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Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World

Tuesday 5 April 2016

1 Hour


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Classics expert Professor Tim Whitmarsh explains how atheism is far from a modern manifestation and that great writers, philosophers and thinkers were doubting the gods as far back as ancient Greece.

Whitmarsh tells the story of the first battle between orthodoxy and heresy that initially came to an end with the imposition of Christianity on the Roman Empire in 313. Many doubted the power of the gods in ancient Greece, arguing that history should be understood as a result of human action rather than of a divine purpose. They drew up theories of the universe based on matter and developed mathematical tools for understanding the world. These heretics were defended by great writers such as Epicurus, Lucretius, Cicero and Lucian.

Whitmarsh is A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge and a specialist in the world of the Greeks under the Roman Empire. He is author of several books on Greek literature and culture including Narrative and Identity in the Ancient Greek Novel: Returning Romance.