period. Its spread was associated with the dissemination of wine, a sacrament or entheogen with which it appears always to have been associated.
Beginning as a simple rite, it evolved within Greek culture into a popular mystery religion, which absorbed a variety of similar cults in a Greek synthesis across its territories. However, all stages of this developmental spectrum appear to have continued in parallel throughout the eastern Mediterranean until late in Greek history and forcible Christianization; the ecstatic cult of Dionysus was thought to be a late arrival in Greece from Thrace or Asia Minor, due to its popularity in both locations and Dionysus' non-integration into the Olympian Pantheon. After the deity's name was discovered on Mycenean Linear B tablets, this theory was abandoned and the cult is considered indigenous, predating Greek civilization; the absence of an early Olympian Dionysus is today explained by patterns of social exclusion and the cult's marginality, rather than chronology. Whether the cult originated on Minoan Crete or Africa – or in Thrace or Asia, as a proto-Sabazius – is unanswerable, due to lack of evidence.
Some scholars believe it was an adopted cult not native to any of these places and may have been an eclectic cult in its earliest history, although it certainly obtained many familiar features from Minoan culture. The original rite of Dionysus is associated with a wine cult, concerned with the grapevine's cultivation and an understanding of its life cycle and the fermentation of wine from its dismembered body. Most however, the intoxicating and disinhibiting effects of wine were regarded as due to possession by the god's spirit. Wine was poured on the earth and its growing vine, completing the cycle; the cult was not concerned with the vine itself, but with the other components of wine. Wine includes other ingredients adding to its quality and medicinal properties. Scholars have suggested that, given the low alcoholic content of early wine, its effects may have been due to an additional entheogenic ingredient in its sacramental form. Honey and beeswax were added to wine, introducing an older drink.
Károly Kerényi postulated that this wine lore superseded earlier Neolithic mead lore involving bee swarms associated by the Greeks with Dionysus. Mead and beer were incorporated into the domain of Dionysus through his identification with the Thracian corn deity Sabazius. Other plants believed to be viniculturally significant were included in wine lore such as ivy; the bull and goat were part of the cult seen as manifestations of Dionysus. Some of these associations became part of his new role. An understanding of vinicultural lore and its symbolism is key to understanding the cult which emerged from it, assuming a significance other than winemaking that would encompass life and rebirth and providing insight into human psychology. Assuming the Dionysus cult arrived in Greece with the importation of wine, it first emerged about 6000 BC in one of two places—the Zagros Mountains and borderlands of Mesopotamia and Persia, or from wild vines on the mountain slopes of Libya and other regions in North Africa.
The latter provided wine to ancient Egypt wine from about 2500 BC, was home to ecstatic rites involving animal possession—notably the goat and panther men of the Aissaoua Sufi cult of Morocco. In any case Minoan Crete was the next link in the chain, importing wine from the Egyptians and Phoenicians and exporting it to its colonies; the Mysteries took shape in Minoan Crete from about 3000 to 1000 BC, since the name "Dionysus" exists nowhere other than Crete and Greece. The rites were based on a seasonal death-rebirth theme, common among agricultural cults such as the Eleusinian Mysteries; the Osirian Mysteries paralleled
Homer is the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms, it focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider these accounts legendary; the Homeric Question – concerning by whom, when and under what circumstances the Iliad and Odyssey were composed – continues to be debated. Broadly speaking, modern scholarly opinion falls into two groups. One holds that most of the Odyssey are the works of a single poet of genius; the other considers the Homeric poems to be the result of a process of working and reworking by many contributors, that "Homer" is best seen as a label for an entire tradition.
It is accepted that the poems were composed at some point around the late eighth or early seventh century BC. The poems are in Homeric Greek known as Epic Greek, a literary language which shows a mixture of features of the Ionic and Aeolic dialects from different centuries. Most researchers believe that the poems were transmitted orally. From antiquity until the present day, the influence of the Homeric epics on Western civilization has been great, inspiring many of its most famous works of literature, music and film; the Homeric epics were the greatest influence on education. Today only the Iliad and Odyssey are associated with the name'Homer'. In antiquity, a large number of other works were sometimes attributed to him, including the Homeric Hymns, the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, the Little Iliad, the Nostoi, the Thebaid, the Cypria, the Epigoni, the comic mini-epic Batrachomyomachia, the Margites, the Capture of Oechalia, the Phocais; these claims are not considered authentic today and were by no means universally accepted in the ancient world.
