Disbelief and Weak Belief in the Cult of Asclepius

Lidia Ożarowska

Abstract

Although the ancient Greeks and Romans do not appear to realize the need for any declaration or manifestation of belief in their gods, it is indisputable that they nevertheless deemed necessary for people to express their belief that their gods have supernatural powers, or expected this belief not to be undermined or challenged. The extant testimonies regarding incubation, both epigraphic and literary, provide a clear illustration of this importance. Stories about people showing lack of faith in Asclepius’ powers prove that the spectrum of attitudes was broad, ranging from eager reliance on the god, through confidence allowing a varied degree of doubt to a definite disbelief often connected with derision or open mockery and sneering at the god’s alleged deeds and at other people’s faith. These texts give us insight into the mechanisms of inciting faith in divine power and the means of encouraging suppliants to place trust in the deity. It is worth considering that this encouragement must have contributed to the shaping of people’s attitude to ritual and deities in general. Thus, it would impact religious participation in antiquity by emphasising the relevance and importance of personal attitude in religious practice.

Keywords

disbelief, iamata, epigraphic evidence, literary evidence, divine punishment, incubation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26220/ele.3533

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Electra | ISSN: 1792-605X

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