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The most well-known religions of the developed world teach about an all-powerful, transcendental God, existing in a state far beyond our understanding of space and time, who will come at the end of the world but until then doesn't interfere too much or too visibly, therefore the question of the missing physical appearances of God in current times either doesn't come up at all, or has a well-established canonical answer.

However, in Greek mythology the deities were more human, actually more like superpowered humans with human ambitions, and they personally walked the Earth, took part in human wars, and personally visited the temples dedicated to them.

What was the explanation for the ancient Greeks, for example in the time between Homer and Herodotus, why they don't see any giants, immortals, centaurs, fauns etc. running around, why doesn't Dionysus show up for a big party, and why doesn't anyone since many generations remember seeing Artemis hunting in the nearby forests.

I'm sure if Herodotus had encountered anyone of the Greek pantheon or any of the mythical creatures in person (or if he heard enough claims of others having done so), he would have written about it, so it must have been an obvious fact even for his contemporaries that their mythological figures don't (or at least no longer) behave as they did in the myths.

I'm looking for an "in-universe" explanation, as I have a rough general knowledge about ancient Greek mythology/history, but I don't remember having seen any such explanation. Maybe there is one, and I just missed it.

I'm not interested in speculation, but in real sources. Was there any indication in the myths or any written records by philosophers or historians why the supernatural creatures are missing? In that time they still had temples where they had active services for the gods which, according to the myths, often, and visibly, physically visited their temples and human settlements.

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    If I remember correctly, a lot of them were at Olympus or Hades or some other place mortals can't easily reach, but there's also plenty of stories about deities running around doing stuff/having sex with mortals in "normal" places. I'd be surprised if there was a more thorough excuse written down anywhere. – Ixrec May 25 '15 at 22:45
  • vsz - Other religions/mythologies spoke of deities/supernatural beings interacting with the world - take Christianity, for example. – HDE 226868 May 25 '15 at 23:30
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    @HDE226868 - Christianity is confusing as far as "interacting" (well, at least to me the concept of the Trinity is so I can't explain it - I'm sure the experts in C.SE site can). But Judaism, where it originated, was pretty explicit in that The One couldn't come in contact with humans for that would destroy the human (thus the need for burning bush, or for Severus Snape.... errr... Voice of God) – DVK May 26 '15 at 3:01
  • They are often diguised as something else. Great wild beasts, birds. They can also use animals and such to spy on people, so they are almost as omni present as the christian god. – Nuloen The Seeker Feb 26 '18 at 9:48
  • After Cantor, I'm not so sure the infinite conceptions of god are beyond our understanding, at least in terms of being able to categorize and work with an infinities of infinities via set theory. One of the earliest recognitions of the mathematical nature of infinity may be Zeno's paradoxes. PS- Great question! – DukeZhou May 3 '18 at 17:50
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I'm pretty convinced that the answer is: they were not absent (or, at least, Greeks did not consider them absent).

First clue, the infamous trick that Peisistratos did in order to gain popularity among Athenians: he found a tall, young, pretty lady, dressed her as Athena and put her on his chariot. They say he pretended he could not see her but, in the end, the result was that he could spread the rumour that Athena herself came to Athens to put he crown on the head of Athens's true ruler.

This story strongly suggests that Athenians of the age thought that it was possible, one day, as they were walking, to see a god or a goddess in front of them.

There are other stories as well, e.g. when in Cyme (Asia Minor) the people asked the oracle of Apollo in Didyma about whether they should provide sanctuary to a rebel from Lydia named Pactyas, there was an intervention from Aristodicus after which "the voice of the god was heard" (Herodotus, Clio)

Second clue, I've read a few old folk stories of Greece (like the ones collected by N. Politis), stories about fairies and spirits etc. which proved clearly enough that Greeks could actually see supernatural entities until the 1950's (or thought they saw). Some of these stories have a similarity with ancient greek mythology, but we are not discussing this right now. :)

One mention I found about an absent god, is in Lucianus's Timon (I'm not sure if this is the play) where the leading character cries out to Zeus "...unless you're dead, as Cretans believe." (Though some believe that Cretans worshiped Zeus as a ressurecting god.)

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Another tack, extrapolated backwards from the innumerable churches and votive sites in the current Greek country side, where Mary and Nicolas and George sit in the church templon as a holy picture and are very much real for the devotees, from gold and silver offerings on the icons to great celebrations on the name day. Each site is really as a different deity, Mary gets an epithet of the site, and is specially celebrated. IMHO this is a continuation of the ancient greek religiosity. The temples turned into churches. (St Helias churches are on top of hills, for example, where the temples of Apollo-Helios were located, the association clear). Each house has a small iconostasis with a candle lit from the resurrection ceremony light once a year.

Here is the most popular prayer to God as Holy Spirit in current orthodox christianity:

Heavenly King

Heavenly King ,

Paraclete ,

the Spirit of truth ,

who is ubiquitous and

permeates everything

the treasurer of goods

and the giver of life,

come and dwell in us

......

So the deity is present though only seen in the churches.

Extrapolating from the present religiosity to the ancient religiosity should not be a big step. The ancients had the statues, not icons, three dimensional representations of the gods, in full color, not the immaculate white of the underlying marble, but vivid color. The houses had the house altar. In a similar way with the present, their gods were with them in their everyday life, with the prayers and votive offerings, the new dresses sewn for the name day, the processions. Their gods were interwoven with their life.

One could say that they had captured ( like a three dimensional photo)their gods to keep them in their societies. From this last it is evident that they gave a spiritual immaterial format to their gods in general. Again not different than the way saints and divinity are still currently seen.