As with the multitude of legends surrounding Homer's life, they indicate little more than the centrality of Homer to ancient Greek culture. Many traditions circulated in the ancient world concerning Homer. Modern scholarly consensus is; some claims were repeated often. They include that Homer was blind, that he was born in Chios, that he was the son of the river Meles and the nymph Critheïs, that he was a wandering bard, that he composed a varying list of other works, that he died either in Ios or after failing to solve a riddle set by fishermen, various explanations for the name "Homer"; the two best known ancient biographies of Homer are the Life of Homer by the Pseudo-Herodotus and the Contest of Homer and Hesiod. The study of Homer is one of the oldest topics in scholarship, dating back to antiquity. Nonetheless, the aims of Homeric studies have changed over the course of the millennia; the earliest preserved comments on Homer concern his treatment of the gods, which hostile critics such as the poet Xenophanes of Colophon denounced as immoral.
The allegorist Theagenes of Rhegium is said to have defended Homer by arguing that the Homeric poems are allegories. The Iliad and the Odyssey were used as school texts in ancient Greek and Hellenistic cultures, they were the first literary works taught to all students. The Iliad its first few books, was far more intently studied than the Odyssey during the Hellenistic and Roman periods; as a result of the poems' prominence in classical Greek education, extensive commentaries on them developed to explain parts of the poems that were culturally or linguistically difficult. During the Hellenistic and Roman Periods, many interpreters the Stoics, who believed that Homeric poems conveyed Stoic doctrines, regarded them as allegories, containing hidden wisdom; because of the Homeric poems' extensive use in education, many authors believed that Homer's original purpose had been to educate. Homer's wisdom became so praised that he began to acquire the image of a prototypical philosopher. Byzantine scholars such as Eustathius of Thessalonica and John Tzetzes produced commentaries and scholia to Homer in the twelfth century.
Eustathius's commentary on the Iliad alone is massive, sprawling nearly 4,000 oversized pages in a twenty-first century printed version and his commentary on the Odyssey an additional nearly 2,000. In 1488, the Greek scholar Demetrios Chalkokondyles published the editio princeps of the Homeric poems; the earliest modern Homeric scholars started with the same basic approaches towards the Homeric poems as scholars in antiquity. The allegorical interpretation of the Homeric poems, so prevalent in antiquity returned to become the prevailing view of the Renaissance. Renaissance humanists praised Homer as the archetypically wise poet, whose writings contain hidden wisdom, disguised through allegory. In western Europe during the Renaissance, Virgil was more read than Homer and Homer was seen through a Virgilian lens. In 1664, contradicting the widespread praise of Homer as the epitome of wisdom, François Hédelin, abbé d'Aubignac wrote a s
The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. Although the story covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad mentions or alludes to many of the Greek legends about the siege; the epic narrative takes up events prophesied for the future, such as Achilles' imminent death and the fall of Troy, although the narrative ends before these events take place. However, as these events are prefigured and alluded to more and more vividly, when it reaches an end the poem has told a more or less complete tale of the Trojan War; the Iliad is paired with something of a sequel, the Odyssey attributed to Homer. Along with the Odyssey, the Iliad is among the oldest extant works of Western literature, its written version is dated to around the 8th century BC.
In the modern vulgate, the Iliad contains 15,693 lines. According to Michael N. Nagler, the Iliad is a more complicated epic poem than the Odyssey. Note: Book numbers are in parentheses and come before the synopsis of the book. After an invocation to the Muses, the story launches in medias res towards the end of the Trojan War between the Trojans and the besieging Greeks. Chryses, a Trojan priest of Apollo, offers the Greeks wealth for the return of his daughter Chryseis, held captive of Agamemnon, the Greek leader. Although most of the Greek army is in favour of the offer, Agamemnon refuses. Chryses prays for Apollo's help, Apollo causes a plague to afflict the Greek army. After nine days of plague, the leader of the Myrmidon contingent, calls an assembly to deal with the problem. Under pressure, Agamemnon agrees to return Chryseis to her father, but decides to take Achilles' captive, Briseis, as compensation. Achilles furiously will go home. Odysseus takes a ship and returns Chryseis to her father, whereupon Apollo ends the plague.
