[Author’s Note: This brief piece was initially penned in 2019. It is presented here without alteration; although we have expanded upon various points in articles written subsequent. The core point nevertheless remains a vitally important one. We occasionally get so caught up in localized historical developments which impact upon our own segment of the Indo-European-isphere, that we start projecting these upwards and outwards into the realms of the Divine as if they had at least as much force upon the Empire of Eternity ‘midst the Heavens as they’ve had for some humans down here – or even more so. This isn’t even especially developed anthropocentrism, let alone good theology. And leads to the sort of bizarre contention Graves makes – that the Christianization of the Roman Empire somehow obviated the Indo-European Gods all up.]
Man, I just came across this bit from Robert Graves’ “Greek Gods And Heroes” about ‘The Death of the Olympian Gods’:
“As soon as the Emperor Julian of Constantinople, the last of the Roman emperors to worship the Olympians, had been killed fighting the Persians in A.D. 363, Zeus was told by the Three Fates that his reign had ended – he and his friends must leave Olympus.
Zeus angrily destroyed the palace with a thunderbolt, and they all went off to live among humble country people, hoping for better times. But Christian missionaries chased them out with the sign of the Cross, and turned their temples into churches, which they divided among the leading saints.”
And it’s … breathtaking in its arrogance.
Now, we shall leave aside the fact that this isn’t really how Christianity wound up ‘building over the top of’ the Roman religion and state that had come before. [If you’re interested in that, three of the main examples I often draw upon in my writings, are a) the direct incorporation of pre-Christian Indo-European deities in as Saints – St. Brigid, for example; b) the co-option of mythological & cosmological principles from Indo-European religion – like even the very word “Hell”, as well as so very much of its associated imagery and mythoreligious function; c) the ‘material culture’ elements, one Roman deific statue in particular, still prayed to [although under the ‘assumed guise’ of a saint, in the case of the rather impressive sculpture I am thinking of most directly] by modern Christian worshippers, occasionally even whilst invoking “Deus Pater” 😛 ]
We shall also only briefly touch upon the manifest fact that the ‘Western’ Indo-European religions kept going for quite some time after A.D. 363 (indeed, in the Baltic in particular, actual ‘pagan’ public religion was still going until just over a thousand years later in 1387, 1413, or even later still depending upon how we are choosing to measure such things).
Because my first reaction – my insta-reaction (and therein, in these, often lies the most powerful form of truth) – was to look upon this absurd and outlandish statement, and just go “… somebody clearly forgot to tell Indra & Shiva, then!”
For that is precisely at the heart of these matters.
Indo-European religion, for us, is not – is as commonly misrepresented – a case of each particular Indo-European people having its own exclusive pantheon, that just happens to look like the Gods of the Next Valley Over.
But rather, a very real case of the very real beings – Beings – with a core, defining cast(e) of charactyrs and observable characterizations, revealing Themselves in occasionally slightly different ways to the related groups of Their constituent-descendent peoples.
So why was my auto(soma)matic insta-reaction to the idea of Zeus destroying a Heavenly Citadel atop a Cosmic Mountain, in reaction to the defeat and death of some Roman emperor, to react with a disbelieving, indeed sneering eye-brow raise and squint of eye and noting the clearly continuous, still very much vital health of the Hindu pantheon and associated religion?
Because notwithstanding the fact that the Greeks (and thence , following after them in imitation, the Romans) managed to ‘misremember’ key elements of the Indo-European religious structure in part due to ‘syncretization’ with non-IE religions to the south-east [i.e. Mesopotamian, Semitic, Egyptian, etc.] , thus affixing to the ‘Storm Lord’ archetypal figure a name that is functionally renderable as ‘Sky Father’ [straight-up what ‘Zeus Pitar’ would translate as – you see now also why I was amused by the “Deus Pater” of the Catholic liturgy] [cross-comparable illustrations of what I’m getting at with These two archetypal figures and Their proper relationship … would be Thor & Odin, Hanuman & Shiva, respectively … or, funnily enough, also preserved within the area [not quite ‘Under the Aegis’ – that’s a different deity 😛 ] of Greek mythology, Hercules & Zeus … it’s complicated that last one, and i’m still writing / researching the article upon same!] –
even despite the similarly localized efforts of the Zoroastrians, in Iran, more than a millennium and a half before, The Gods yet remain in Heaven. Or, as we have occasionally been known to say in a somewhat pulp accent .. “Gott In Himachal Pradesh!”
So why on Earth, on Bhu-Mata, would some Roman Emperor’s thread being cut precipitate some form of Gotterdammerung throughout the Cosmos entire and writ large.
The simple answer is – it wouldn’t, it couldn’t, and it shouldn’t.
But with a typical Western arrogance, some just naively presume that “The World” apparently only spans the borders of the Later Roman Empire, and perhaps a bit more expansively [if they’re feeling generous], ‘Christendom’.
In the lands East of the Indus, the same Gods are still there. Just as They’ve been, for perhaps almost four thousand years now continuously. (and funnily enough, subsequently extending all the way to Bali, amidst the world’s most populous Muslim country]
(Malignant) Rumours Of Their Deaths Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.