  • I hoped my first paragraph will be enough to point out why such an "extrapolation" wouldn't be accurate. First of all, Mary and St. Nicholas etc. were not worshiped as deities, and even if they were, there is a very clear explanation why you don't meet Mary or Nicholas on the streets: because they died long ago, and not even the most religious believe otherwise. Second, I was not talking about a deity which is "among us in spirit", but about the flesh-and-blood deities of ancient Greek myths. While your answer in very interesting, I must point out that it doesn't answer the question at all. – vsz May 26 '15 at 15:29
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    Reality and myths are interwoven in religiosity. In the same way that a prayer to Mary and a candle lit is expected to have the ear of Mary, and she is alive in the current orthodox myth, in the heavenly dimensions. The myths were made to explain the religiosity, and not vice verso. After all the greek gods did not exist. It was the human need for a divinity that created them and the myths around them. – anna v May 26 '15 at 15:44
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    I agree with your comment completely. However, the question is not about this. In the myths the Greek gods don't just exist in a heavenly dimension, they do walk the Earth flesh and blood, so I was wondering whether there is specified in any of the myths why they no longer do it. – vsz May 26 '15 at 15:58
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    what I am trying to say is that for them the gods were present around them, because of their statues and temples and had no religious need to create a myth about why they did not come down from Olympus. – anna v May 26 '15 at 16:05
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There is a surprisingly modern collective response—or rather, range of responses—to this in ancient times. The 3 options listed below define a spectrum which could be described as moving from least to medium to most "in-universe."

1. Those myths and legends featuring mind-blowingly extraordinary stuff, such as the gods' trysts with humans, are just fictitious yarns with which the poets think to amuse themselves.

Much like at present day, there were philosophers who, perceiving themselves as more learned than the generally more illiterate populace, did not much share the classical mythographers' enthusiasm regarding the stories of rather human-like deities colliding with monsters and heroes in the realms of ordinary mortals.

In Miracle and Natural Law in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Thought, Robert M. Grant1 lays out Lucian of Samosata's position on the matter (on pp. 71-72).

In his Lover of Lies Lucian vigorously attacks the "deceivers of antiquity"—Herodotus, Ctesias (the author of the fantastic Persica), and the poets, including Homer. They tell such stories as the castration of Uranus (such stories were often under attack), the bonds of the giants, the metamorphoses of Zeus, and so on. These are "dreadful and portentous myths". In opposition to stories of divine healings Lucian claims that those who tell them and defend them are reasoning from false premises; they "drive in a nail with a nail"; they cannot prove the presence of divine activity. To this objection his opponents reply that disbelief in their stories implies disbelief in the gods. Lucian answers that on the contrary he worships the gods and takes note of their healings, which are actually effected by medicines and physicians. Asclepius himself healed men in the same way.

Grant is careful to note, however, that in Lucian's time, the 100s AD, this writer was unique for having a perspective as stark as this. For a philosophical viewpoint in this same vein, posited centuries before Lucian, see the section Centaurs below.

2. There is a kernel of truth in these otherwise incredible fictions, but the real deal needs to be filtered out of the silliness surrounding this beeswax. Some of these things happened and some of these creatures existed but not necessarily in the manner related to us by those mythographers.

Oh, and people these days are rascals and reprobates [see more below]!

In the Description of Greece 8.2.4-7, Pausanias offers his opinion on the issue by way of his visit to Arkadia [Arcadia]. Lykaon [Lycaon], one of Arkadia's earliest kings, is supposed to have been turned into a wolf by his own grandfather, none other than Zeus, after the god had visited his house for a meal:

For the men of those days, because of their righteousness and piety, were guests of the gods, eating at the same board; the good were openly honored by the gods, and sinners were openly visited with their wrath. As a matter of fact, in those days men were changed to gods, who down to the present day have honours paid to them—Aristaios [Aristaeus], Britomartis of Crete, Herakles [Heracles] the son of Alkmene, Amphiaraos the son of Oikles, and besides these Polydeukes [Polydeuces] and Kastor [Castor].

So one might believe that Lykaon was turned into a beast, and Niobe, the daughter of Tantalos, into a stone. But at the present time, when sin has grown to such a height and has been spreading over every land and every city, no longer do men turn into gods, except in the flattering words addressed to despots, and the wrath of the gods is reserved until the sinners have departed to the next world.

All through the ages, many events that have occurred in the past, and even some that occur today, have been generally discredited because of the lies built up on a foundation of fact. It is said, for instance, that ever since the time of Lykaon a man has changed into a wolf at the sacrifice to Zeus Lykaios [Lycaeus], but that the change is not for life; if, when he is a wolf, he abstains from human flesh, after nine years he becomes a man again, but if he tastes human flesh he remains a beast for ever.

Similarly too it is said that Niobe on Mount Sipylos sheds tears in the season of summer. I have also heard that the griffins have spots like the leopard, and that the Tritons speak with human voice, though others say that they blow through a shell that has been bored. Those who like to listen to the miraculous are themselves apt to add to the marvel, and so they ruin truth by mixing it with falsehood.

In his poem Phainomena, from four hundred years prior to Pausanias, Aratus expands on this idea of human wickedness resulting in the disappearance of the gods. This divine departure is based on a prediction made thereof by Hesiod four hundred years before Aratus, in Hesiod's own poem Works and Days. For more detail on that, see my MoreStories~inUniverse Answer.

3. Absence of the deities?! What're you on about? Without a doubt I saw one recently. And yes, since you bring him up, it was, in fact, Dionysus.

The gods' escape from the world was definitely not the view concerning the behaviour of the deities in the popular culture of the period in question, neither in the Hellenistic period nor in Roman times.

This is so much so the case that a philosopher contemporaneous with both Lucian of Samosata and Pausanias—who argues that Zeus being so unmistakably human-like as depicted in the arts is absurd—seems to be, ironically, the most explicit source of Roman-era sightings of Greek gods, whom he himself claims to have beheld. According to Grant (p. 69):

A later Middle Platonist, Maximus of Tyre (c. 180), is equally confused. On the one hand, he expresses his belief in divine omnipotence and proves it by the story that Zeus once tripled the length of a night. He states that in his own time Asclepius is working cures, and tells of sailors who heard and saw the god Dionysus, although other sailors only heard him. He himself has seen the Dioscuri {Kastor and Polydeukes, mentioned in the Pausanias quote above}, as well as Asclepius, "not in a dream", and Heracles, "a real appearance". He firmly believes in the activity of demons {meaning something more like the Roman genii in this case}. On the other hand the Dioscuri whom he saw were shining stars (this makes his testimony difficult to evaluate), and he rejects the poets' pictures of the gods, which are "credible because of their charm, but incredible because of their paradoxical nature". Other stories from the paradoxographical literature are "difficult to believe", and therefore contain an allegorical meaning.
(With my emphases and my {notes})


THEREFORE NOT ABSENT

The explanation back then was variegated in a quite similar way to questions like these about deities and their activities now: some take them for granted (moreover reporting experiences therewith), and some are selectively skeptical, while others throw them out almost altogether.