In the meantime, Agamemnon's messengers take Briseis away. Achilles becomes upset, sits by the seashore, prays to his mother, Thetis. Achilles asks his mother to ask Zeus to bring the Greeks to the breaking point by the Trojans, so Agamemnon will realize how much the Greeks need Achilles. Thetis does so, Zeus agrees. Zeus sends a dream to Agamemnon. Agamemnon heeds the dream but first decides to test the Greek army's morale, by telling them to go home; the plan backfires, only the intervention of Odysseus, inspired by Athena, stops a rout. Odysseus confronts and beats Thersites, a common soldier who voices discontent about fighting Agamemnon's war. After a meal, the Greeks deploy in companies upon the Trojan plain; the poet takes the opportunity to describe the provenance of each Greek contingent. When news of the Greek deployment reaches King Priam, the Trojans respond in a sortie upon the plain. In a list similar to that for the Greeks, the poet describes their allies; the armies approach each other, but before they meet, Paris offers to end the war by fighting a duel with Menelaus, urged by his brother and head of the Trojan army, Hector.
While Helen tells Priam about the Greek commanders from the walls of Troy, both sides swear a truce and promise to abide by the outcome of the duel. Paris is beaten, but Aphrodite rescues him and leads him to bed with Helen before Menelaus can kill him. Pressured by Hera's hatred of Troy, Zeus arranges for the Trojan Pandaros to break the truce by wounding Menelaus with an arrow. Agamemnon rouses the Greeks, battle is joined. In the fighting, Diomedes kills many Trojans, including Pandaros, defeats Aeneas, whom Aphrodite rescues, but Diomedes attacks and wounds the goddess. Apollo warns him against warring with gods. Many heroes and commanders join in, including Hector, the gods supporting each side try to influence the battle. Emboldened by Athena, Diomedes wounds puts him out of action. Hector prevents a rout. Hector enters the city, urges prayers and sacrifices, incites Paris to battle, bids his wife Andromache and son Astyanax farewell on the city walls, rejoins the battle. Hector duels with Ajax, but nightfall interrupts the fight, both sides retire.
The Greeks agree to burn their dead, build a wall to protect their ships and camp, while the Trojans quarrel about returning Helen. Paris offers to return the treasure he took and give further wealth as compensation, but not Helen, the offer is refused. A day's truce is agreed for burning the dead, during which the Greeks build their wall and a trench; the next morning, Zeus prohibits the gods from interfering, fighting begins anew. The Trojans prevail and force the Greeks back to their wall, while Hera and Athena are forbidden to help. Night falls, they camp in the field to attack at first light, their watchfires light the plain like stars. Meanwhile, the Greeks are desperate. Agamemnon admits his error, sends an embassy composed of Odysseus, Ajax and two heralds to offer Briseis and extensive gifts to Achilles, who has be
In Greek mythology, Talos spelled Talus or Talon, was a giant automaton made of bronze to protect Europa in Crete from pirates and invaders. He circled the island's shores three times daily. Talos's bronze nature suggested to the author of Bibliothēkē that he may have been a survivor from the Age of Bronze, a descendant of the brazen race that sprang from meliae "ash-tree nymphs" according to Argonautica 4; the conception that Hesiod's men of the Age of Bronze were made of bronze is extended to men of the age of gold by Lucian for humorous effect. The pseudo-Platonic dialogue Minos rationalized the myth, thrice yearly showing at each village in turn the laws of Minos inscribed on brass tablets. Talos is said to have been made by Hephaestus at the request of Zeus, to protect Europa from people who would want to kidnap her. According to Cinaethon in his poem, Talos was the son of Cres and the father of Hephaestus who fathered Rhadamanthys. According to Brian A. Sparkes, "The most detailed treatment in literature is to be found in the Argonautica... however, we have detailed images of the episode, 150 years earlier, dated to around 400 BCE."
In the Cretan dialect, talôs was the equivalent of the Greek hêlios, the Sun: the lexicon of Hesychius of Alexandria notes "Talos is the Sun". In Crete, Zeus was worshipped as Zeus Tallaios, "Solar Zeus", absorbing the earlier god as an epithet in the familiar sequence; the god was identified with a spur of the Ida range in Crete. On the coin from Phaistos he is winged; the ideas of Talos vary with one consistent detail: in Greek imagery outside Crete, Talos is always being vanquished: he seems to have been an enigmatic figure to the Greeks themselves. Talos is described by Greeks in two versions. In one version, Talos is a gift from Hephaestus to Minos, forged with the aid of the Cyclopes in the form of a bull. In the other version, Talos is a gift from Zeus to Europa. Or he may have been the personification of Crete. In the Byzantine encyclopedia called the Suda, it is said that when the Sardinians did not wish to release Talos to Minos, he heated himself – by jumping into a fire – and clasped them in his embrace.
