REFLECTIONS ON GODS AND MEN
Reflection on the similarities and, especially, the differences between the lives of gods and of human beings dominates Greek thought from the beginning. If the assertions of the early Greek philosophers about the gods and about men are to be understood fully, they need to be seen in relation with their predecessors’, of whom (as, too, in the case of cosmological reflection) they take up some themes and formulas but also do not hesitate to distance themselves from other ones, criticizing and polemicizing, sometimes explicitly, against ideas endowed with a very strong cultural authority—just as their precursors themselves had often done.
The present chapter puts together a number of passages on the nature of human and divine life drawn from archaic and Classical Greek poets and traditional prose wisdom literature. It thereby presents one background to the thought of the early Greek philosophers. Some of these texts are of interest as surviving vestiges of kinds of popular thought that must have been widespread in early Greek oral culture but have otherwise been lost; others are presupposed specifically, in content or expression, by a number of the texts classified as belonging to early Greek philosophy and presented in the following chapters. The