The writings and ruminations of the philosophers tend to occupy mostly the timeframe between Herodotus and the early centuries of the Christian era. For the most part, though, during the period you've asked about—between Homer and Herodotus—gods, heroes and cryptids abounded in the world of mortals.

Dead Heroes Fighting Alongside Gods at the Battle of Marathon

The most vivid instance of the kind of divine appearances we're looking for is actually attested by Herodotus himself, writing about an event which is supposed to have taken place around the time he himself was born. Together with other ancient writers and artists he has a number of divinities featuring as participants in the 490 BC Battle of Marathon.

Battle of Marathon

The Athenian Pheidippides (a.k.a. Philippides), was sent by his fellow citizens to courier a message for help from the Spartans against the oncoming Persian military forces. A professional long-distance runner, Pheidippides completed the journey between Athens and Sparta the day after he had begun it. Upon his return from Sparta to the Athenians he reported to his fellows that, on his way, while rounding Mt Parthenion near Tegea, he had been accosted by the god Pan. The god sent him to ask the Athenians why they did not venerate him, even though he had always been a friend to them and evermore would be so.

The word "panic" is derived from panikos, a seizure of frenzied fear specifically inspired by Pan. At the critical point in the Battle of Marathon, Pan appeared and instilled the Persians with panikos, thus costing them the victory. In gratitude the Athenians dedicated a temple to the god, performing annual sacrifices in his honour, as well as a Lampadephoria, a "torch-bearing" relay race.

Constructed around the same time in the Athenian Agora was a building called the Stoa Poikile, "Painted Porch." Contained therein was a mural portraying the Battle of Marathon, with a depiction of the goddess Athena and the god Herakles fighting alongside the Greeks against the Persians. Also present at the battle was the dead hero Theseus, who had been king of Athens at the time that Herakles was a mortal man. In the painting he is represented as emerging from the Underworld, returning from the dead. Marathon, a grandson of the sea-god Poseidon after whom the plain of Marathon was named before the time of Herakles and Theseus, was likewise present at the battle.

Writing more than 500 years later, Plutarch says that:

In after times... the Athenians were moved to honour Theseus as a demigod, especially by the fact that many of those who fought at Marathon against the Medes thought they saw an apparition of Theseus in arms rushing on in front of them against the Barbarians.

In Pausanias' description of the Stoa Poikile painting, he also mentions a certain mysterious man dressed in rustic attire who used a plough to kill many of the Persians before suddenly disappearing, never to be seen again. Upon searching for him the Athenians were instructed by an oracle to grant divine honours to Ekhetlaios [Echetlaeus], "[He] Of the Plough."


GIANTS

Regarding the giant boxer Kleomedes of Astypalaia, see the section on Superhuman Athletes in see my MoreStories~inUniverse Answer.

The Makrobioi [Macrobii] and the Syrbotai [Syrbotae]

The modern term Ethiopia comes from Latin Aethiopia, which derives from Greek Aithiopia, which was a very fluid term in ancient times, often referring to the region that is now East African Sudan (rather than the country that is currently named Ethiopia) but sometimes to the entire African continent and even parts of Arabia and India, insomuch as these places were known to the Greeks.

In Homer's time there was believed to be, in Aithiopia, a nation of virtuous people who never died, dwelling in a land of endless summertime and enjoying the company of the Greek gods, who visited them for an annual feast.

Later on Herodotus would write of a group of Aithiopes ["Ethiopians"] called the Makrobioi, "Long-Lifers" or "Long-Lived" Ones, because their average lifespan was 120 years. They, he says, were the tallest, most beautiful people in the world. They were also so wealthy that they fettered their prisoners in chains of gold.

Pliny the Elder, a Roman writing in the 1st Century AD, says that in the vicinity of the Makrobioi lived an Aithiopian tribe called the Syrbotai, whose average height exceeded eight cubits (twelve feet). Krates of Pergamos, writing a couple of centuries previous to this, is Pliny's source for this people. If Herodotus is aware of the Syrbotai, for his statement about the Makrobioi to be consistent, it would have to mean that the Makrobioi are at least as tall as these 3.6m-tall giants, if not more so.

The Kynokephaloi (and the Saint Who Carried Christ)

Going back to the era of Homer, Hesiod writes of the Hemikynoi, "Half-Dogs," a proud race of Anubis-like people who had dogs' heads and dwelt in the same fluidly-defined region of "Aithiopia." Later on they were dubbed Kynokephaloi, "Dog-Heads," which the Romans Latinised into Cynocephali.

As the Roman Empire became increasingly Christianised, these creatures came to be perceived as devourers of human flesh. By this point they were associated with a region somewhere on the border of Libya and Egypt, from which they were called the Marmaritae and were even said to be gigantic monsters.

There are two main variant traditions about the legendary St Khristophoros [Christopher], the "Carrier of Khristos [Christ]." In both, he was a giant who lived during the reign of a Roman Emperor, either Decius (mid 200s AD) or Maximinus II Daia (early 300s AD). In the more culturally Latinised Western Christian tradition, Khristophoros was very anachronistically said to have been a Canaanite giant, one of the Anakim who are mentioned in the Torah.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, which is more heavily influenced by Greek culture, Khristophoros belonged to the gigantic variety of the Kynokephaloi. A version of his tale says that he prayed to acquire a completely human form, and his prayer was answered, in which case he became the completely humanoid giant of the Western tradition. Nonetheless many Eastern religious icons depict him, as a full-fledged saint, still sporting his original canine features.