Talos had one vein, bound shut by only one bronze nail. The Argo, transporting the Argonauts, approached Crete after obtaining the Golden Fleece; as guardian of the island, Talos kept the Argo at bay by hurling great boulders at it. According to pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheke, Talos was slain when Medea the sorceress either drove him mad with drugs, or deceived him into believing that she would make him immortal by removing the nail. In Argonautica, Medea hypnotized him from the Argo, driving him mad with the keres she raised, so that he dislodged the nail, "the ichor ran out of him like molten lead", exsanguinating and killing him. Peter Green, translator of Argonautica, notes that the story is somewhat reminiscent of the story regarding the heel of Achilles. In Argonautica, Apollonius notes that "the ichor... ran out like molten lead". A. B. Cook first suggested that the single vein closed by a nail or plug referred to the lost-wax method of casting. Robert Graves suggests that this myth is based on a misinterpretation of an image of Athena demonstrating the process of lost-wax casting of steel, which Daedalus would have brought to Sardinia.
Talos No. 2, an abstract bronze sculpture in Portland, Oregon TALOS The Talos Principle, a narrative-based puzzle videogame. Talos in the Greek Mythology Link
Hellenistic religion is the late form of Ancient Greek religion, covering any of the various systems of beliefs and practices of the people who lived under the influence of ancient Greek culture during the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire. There was much continuity in Hellenistic religion: the Greek gods continued to be worshipped, the same rites were practiced as before. Change came from the addition of new religions from other countries, including the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, the Syrian gods Atargatis and Hadad, which provided a new outlet for people seeking fulfillment in both the present life and the afterlife; the worship of Hellenistic rulers was a feature of this period, most notably in Egypt, where the Ptolemies adapted earlier Egyptian practice and Greek hero cults and established themselves as Pharaohs within the new syncretic Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great. Elsewhere, rulers might receive divine status without the full status of a god. Magic was practiced and this too, was a continuation from earlier times.
Throughout the Hellenistic world, people would consult oracles, use charms and figurines to deter misfortune or to cast spells. Developed in this era was the complex system of astrology, which sought to determine a person's character and future in the movements of the sun and planets; the systems of Hellenistic philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, offered an alternative to traditional religion if their impact was limited to the educated elite. Central to Greek religion in classical times were the twelve Olympian deities headed by Zeus; each god was honored with stone temples and statues, sanctuaries, although dedicated to a specific deity contained statues commemorating other gods. The city-states would conduct various festivals and rituals throughout the year, with particular emphasis directed towards the patron god of the city, such as Athena at Athens, or Apollo at Corinth. Religious practice would involve the worship of heroes, people who were regarded as semi-divine; such heroes ranged from the mythical figures in the epics of Homer to historical people such as the founder of a city.
At the local level, the landscape was filled with sacred monuments. Magic was a central part of Greek religion and oracles would allow people to determine divine will in the rustle of leaves. Long established were the Eleusinian Mysteries, associated with Demeter and Persephone. People were indoctrinated into mystery religions through initiation ceremonies, which were traditionally kept secret; these religions had a goal of personal improvement, which would extend to the afterlife. In the aftermath of the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek culture spread and came into much closer contact with the civilizations of the Near East and Egypt; the most significant changes to impact on Greek religion were the loss of independence of the Greek city-states to Macedonian rulers. Older surveys of Hellenistic religion tended to depict the era as one of religious decline, discerning a rise in scepticism and atheism, as well as an increase in superstition and astrology. There is, however. There is plenty of documentary evidence that the Greeks continued to worship the same gods with the same sacrifices and festivals as in the classical period.
