Is it possible to believe in a syncretistic god? A discussion on conceptual and contextual aspects of Hellenistic syncretism
By Petra Pakkanen
This article will look into the phenomenon of syncretism from two different points of view. Firstly, syncretism will be discussed from a conceptual perspective in relation to elaborations on belief, an equally perplexing concept in the studies of ancient Greek religion. Secondly, a very selective example of the syncretism between the goddess Demeter and Isis as an object of veneration in Ptolemaic Egypt will be looked at more closely in order to bring the conceptual perspective into closer contact with the contextual one. It will be argued that syncretism can be regarded both as an essence of polytheistic religious systems in particular, and as a process of syncretization. Once a metaphorical understanding of syncretism is added to these views, believing in a syncretistic deity (Demeter-Isis in our case) appears doubtful since a new entity in a polytheistic belief-system would have entailed a fundamental change in the belief system itself as well as an introduction of totally new features to the conception of deities in general.
Petra Pakkanen, ‘Is it possible to believe in a syncretistic god? A discussion on conceptual and contextual aspects of Hellenistic syncretism’, Opuscula. Annual of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome (OpAthRom) 4, 125–141. Stockholm 2011. ISSN: 2000-0898 ISBN: 978-91-977798-3-8. Softcover, 168 pages. http://doi.org/10.30549/opathrom-04-06