St Christopher Dog-Head

Down into the time of Augustinus Hipponensis [St Augustine], one of Khristophoros' fellow Africans, there was speculation about whether creatures like the Dog-Heads had human souls which could thus receive salvation. In the European imagination for centuries thereafter, this region of Africa was presumed to be inhabited by these Kynokephaloi, whom Hesiod says are the children of the earth-goddess Gaia either by Poseidon or by Zeus's Egyptian son Epaphos [Epaphus].

In Book 4 of his Historiai, Herodotus mentions the Kynokephaloi, locating them in the western portions of Libya together with some ordinary animals, as well as donkeys with horns, and headless people whose faces were in their chests. Pliny calls this headless tribe the Blemmyai [Blemmyae], citing Herodotus' contemporary Ktesias as his source for information on them. The Blemmyai became another favourite of mediaeval European folklore, although the same name was applied also to a nation of ordinary human nomads who occupied eastern Africa before the collapse of the Roman Empire.


IMMORTALS

Regarding the gods Pan and Herakles, and the goddess Athena, see the section Dead Heroes Fighting Alongside Gods at the Battle of Marathon above.
For more on Herakles, see #3, above, as well as the section Theagenes, Born Divine in my MoreStories~inUniverse Answer, as well as, in that same Answer, the section Euthymos, the Ghostbuster for the river-god Kaikinos [Caecinus].
For the god Asklepios [Asclepius] and the twin deities called the Dioskouroi [Dioscuri], see #3, above, again.
Regarding the gods Zeus Ammon and Apollo, see the section Semi-Divine Royalty also in the MoreStories~inUniverse Answer.

To speak especially technically, Herodotus does in fact mention "Immortals," Athanatoi, in the Historiai 7.31, but alright, to be fair, he is referring to an obviously mortal human military unit of the Achaemenid Empire, particularly under Khshayarsha [Xerxes] I the Great, a contingent whose number was always kept numbered at 10,000 men.


CENTAURS

In The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times, Adrienne Mayor2 (pp. 221-222) fleshes out the perspective of philosophers living during and after Herodotus' time:

On Unbelievable Tales was written by a friend and follower of Aristotle known as Palaephatus (a pen name that roughly translates as "ancient tales")...

Centaurs ... were a focus of tension between the logic of popular belief in marvels and philosophers' belief in immutable principles of nature. Myth accorded Centaurs the status of a viable species. Empedocles suggested that Centaur-like creatures once existed but died out as monsters unfit for survival; later, Aristotle and Lucretius vigorously denied that such hybrids could ever exist...

Plunging into the Centaur debate, Palaephatus ... articulates a principle of unchanging species: "If there ever were such animals, then they would exist today." But not only does his statement contradict ancient knowledge that some real animals had gone extinct, his wording leaves the door open for relict Centaur "sightings" and atavistic births that would prove their existence in the past... And indeed, live Centaurs were reported in the Roman era.

An entire chapter entitled "Centaur Bones" offers more reports of live Centaur sightings. As part of it (pp. 239-240) says:

[H]ybrid beasts combining contradictory categories (including bird-mammal griffins of chapter 1) were singled out by the circle of orthodox natural philosophers as impossible. But while Aristotle, his follower Palaephatus, and Lucretius heaped scorn on the viability of mixed species, especially Centaurs, writers like Aelian, Phlegon of Tralles, and others kept an open mind about seemingly incredible creatures, allowing the interplay of imagination and skepticism to fill in the blanks of the unknown. Aelian, for example, wondered whether time and nature might really have produced populations of such strange creatures, just as the myths claimed. If Centaurs were actually once prevalent in certain places and not just figments of folklore, Aelian reasoned (echoing Empedocles) that they must have been at least a temporary fauna of the deep past.

Palaephatus' authoritative assertion in the fourth century B.C.—that if Centaurs ever did exist, then they would still be seen alive—was given literal expression in a rash of Centaur sightings in the Roman period. During the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) officials in Arabia declared that a small herd of Centaurs still inhabited Saune, a remote mountain wilderness infested by poisonous plants. Despite the danger, one ... was captured and transported to Egypt as a gift for the emperor. The Egyptians fed the wild Centaur a traditional diet of raw meat, but it could not tolerate the change in altitude and perished. The Egyptians had the corpse embalmed and shipped to Rome, where the emperor Claudius exhibited the marvel in his palace. Pliny went with friends to see the spectacle: the Centaur was completely submerged in honey (a common preservative for transporting cadavers long distances)...

Nearly a century later, through the reign of nine emperors after Claudius, the embalmed Centaur of Saune could still be viewed, by special appointment, in the emperor Hadrian's imperial storehouse. Phlegon... who served on Hadrian's staff (A.D. 117-138), examined the marvel himself. The Centaur was a bit smaller than what one might expect from classical Greek art, he observed, but it had a fierce face and hairy arms and fingers. The human rib cage merged naturally with equine body and limbs, and its hooves were quite firm.

Mayor herself is convinced that all these preserved remains were artistically contrived hoaxes.


SATYRS & AIGIPANĒS

Fauns are from Roman mythology. Since ancient times they have often been confused with Satyrs, who did not have goats' heads or legs, and were more humanoid (and barely had horns). The Roman fauns were more akin in appearance to the goat-headed, goat-legged gods Pan and Aigipan [Aegipan] (the latter of whom might merely be a form of the former) and the woodland sprites called Panēs [Pans], after the great Pan, and Aigipanēs [Aegipans], similarly after the great Aigipan.

Satyr Appliqué

As in the preceding section, Mayor's book relates the issue quite well (pp. 236-237):

Pausanias remarked that a live wild Satyr from Libya was exhibited in Rome, and Plutarch described the capture of a Satyr in what is now Albania. In 83 B.C., the Roman commander Sulla was about to sail from Dyrrhacium to Italy when his soldiers surprised a Satyr asleep in a sacred meadow, a place where fire flowed from the ground. The creature looked just like Satyrs in art and drama, and, when captured and presented to the Roman commander, he uttered a harsh whinnying bleat.

