Greece And The Mortality Of Gods

Wait, Greece is saying it’s a crime to insult religion? But… but the whole country is a shining example of the fleeting existence of gods, and the evolutionary change of religious culture, as images of Zeus Apollonius are repurposed as Jesus, as the Parthenon becomes a church, becomes an ammo dump, becomes a ruin, becomes a symbol of the rebirth of a city, becomes a protest site…

Greece is all the proof you need, that the gods are mortal too.

Once there was a temple here
With marble columns gleaming white
Once the gods themselves looked down
Upon these altars with delight.
Olympus climbs into the clouds
And mortals look up from below—
The hidden summit must have gods,
We do not just believe—we know.

But gods, it seems, are mortal too
And gods must die, as must we all
And temples, without gods, decay;
Abandoned columns soon will fall.
The people leave; the waters rise;
What was a marble floor, now grass;
The sunken statuary gaze,
And dumbly watch millennia pass.

Once the gods were worshipped here
Today the rulers here, the frogs
Control the fate of damsel-flies;
Athena’s columns for their logs.
The gods, it seems, cannot stop time
And Zeus himself must lose his crown
The land gives way to fish and frogs…
And turtles all the way down.

(All images by Cuttlefish, from Dion, in the shadow of Mt. Olympus.)


  1. Crudely Wrott says

    Your verse, Dear Cuttle, puts me in mind of something (surely you recall) that Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughterhouse Five:

    . . . and so it goes, Billy Pilgrim. And so it goes . . .

    As it goes for us, so it goes for the gods. We show up for a while, sometimes thrive, perhaps even reproduce but then, one day, we are gone. In such light neither we nor the gods enjoy privilege.

  2. Cuttlefish says

    Kinda depends on one’s perspective, Crudely Wrott. In such a light, we and the gods get to dance for a bit, when there was no guarantee the music would ever play. For so many potential others (and indeed, so many actual others), the music never played at all. We are tremendously privileged.

    And we are more privileged than the gods themselves–we actually do hear the music, and do get to dance, whereas they only got to do so in stories.

  3. left0ver1under says

    “fleeting existence of gods”

    I had to read that twice. I thought you said fleecing (i.e. religion’s fleecing the populace for money).

    It wouldn’t surpsrise me if some of the orthodox christians call for – or try – to damage Greece’s historical monuments for being “pagan”, just as muslims do and did in Egypt and Afghanistan.

  4. Crudely Wrott says

    And we are more privileged than the gods themselves–we actually do hear the music, and do get to dance . . .

    Thank you for reminding me of when I did dance, Dear Cuttle, and that I may yet dance again.

    In the long run, though, we will all go where the gods have gone. That fabled place known as “away”.

    I don’t know where it is, precisely, but it sure as hell (sure as heaven?) ain’t here.

    *thanks for what you do, my friend*

  5. Johnny Vector says

    I had the same response as Richardelguru. Only I’m more one for the updated version.

    We’re the frogs!
    The adorable frogs!
    Not your hoity-toity intellectuals,
    Not your hippy-dippy homosexuals,
    Just your easy-going, simple,
    Warm-hearted, cold-blooded

  6. says

    Johnny, that’s great.
    Sorry to show the ignorance of an old fart who went to school so long ago that the only available version was in Greek ( :-) ), but who’s version is that?

  7. says


    Only the Buddhists have it right then, all things are impermanent.

    that is not originally a Buddhist concept – but a Hindu concept (the term is ‘Maayaa’), the ephimeral nature of life. (Not surprising, considering Buddhism arose from Hinduism.) But then both believe in the cyclical property of creation, rebirths et al. – the same shitty way of trying to distract themselves from the sense of their own (and everyone’s) mortality.

    Cuttlefish has it just right, nonpareil.

  8. Johnny Vector says

    Richardelguru, ooh, thanks for asking! So here’s the story. Back about 1941, college senior Burt Shevelove wrote an adaptation in which the part of the river Styx was played by the Yale swimming pool. Then in the early 70s he got Stephen Sondheim interested in writing music for it. It was performed again at the Yale swimming pool.

    Eventually, in 2004 it was revived on Broadway, with a lot of input to the book by (and starring) Nathan Lane. I saw that production and enjoyed it almost as much as I enjoyed reading critics who complained that too much of the text was obvious digs at the Bush administration (idiots leading the government, wars to keep the people happy, etc), when all of those lines were directly from Aristophanes. Some things, it seems, never change.

  9. says

    glad to be of service :-)
    That’s fascinating thanks for the info. I wish I’d seen one of those.

    river Styx was played by the Yale swimming pool

    So the pool was that bad, eh?!?!

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