life after death

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Cerveteri – Etruscan tomb architecture

By |2018-04-24T23:27:31+00:00August 25th, 2017|Architecture, Religion|

A street in an Etruscan cemetery The Etruscans (ee-TRUSS-cans) of Northern Italy believed that it was important to keep cemeteries well separated from where people lived. You could not bury anyone inside the sacred boundary of the city (the pomerium). But they wanted their dead relatives to feel comfortable. So, beginning about 700 BC, the Etruscans [...]

History of religion – sacrifice, holidays

By |2018-04-21T12:09:37+00:00August 23rd, 2017|Religion|

Building at Gobekli Tepe (ca. 9000 BC) People have started a lot of different religions. Some of them are still practiced today; others are not. It is hard even to know what religion is. But let's say religion is any tendency to change your own behavior in accordance with supernatural forces. Most people [...]

What is purgatory? History of Christianity

By |2018-04-24T09:23:14+00:00August 23rd, 2017|Medieval, Religion|

A demon torturing a sinful bishop and a king (Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1200s AD) In the early days of Christianity, people pretty much thought that at the Last Judgment you went to Heaven if you had been good or you went to Hell if you had been bad and that was that. This [...]

Gnostics – Early Christianity – Roman religion

By |2017-08-21T22:51:25+00:00August 21st, 2017|Religion, Romans|

Books of Roman Gnostic writings from Nag Hammadi in Egypt (300s AD) About the time of Jesus, about 100 BC-100 AD, people living in the Eastern Mediterranean and West Asia were gradually beginning to think more about the afterlife than they had before. What happened to you after you died? Did you go to Heaven? How could you make [...]

What is Nirvana? Indian religion

By |2018-04-23T15:20:30+00:00July 21st, 2017|India, Religion|

Wheel of Life (Konark Sun temple, Odisha, India, 1200s AD) About 300 BC, Hindu people in India began to feel that they didn't like the idea of being reincarnated over and over again forever. Instead, they wondered what it would be like to be free from greed, money, work and slavery. People thought maybe it would be better to [...]

The Greek underworld – Hades

By |2018-04-23T09:49:50+00:00July 16th, 2017|Greeks, Religion|

Hades and Persephone in the underworld Greek people didn't like to talk about what happened to you after you died. So we don't know as much about what they thought as we might like. Probably they did not think about life after death as much as later people like the Christians and the Buddhists did, or [...]

Tantalus’ Crime and Punishment

By |2018-06-10T23:32:21+00:00July 16th, 2017|Greeks, Literature|

Tantalus' crime and punishment: This Italian vase from the 300s BC shows a different version of the story where a spirit holds Tantalus back from a basket of bread and a jug of water Who was Tantalus in Greek myth? Tantalus (TAN-ta-luss) was a Greek king (and a son of Zeus) who was so full of hubris that he thought he could fool [...]

Greek mystery cults – ancient Greece

By |2018-04-23T10:04:50+00:00July 13th, 2017|Greeks, Religion|

Torchlight parade (this one is actually in India) Most Greek religious rituals were about sacrifice to the gods. But there was another form of religious activity also, which we call the mystery cults. People who wanted to participate in the mystery cults also kept on doing the usual sacrifices. You didn't have to choose. It's like [...]

Who were the Norse gods?

By |2017-06-29T02:10:43+00:00June 29th, 2017|Northern Europe, Religion|

A Viking religious sacrifice (ca. 900 AD, Sweden) From their first appearance in historical literature around 100 BC, the Germans were polytheistic. They believed in many gods, just like the Greeks and the Romans and the Persians and the Indians and other Indo-European people. In fact, the most important German gods are closely [...]