Satyr sightings lasted into the early Christian era. Saint Jerome, a contemporary of Saint Augustine, stated that the emperor Constantine (d. A.D. 337) traveled to Antioch to view the remains of a Satyr that had been preserved in salt.

At the end of Endnote 8 to this chapter of the book (on p. 326), Mayor says that "Saint Augustine thought he saw a Satyr, according to Cuvier. Rudwick 1997, 233."

Meanwhile Pliny's Natural History has this to say about Mt Atlas in Morocco:

At night, they say, it gleams with fires innumerable lighted up; it is then the scene of the gambols of the Aegipans and the Satyr crew, while it re-echoes with the notes of the flute and the pipe, and the clash of drums and cymbals. All this is what authors of high character have stated, in addition to the labours which Hercules [Herakles] and Perseus there experienced. The space which intervenes before you arrive at this mountain is immense, and the country quite unknown.

There is nonetheless an encounter with something which is described as both a Satyr and a faun by none other than Jerome, who says that the famous Egyptian hermit St Antony the Great was given roadside directions to an older monk named Paul of Thebes, first by a Centaur and then by a goatish humanoid.

The second creature speaks to Antony and even acknowledges Christ as Lord, all while alluding to the Book of Psalms and the Epistle to the Romans! (And this goat-like beast-man can fly?) As it happens, Antony's response thereto provides what we could call a fourth explanation of the matter in question, or even a blend of all of the current 3.

Antony was amazed, and, thinking over what he had seen [the Centaur], went on his way. Before long in a small rocky valley shut in on all sides he saw a little man with a hooked snout, a horned forehead, and extremities like the feet of a goat. When he saw this, Antony, like a good soldier, seized the shield of faith and the helmet of hope: the creature nonetheless began to offer to him the fruit of the palm-trees to support him on his journey and, as it were, pledges of peace. Antony, perceiving this, stopped and asked who he was. The answer he received from him was this:

I am a mortal being and one of those inhabitants of the desert whom the Gentiles, deluded by various forms of error, worship under the names of Fauns, Satyrs, and Incubi. I am sent to represent my tribe. We ask you on our behalf to entreat the favour of your Lord and ours, who, we have learned, came once to save the world, and "whose sound has gone forth into all the earth."

As he uttered such words as these, the aged traveller's cheeks streamed with tears, the marks of his deep feeling, which he shed in the fullness of his joy. He rejoiced over the Glory of Christ and the destruction of Satan, and marvelling all the while that he could understand the Satyr's language, and striking the ground with his staff, he said:

Woe to you, Alexandria, who instead of God worships monsters!
Woe to you, harlot city, into which have flowed together the demons of the whole world!
What will you say now? Beasts speak of Christ, and you, instead of God, worship monsters!

He had not finished speaking when, as if on wings, the wild creature fled away. Let no one scruple to believe this incident; its truth is supported by what took place when Constantine was on the throne, a matter of which the whole world was witness.
- The Life of Paul the Hermit 8

Jerome goes on to describe the Satyr remains in Antioch, mentioned in the Mayor quote above, at the beginning of this section.


OTHER CREATURES

Encounters with mermen (who were called Tritons in Greek myth) and sea nymphs (typically Nereids, who were related to the Tritons via their common ancestor the sea-god Nereus) were as prevalent in Roman times as sightings of Centaurs and Satyrs.

Pliny says that a delegation from Olisipo (Lisbon) arrived in Rome to inform the emperor Tiberius that a Triton had been spotted in a cave by the sea. They also stated that a dying Nereid, covered with hair or fine scales even on the parts that looked human, appeared on the same shore. The governor of Gaul reported to Emperor Augustus a mass stranding of Nereids on the Atlantic coast, and Pliny himself heard from reliable sources that a Triton was sinking ships at night in the Gulf of Cadiz.

Triton remains were exhibited in Tanagra and Rome.
Mayor 2000: 231-232

Pliny says there was a breed of (really kool-sounding) horned, winged horses in Aethiopia which were called Pegasi. Aaron Atsma conjectures that these were descendants of Pegasus, the most famous winged horse of Greek myth, hence the name of the African variety of these animals.

Horned Pegasus

By the way, during Herodotus' time and long after, gods were still siring offspring upon mortal women. For much more on that, see my MoreStories~inUniverse Answer.


Notes

1. Grant, R.M. 1952. Miracle and Natural Law in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Thought. Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR.

2. Mayor, A. 2000. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

2

You are in ancient Greece. Everyone is gathered around the campfire (or theatre, or temple, or wherever people tell stories). A renowned storyteller is telling a story about Artemis hunting in the local forest.

Suddenly, someone gets up and asks:

why [hasn't] anyone since many generations remember seeing Artemis hunting in the nearby forests?

What do you think the storyteller would say? Maybe he will ignore the question, maybe he will say that you are bad at looking for things in the forest, maybe he will go Rick Riordan and invent something similar to the mist (which was based on something said in the Iliad, where a god prevented a mortal from seeing something), maybe he will will say "because it's death to look on a god/goddess in their true form", or maybe he will say "because Artemis kills [male] mortals who spy on her". There are many "logical" explanations storytellers can make. The storyteller may also think you are an atheist (there were atheists in Greece at the time).

(That paragraph should have answered your question.)

Here's what I think: it doesn't matter. As you can tell from the variety of "excuses", coming up with a consistent explanation for why people don't see magic is not a priority of religions or storytellers. People who understand religions or literature (i.e. not the internet) know that the supernatural is a metaphor, and is not supposed to make rational or scientific sense. It's only recently that we've seen authors (and people on the internet) trying to reconcile irrational metaphors with rational science. In my opinion, it's a complete waste of time and won't lead to a better understanding of the story.

The well-known religions of the developed world...

Are you referring to Abrahamic religions, or just Christianity and Judaism (not Islam)? Either way, you have an extremely small sample size: most "pagan"/"non-modern" religions that I can think of are based around the idea of gods/spirits interacting with the real world on a regular basis.

...teach about an all-powerful, transcendental God, existing in a state far beyond our understanding of space and time, who will come at the end of the world but until then doesn't interfere too much or too visibly.