New religions did appear in this period, but not to the exclusion of the local deities, only a minority of Greeks were attracted to them. The Egyptian religion which follows Isis was the most famous of the new religions; the religion was brought to Greece by Egyptian priests for the small Egyptian communities in the port cities of the Greek world. Although the Egyptian religion found only a small audience among the Greeks themselves, her popularity spread under the Roman empire, Diodorus Siculus wrote that the religion was known throughout the whole inhabited world; as famous was the cult of Serapis, a Greek deity despite the Egyptian name, created in Egypt under the Ptolemaic dynasty. Serapis was patronized by the Greeks; this religion involved initiation rites like the Eleusinian Mysteries. Strabo wrote of the Serapeion at Canopus near Alexandria as being patronized by the most reputable men; the religion of Atargatis, a fertility- and sea goddess from Syria, was popular. By the 3rd century BCE her worship had spread from Syria to Egypt and Greece, reached Italy and the west.
The religion following Cybele came from Phrygia to Greece and to Egypt and Italy, where in 204 BCE the Roman Senate permitted her worship. She was a healing and protecting goddess, a guardian of fertility and wild nature. Another mystery religion was focused around Dionysus. Although rare in mainland Greece, it was common in Anatolia; the members were known as Bacchants, the rites had an orgiastic character. These newly introduced religions and gods only had a limited impact within Greece itself; the island was sacred as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, by the 2nd century BCE was home to the native Greek religions that follow Zeus, Diony
Proto-Indo-European mythology is the body of myths and stories associated with the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Although these stories are not directly attested, they have been reconstructed by scholars of comparative mythology based on the similarities in the belief systems of various Indo-European peoples. Various schools of thought exist regarding the precise nature of Proto-Indo-European mythology, which do not always agree with each other; the main mythologies used in comparative reconstruction are Vedic and Norse supported with evidence from the Baltic, Greek and Hittite traditions as well. The Proto-Indo-European pantheon includes well-attested deities such as *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, the god of the daylit skies, his daughter *Haéusōs, the goddess of the dawn, the divine twins, the storm god *Perkwunos. Other probable deities include *Péh2usōn, a pastoral god, *Seh2ul, a female solar deity. Well-attested myths of the Proto-Indo-Europeans include a myth involving a storm god who slays a multi-headed serpent that dwells in water and a creation story involving two brothers, one of whom sacrifices the other to create the world.
The Proto-Indo-Europeans may have believed that the Otherworld was guarded by a watchdog and could only be reached by crossing a river. They may have believed in a world tree, bearing fruit of immortality, either guarded by or gnawed on by a serpent or dragon, tended by three goddesses who spun the thread of life; the mythology of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is not directly attested and it is difficult to match their language to archaeological findings related to any specific culture from the Chalcolithic. Nonetheless, scholars of comparative mythology have attempted to reconstruct aspects of Proto-Indo-European mythology based on the existence of similarities among the deities, religious practices, myths of various Indo-European peoples; this method is known as the comparative method. Different schools of thought have approached the subject of Proto-Indo-European mythology from different angles; the Meteorological School holds that Proto-Indo-European mythology was centered around deified natural phenomena such as the sky, the Sun, the Moon, the dawn.
This meteorological interpretation was popular among early scholars, such as Friedrich Max Müller, who saw all myths as fundamentally solar allegories. This school lost most of its scholarly support in early twentieth centuries; the Ritual School, which first became prominent in the late nineteenth century, holds that Proto-Indo-European myths are best understood as stories invented to explain various rituals and religious practices. The Ritual School reached the height of its popularity during the early twentieth century. Many of its most prominent early proponents, such as James George Frazer and Jane Ellen Harrison, were classical scholars. Bruce Lincoln, a contemporary member of the Ritual School, argues that the Proto-Indo-Europeans believed that every sacrifice was a reenactment of the original sacrifice performed by the founder of the human race on his twin brother; the Functionalist School holds that Proto-Indo-European society and their mythology, was centered around the trifunctional system proposed by Georges Dumézil, which holds that Proto-Indo-European society was divided into three distinct social classes: farmers and priests.
The Structuralist School, by contrast, argues that Proto-Indo-European mythology was centered around the concept of dualistic opposition. This approach tends to focus on cultural universals within the realm of mythology, rather than the genetic origins of those myths, but it offers refinements of the Dumézilian trifunctional system by highlighting the oppositional elements present within each function, such as the creative and destructive elements both found within the role of the warrior. One of the earliest attested and thus most important of all Indo-European mythologies is Vedic mythology the mythology of the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas. Early scholars of comparative mythology such as Friedrich Max Müller stressed the importance of Vedic mythology to such an extent that they equated it with Proto-Indo-European myth. Modern researchers have been much more cautious, recognizing that, although Vedic mythology is still central, other mythologies must be taken into account. Another of the most important source mythologies for comparative research is Roman mythology.
