Five Stages of Greek Religion, by Gilbert Murray, illustrates the ancient's continuing relevance to modern thought with absorbing accounts of the many theological trends of ancient Greece. Gilbert Murray was one of the century's most important scholars of Greek history and culture, and his book is a classic. In this outgrowth of a lecture series given before the First World War, Murray traces the growth and development of Greek religion from its beginnings in prehistorical animism to the full flowering of the major schools of philosophy, and thence to their extinction. Murray explores the irrational, Dionysic strand that emerged independently of the Olympian mythos, showing how both predate Homer. He considers the mir deities, such as the boundary statues (koures) mentioned by Thucydides in connection with Alcibiades' impiety. The eloquent chapters on the rise of philosophy-cum-religion are the most memorable Five Stages of Greek Religion. Murray's vignettes on the lives and actions of the founders of the famous schools, linked as they are in lineal descent from Socrates (Epicurus excepted), are excellent biographical sketches in their own right. His examination of the faults in each philosophical system, Aristotle's Peripatetic School excepted, shows how Olympian myths were let back in after they had once been banished. Five Stages of Greek Religion explains how the Hellenistic world was prepared for the advent of Christanity, as the rise of philosophy asked the right questions to move thinkers beyond myth. In addition, Murray addresses how philosophy's subsequent fall into Neoplatonism and other pantheistic movements left the Greco-Roman world looking elsewhere for answers. Five Stages of Greek Religion will be an outstanding addition to any classical library.
Gilbert Murray (1866-1957) was an Australian born British classical scholar and public intellectual, with connections in many spheres. He was an outstanding scholar of the language and culture of Ancient Greece, perhaps the leading authority in the first half of the twentieth century. He is the basis for the character of Adolphus Cusins in his friend Shaw's play Major Barbara, and also appears as the chorus figure in Tony Harrison's play Fram.