God did "interfere" with the world several times, both in the new testament and the old, and a similar question to this one is how do Christians explain how God created the world in seven days when the majority of scientific evidence says that's not possible?

Which gets back to my original point: asking for religions (and literature in general) to justify themselves scientifically is neither the point of religion nor the best way to understand religion.

I will accept my downvotes stoically.

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    Although you're probably right as far as the Greeks are concerned (indeed they don t seem to have tried to justify this), there are several mythologies/religions that have "in-universe" explanations of why one cannot see the gods on an everyday basis and given the number of creatures/deities that the greek mythology have i think the question was legitimate. That being said i downvoted your answer only for the reason i mentioned in the suggested edit. Once it will be edited out i will rescind it. – plannapus May 26 '15 at 7:04
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    John Rogers, creator/producer of the TV shows Leverage and The Librarians, has pretty much this answer for excessively fanwank questions about details and background: "Whatever makes the story more interesting for you." I'm sure there were "in-universe" reasons why the Greeks didn't meet their deities at the local agora, but those reasons were not germane to telling a good story. – Lauren Ipsum May 26 '15 at 12:09
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    +1 for the beginning of the answer and -1 for the rest of it, especially the painfully inaccurate monologues about Christianity and its relation to science. I refrain myself from answering those, because I registered on this site and posted this question for the purpose of learning more about ancient cultures, and not to take part in theological debates about current religions. Is your main goal to give answers related to the myths in the question, or to use it as a soapbox for your views on real life religions? I'll edit the question in case you reactions were caused by a misunderstanding. – vsz May 26 '15 at 14:55
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This summarises my 3options Answer, which deals specifically with the creatures you cite as examples in your Question, in addition to which summary there's extra material on the topic.


SUMMARY

The Greek deities did still show up and participate, in person, in wars among humans in the time between Homer and Herodotus. It was a much rarer occurrence than in the archaic Age of Heroes but it did happen, at least in the popular imagination of later times.

There were entire tribes of fantastical peoples and an assortment of fabulous animals detailed by Greek and Roman writers. These writers had so much of the respect of Western Europeans in the so-called Late Antique and Mediaeval eras that numerous such creatures (unicorns, e.g.) were actively believed in by Mediaeval Western Europeans and are still popular in fantasy fiction and children’s cartoons today, even though it might be mostly unknown to the consumers of these art-forms that significant aspects of their material originate in Ancient Greek folklore.

The appearances of Dionysos [Dionysus] and Artemis among mortals in the contexts that you’ve described were not mundane sightings to which merely random dudes were privy on a regular basis or anything close to it. Dionysos’ adventures among mortals almost invariably take place before he becomes a full-fledged Olympian god, in the earliest period of his life while he is still roaming the earth, collecting followers, converting hapless cities to his religion and conquering his relatives in India. Once he does this, he gains the full respect of his fellow deities and joins their ranks, after which his adventures and wars are mostly concluded.

Artemis was in the habit of hunting in wilderness areas of mountains and forests, away from human interference. Her most famous hunting story is, to me, evidently an illustration of this. Her own great-nephew the hunter Aktaion [Actaeon] sees her bathing after a hunt and the sighting costs him his life.

Having said that, nonetheless, more than a millennium after Aktaion is supposed to have died and after his uncle Dionysos crossed with his armies from Arabia into Africa, the Battle of Marathon took place, with Athens on the defensive against the Persian Empire. This was 490 BC, just a few years before Herodotus’ approximate birth-date.

It was held that the Athenians first began to worship the god Pan after this battle because he showed up to assist them on the battlefield, becoming a centrepiece of their victory. Before the battle, Pan had stopped the Athenian courier Pheidippides on his journey between Athens and Sparta to send him with a message to Athens complaining that they did not offer him honours.

When Herodotus was still a kid, the poet Simonides had already composed a lyric celebrating Pan’s participation in the battle against the Persians. Eventually Herodotus himself records the story, and, after the advent of the Christian era, Pausanias, Nonnus and Suidas also make mention of it. Nonnus claims that Pan’s assistance to the Athenians was prophesied by Zeus during Dionysos’ war against the Indians several centuries beforehand. Aside from Pan, Athena showed up with Herakles and even the long-dead Athenian king Theseus to help out at Marathon.

There were a few superhuman Olympic athletes, all of whom lived in Herodotus’ time. Two of them were the sons of gods; one of them saved a young woman from a ghost which was worshipped in Italy; one was a mad giant with fists harder than stone; and another one was a werewolf. All of them happened to be boxers and nearly all had statues officially commemorating their participation in the Olympic Games.
Caludio boxer
For more on them, see the next section Superhuman Athletes.

Herodotus writes of an entire nation of werewolves in Ukraine and a race of dog-headed people in other parts of the world, among a plethora of other weird and wonderful beasts, most of whom dwell well outside the bounds of Greek territories.

Herodotus, Pausanias and Plutarch, who render reports of such supernatural individuals, nations and animals, are each quite skeptical of these accounts, the first of these writers especially so. But other Greek and Roman writers like Ktesias (a contemporary of Herodotus) and Pliny the Elder (who lived much later and who cites Ktesias extensively) seem to possess a more open-hearted interest therein.

Ktesias supplies a considerable amount of detail about the populations and lifestyles of the dog-headed people mentioned by Herodotus and before him by Hesiod. St Christopher, the patron of travellers, is supposed to have been one of these part-canine creatures. He was also gigantic in stature, as these monsters were conceptualised during the time of the Roman Empire.

For more detail on encounters with Centaurs, Satyrs (and fauns too), mermen, sea nymphs and winged horses (with giant horns like those of a bull, as distinct from the My Little Pony winged unicorn [“Pegacorn”] variety), see my 3options Answer.


Superhuman Athletes

In the 6th book of his Description of Greece, Pausanias narrates the stories of numerous Greek athletes, many of whom lived in the generation of Herodotus. Among these contemporaries of Herodotus, four renowned boxers stand out as relevant to the present purposes.