Contrary to the frequent erroneous statement made by some authors that "Rome has no myth", the Romans possessed a complex mythological system, parts of which have been preserved through the characteristic Roman tendency to rationalize their myths into historical accounts. Despite its late attestation, Norse mythology is still considered one of the three most important of the Indo-European mythologies for comparative research due to the vast bulk of surviving Icelandic material. Baltic mythology has received a great deal of scholarly attention, but has so far remained frustrating to researchers because the sources are so comparatively late. Nonetheless, Latvian folk songs are seen as a major source of information in the process of reconstructing Proto-Indo-European myth. Despite the popularity of Greek mythology in western culture, Greek mythology is seen as having little importance in comparative mythology due to the heavy influence of Pre-Greek and Near Eastern cultures, which overwhelms what little Indo-European material can be extracted from it.
Greek mythology received minimal scholarly attention until the mid 2000s. Although Scythians are considered conservative in regards to Proto-Indo-European cultures, retaining a similar lifestyle and culture, their mythology has rarely been examined in
Christianity is an Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Depending on the specific denomination of Christianity, practices may include baptism, prayer, confirmation, burial rites, marriage rites and the religious education of children. Most denominations hold regular group worship services. Christianity developed during the 1st century CE as a Jewish Christian sect of Second Temple Judaism, it soon attracted Gentile God-fearers, which lead to a departure from Jewish customs, the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion. During the first centuries of its existence Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, to Ethiopia and some parts of Asia. Constantine the Great decriminalized it via the Edict of Milan; the First Council of Nicaea established a uniform set of beliefs across the Roman Empire.
By 380, the Roman Empire designated Christianity as the state religion. The period of the first seven ecumenical councils is sometimes referred to as the Great Church, the united full communion of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, before their schisms. Oriental Orthodoxy split after the Council of Chalcedon over differences in Christology; the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church separated in the East–West Schism over the authority of the Pope. In 1521, Protestants split from the Catholic Church in the Protestant Reformation over Papal primacy, the nature of salvation, other ecclesiological and theological disputes. Following the Age of Discovery, Christianity was spread into the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, the rest of the world via missionary work and colonization. There are 2.3 billion Christians in the world, or 31.4% of the global population. Today, the four largest branches of Christianity are the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy.
Christianity and Christian ethics have played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization around Europe during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. In the New Testament, the names by which the disciples were known among themselves were "brethren", "the faithful", "elect", "saints" and "believers". Early Jewish Christians referred to themselves as'The Way' coming from Isaiah 40:3, "prepare the way of the Lord." According to Acts 11:26, the term "Christian" was first used in reference to Jesus's disciples in the city of Antioch, meaning "followers of Christ," by the non-Jewish inhabitants of Antioch. The earliest recorded use of the term "Christianity" was by Ignatius of Antioch, in around 100 AD. While Christians worldwide share basic convcitions, there are differences of interpretations and opinions of the Bible and sacred traditions on which Christianity is based. Concise doctrinal statements or confessions of religious beliefs are known as creeds, they began as baptismal formulae and were expanded during the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries to become statements of faith.
The Apostles' Creed is the most accepted statement of the articles of Christian faith. It is used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical churches of Western Christian tradition, including the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, Lutheranism and Western Rite Orthodoxy, it is used by Presbyterians and Congregationalists. This particular creed was developed between the 9th centuries, its central doctrines are those of God the Creator. Each of the doctrines found in this creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period; the creed was used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. Its main points include: Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Holy Spirit The death, descent into hell and ascension of Christ The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful; the Nicene Creed was formulated in response to Arianism, at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in 325 and 381 and ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the First Council of Ephesus in 431.
The Chalcedonian Definition, or Creed of Chalcedon, developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, though rejected by the Oriental Orthodox churches, taught Christ "to be acknowledged in two natures, unchangeably, inseparably": one divine and one human, that both natures, while perfect in themselves, are also united into one person. The Athanasian Creed, received in the Western Church as having the same status as the Nicene and Chalcedonian, says: "We worship one God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity. Many evangelical Protestants reject creeds as definitive statements of faith while agreeing with some or all of the substance of the creeds. Most Baptists do not use creeds "in that they have not sought to establish binding