7

Is there an instance in which a Greek (or related, Roman, Trojan...) would bow to a god if they appeared? I would think not.

Iliad

  • Athena appears to Achilles, did not bow.

  • Athena appears to Odysseus, did not bow (runs to the ships).

  • Ares.. appears to Diomedes, did not bow (they fought).

  • Apollo appears to Diomedes, did not bow (tried to fight the god).

  • Aphrodite appears to Helen, did not bow (sat on bed crying and angered the goddess).

Odyssey

  • Hermes to Odysseus did not bow (sat on the beach crying).

  • Athena to Odysseus did not bow (gets angry with the goddess).

  • Athena (in the guise of a friend) to Telemachus (and the 100+ suitors and company), did not bow (does not really count because Telemachus didn't know he was a goddess).

Aeneid

  • Venus to Aeneas did not bow (don't play with me like that mother).

But, in all these instances, the mortal was a favorite of the god/goddess. So, I am looking for an instance in which a mortal lowers themselves as a sign of respect for a god/goddess. Does one exist?

7

Bowing at the knees in Greek is an act called proskynesis. It wasn't mandatory, but it did occur. It was more often associated with the Persians, as they would perform proskynesis to those nobler than they (which meant that everyone bowed to the Persian king).

Xenophon contrasts this with the Greek practice of only kneeling toward the gods:

οὐδένα γὰρ ἄνθρωπον δεσπότην ἀλλὰ τοὺς θεοὺς προσκυνεῖτε.
For you bow your knee to no man as master but to the gods [alone].

This would imply that Greeks did indeed bow their knees to the gods.

In Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, Prometheus tells the chorus to worship "whoever is their lord," and in doing so uses the verb from which proskynesis is derived, προσεύχου; in denying that he would ever do so to Zeus, he affirms the idea that it can be done to the gods.

Note, though, that this doesn't mean the Greeks would automatically fall at the knees at the sight of the gods. That seems to be a later practice.

  • By bowing to their knees, would that be the same as kneeling? – Andrew Johnson Feb 23 '18 at 22:00
  • 1
    @AndrewJohnson It's all roughly the same act, yes: any form of prostration. – Sleepy Miles Feb 23 '18 at 22:36

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