Euthymos [Euthymus], the Ghostbuster

It was something like 700 years prior to the writing of Herodotus' Historiai, when

Odysseus, so they say, in his wanderings after the capture of Troy was carried down by gales to various cities of Italy and Sicily, and among them he came with his ships to Temessa. Here one of his sailors got drunk and violated a maiden, for which offence he was stoned to death by the natives.

Now Odysseus, it is said, cared nothing about his loss and sailed away. But the ghost of the stoned man never ceased killing without distinction the people of Temessa, attacking both old and young, until, when the inhabitants had resolved to flee from Italy for good, the Pythian priestess forbade them to leave Temessa, and ordered them to propitiate the Hero, setting him a sanctuary apart and building a temple, and to give him every year as wife the loveliest maiden in Temessa. So they performed the commands of the god and suffered no more terrors from the ghost.

Pausanias had also seen a piece of artwork depicting the Hero ghost as "exceedingly dreadful in all his appearance," wearing a wolf-skin and bearing the name Lykas.

In Book 6 of his Geographika, Strabo tells us that the man who became Lykas had been called Polites and "was treacherously slain by the barbarians" in Italy. Centuries afterwards, now in Herodotus' lifetime, one of the local Italians, an Epizephyrian Locrian by the name of Astykles [Astycles], had a son named Euthymos. Pausanias tells us that, according to these Locrians, Euthymos' real father was actually their local river the Kaikinos [Caecinus], "which divides Locris from the land of Rhegium".

In the decade following the Battle of Marathon, Euthymos competed in two instances of the Olympic Games and then returned home to Italy. He "happened to come to Temessa just at the time when" Lykas "was being propitiated in the usual way," of having a maiden sacrificed to him. When Euthymos found out what was going on, he had a strong desire to enter Lykas's temple and to have a look at the ghost's bride.

When he saw her he first felt pity and afterwards love for her. The girl swore to marry him if he saved her, and so Euthymos with his armour on awaited the onslaught of the ghost. He won the fight, and the Hero was driven out of the land and disappeared, sinking into the depth of the sea. Euthymos had a distinguished wedding, and the inhabitants were freed from the ghost for good.

Classic damsel-in-distress story motif, complete with a happily-ever-after ending which seems to be in place to explain a practice of Euthymos hero-worship; as Pausanias concludes:

I heard another story also about Euthymos, how that he reached extreme old age, and escaping again from death departed from among men in another way.

Theagenes, Born Divine

On both of the occasions in the 480s BC that Euthymos competed in the Olympic Games, a man from the island of Thasos contended against the Locrian hero. This man, Theagenes, was the son of Timosthenes, who was a priest of Herakles Thasios (the Thasian Herakles), although as with Euthymos, Theagenes' real father was said to have been a god.

Herakles had appeared to Theagenes' mother disguised as Timosthenes, and thus Theagenes was conceived. Theagenes can be translated a few different ways, all meaning something like "Divinely Born" or "Born of the Gods." An identical occurrence had led to Herakles' own conception centuries earlier, when Zeus appeared to a princess named Alkmene in the form of her fiancé Amphitryon, and thus impregnated her. A few other feats performed by Herakles in his mortal life are similarly meant as an imitation of Zeus's actions.

When Theagenes was nine years old he got into trouble with his fellow Thasians for carrying home with him the bronze statue of a god from the marketplace. He was punished with the task of putting the statue back in its place, which feat he managed with ease. In adulthood Theagenes landed into some intrigue in his athletic competitions against Euthymos and ended up having to pay a hefty fine. That story can be found in the Description of Greece 6.6.5-6.

Theagenes became victorious in competitions at the Olympic, Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian Games, gaining great fame for himself and his homeland of Thasos, as he won up to 1400 crowns. Apart from boxing he also participated in the pankration [pancratium], the latter of which is essentially an ancient form of mixed martial arts.

After he died, a statue of him fell upon and instantly killed one of his enemies on Thasos Island, for which reason the statue was exiled for murder and, in a circuitous way, this eventually led to Theagenes becoming a deity of healing. The details on that are in the Description of Greece 6.11.6-8. The last section of that chapter reads:

There are many other places that I know of, both among Greeks and among barbarians, where images of Theagenes have been set up, who cures diseases and receives honors from the natives. The statue of Theagenes is in the Altis [at Olympia], being the work of Glaukias of Aigina.

Kleomedes [Cleomedes], the Crazy Giant

In one of the years that both Theagenes and Euthymos participated in the Olympic Games there was another boxer present, called Kleomedes, from the island of Astypalaia [Astypalaea]. Calculating this by notes from the Description of Greece translation by William Henry Samuel Jones and Henry Ardene Omerod, the year would seem to be 487 BC.

Plutarch describes Kleomedes as a huge man. The 1894 translation of Plutarch's Life of Romulus by Aubrey Stewart and George Long quotes Plutarch as saying that this athlete "was a man of unusual size and strength, but stupid and half-crazy". Bernadotte Perrin's 1914 translation says that he "was of gigantic strength and stature, of uncontrolled temper, and like a mad man".

Pausanias says that Kleomedes killed Ikkos of Epidauros during a boxing-match at the games. Accused of foul play, Kleomedes lost the victory prize and returned home mad with grief. Continuing along with Plutarch's account: now back on Astypalaia, while at a boys' school, by the blow of his fist, Kleomedes broke into two pieces the pillar supporting the roof of the school, bringing down the house upon the children inside and thus killing these minors, whom Pausanias numbers as sixty boys.

According to the Description of Greece, Kleomedes' fellow citizens pursued him, pelting him with stones so that he took refuge in a temple of Athena wherein there was a big chest with a lid. Kleomedes jumped into the chest and pulled the lid over it. Says Plutarch, he was able to hold onto it so tightly "that many men with their united strength could not pull it up". Pausanias' conclusion to the story goes like so:

At last, however, they broke open the boards of the chest, but found no Kleomedes, either alive or dead. So they sent envoys to Delphi to ask what had happened to Kleomedes. The response given by the Pythian priestess was, they say, as follows:

Last of heroes is Kleomedes of Astypalaia;
Honour him with sacrifices as being no longer a mortal.

