Quotes from Ancient Sources about Polytheistic Piety
Epicurean Piety –I like this one, though I’m not generally a fan of epicureans.
“Therefore, I think it is especially necessary to despise those who transgress or mock the traditional rites. Furthermore, it will appear that Epicurus loyally observed all the forms of worship and enjoined upon his friends to observe them, and not just be in accordance with the laws. For as he says to pray is right and natural for man, not because the gods would be hostile if we did not pray, but the act of doing so helps us gain a better understanding of those who surpass us in their power and excellence, enabling us to fulfill our potential. He also said that every wise man holds pure and holy thoughts about the divine, namely that the nature of divinity is great and august. And it is particularly at festivals that we attain our greatest understanding of things for during a festival all that a man can think about, and all that is upon his lips, are holy matters. He didn’t just advise others to participate in the worship of the gods – indeed, he was very active in religious matters, sharing in all festivals and sacrifices, and especially the Khoes festival and the mysteries celebrated in his city and elsewhere.” – Philodemos, On Piety 25-28
A Christian author discussing Polytheistic and Pagan piety –of course by “idol” he means the Gods, or images thereof:
“Pagans, when they daily rise from their sleep, go in morning to worship and minister to their idols; and before all their works and undertakings they go first and worship their idols. Neither at their festivals and their fairs are they wanting, but are constant in assembling – not only those who live close by, but many travel from a great distance to attend such assemblies and dramatic spectacles.” – Didascalia Apostolorum 13
A Polytheist On Polytheistic Piety and Asceticism:
“Aquila to Sarapion the philosopher, greetings! I was overjoyed to receive your letter. Our friend Callinicus was testifying to the utmost about the way of life you follow even under such conditions – especially in your not abandoning your austerities. Yes, we may deservedly congratulate ourselves, not because we do these things, but because we are not diverted from them by ourselves. Courage! Carry through what remains like a man! Let not wealth distract you, nor beauty, nor anything else of the same kind: for there is no good in them, if virtue is not joined to them; no without her they are vanishing and worthless. Under the protection of the gods, I expect to see you in Antinoopolis. Send Soteris the puppy, since she now spends her time by herself in the country. Good health to you and yours! Good health!” – P. Oxy. 42.3069
Finally, another Christian complaining that piety still existed in the early medieval period.
“You must give up the names and inform me of the nature of their crime of all those in our diocese who foolishly make and observe their vows by springs, trees and stones for reasons of health, protection or as some kind of devotion.” – Ghärbald of Lüttich, Capitulary 2.12
(“all those…” implying it was not an isolated set of practices).
I’ll post more as I come across them. They’re educational and a good reminder that piety and reverence didn’t begin with monotheism, not by a long shot. We need that reminder sometimes. The inspiration is helpful.