So from this time have the Astypalaians paid honors to Kleomedes as to a hero.

Damarkhos [Damarchus], the Shape-Shifter

It was said that in the secret cult of Zeus Lykaios [Lycaeus], the god of Mt Lykaion in Arkadia [Arcadia], every nine years a group of the cult's votaries would sacrifice a boy and mix his entrails with the intestines of some animals. Then they would separate the part of the mixture which had human flesh in it and cast lots to see who would receive that portion.

Whoever did so would then have to eat the meat and then take off his clothes, swim across the nearby river and go into the wilderness where he instantly transformed into a wolf. He would remain in this state for eight years starting at that point and if by the ninth year he had not eaten any human flesh then he would become a man again, swim across the stream and rejoin the community on the other side. The cycle would then begin again.

In 400 BC there was a boxer from Parrhasia in Arkadia who participated in the Olympic Games. His name was Damarkhos, son of Dinytas, regarding whom there was a story that he had transformed into a wolf for nine years, on account of his participation in the worship of Zeus Lykaios, before becoming a man again.

Pausanias says that he cannot believe the tale, regarding which not even the Arkadians themselves have any record. Surely, thinks Pausanias, the inscription on the statue of Damarkhos would have mentioned this detail about his life rather than just his name and birthplace.

However, the transformation was recorded by a Greek writer, Scopas, in his history of Olympic victors, who called the boxer Demaenatus {Demainatos}, and said that his change of shape was caused by his partaking of the inward parts of a boy slain in the Arcadian sacrifice to Lycaean Zeus. Scopas also spoke of the restoration of the boxer to the human form in the tenth year, and mentioned that his victory in boxing at Olympia was subsequent to his experiences as a wolf. See Pliny, Nat. Hist. viii. 82; Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii. 17.

Sir James George Frazer's translation of and commentary on Apollodorus' Library, n. 3 on Book 3 Chapter 8

Just a few decades before Damarkhos, Herodotus writes of a similar werewolf story, set in what is now Ukraine and Belarus. He is unable to take the information seriously, as he reports in his Historiai 4.105:

The Neuroi [Neuri] follow Skythian [Scythian] customs... It may be that these people are wizards; for the Skythians [Scythians], and the Greeks settled in Skythia [Scythia], say that once a year every one of the Neuroi becomes a wolf for a few days and changes back again to his former shape. Those who tell this tale do not convince me; but they tell it nonetheless, and swear to its truth.


Semi-Divine Royalty

In 356 BC, roughly seventy years after the death of Herodotus, and less than fifty years after Damarkhos' participation in the Olympics, a son was born to King Philippos [Philip] II of Makedonia [Macedonia]. The child would grow up to succeed his father on the throne, becoming Alexandros III of Makedonia, but much better known in English as Alexander the Great. In much more dramatic accounts than those of Herakles and Theagenes, Alexandros was reputed to be the child not of Philippos but of a god.

The Greeks believed that the Egyptian god Amūn, whom they called Ammon and who was worshipped in Libya as well, was the same as their Zeus, and he was often even referred to as Zeus Ammon. This deity had an oracle in Libya. When Alexandros came to this place the god is supposed to have spoken through the oracle in order to acknowledge him as his own son. Shortly after Alexandros' death there were statues made of him sporting a pair of horns because his father Ammon had the head of a ram.

Alexander the Great as Horned God

In the more Greek versions of this tradition, the king's divine father appears as a dragon (drákōn, in this case more of a huge monster snake rather than the winged, fire-breathing variety from modern Western fantasy) which, it seems, is supposed to be Zeus. This is connected to the Orphic story in which a primordial incarnation of the god Dionysos [Dionysus] is sired by Zeus in the form of a drakon.

[O]n his father's side he [Alexandros] was a descendant of Herakles through Karanos [the first historical king in the lineage, reigned c. 800s BC], and on his mother's side a descendant of Aiakos [Aeacus; son of Zeus] through Neoptolemos [son of Achilles and grandson of Aiakos]; this is accepted without any question.

And we are told that Philippos, after being initiated into the mysteries of Samothrace at the same time with Olympias, he himself being still a youth and she an orphan child, fell in love with her and betrothed himself to her at once with the consent of her brother Arymbas.

Well, then, the night before that on which the marriage was consummated, the bride dreamed that there was a peal of thunder and that a thunderbolt fell upon her womb, and that thereby much fire was kindled, which broke into flames that travelled all about, and then was extinguished...

Moreover, a serpent was once seen lying stretched out by the side of Olympias as she slept, and we are told that this, more than anything else, dulled the ardour of Philippos' attentions to his wife, so that he no longer came often to sleep by her side, either because he feared that some spells and enchantments might be practised upon him by her, or because he shrank from her embraces in the conviction that she was the partner of a higher power.

However, after his vision, as we are told, Philippos sent Khairon of Megalopolis to Delphi, by whom an oracle was brought to him from Apollon [Apollo], who bade him sacrifice to Ammon and hold that god in greatest reverence, but told him he was to lose that one of his eyes which he had applied to the hinge-gap in the door when he espied the god in the form of a serpent, sharing the couch of his wife.

Moreover, Olympias, as Eratosthenes says, when she sent Alexandros forth upon his great expedition, told him, and him alone, the secret of his begetting, and bade him have purposes worthy of his birth. Others, on the contrary, say that she repudiated the idea, and said: "Alexandros must cease slandering me to Hera [Zeus's wife]."

Plutarch, Life of Alexandros 1.2-3

In Drakon: Dragon Myth and Serpent Cult in the Greek and Roman Worlds, Daniel Ogden says: "By the mid 4th century AD the tradition had become so well entrenched that Alexander could be addressed by the epithet drakontiadēs". The epithet denotes "son of a dragon," incidentally the same thing that Dracula means.

In much admiration of Alexandros, similar traditions became part of Roman culture centuries after his time, most notably with the first Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar having been said to be the son of Apollo, who had impregnated Augustus' mother Atia in the form of a dragon.


ESCAPE FROM THE WORLD

Next after the remarks made by Pausanias on the issue (see here, under Option #2), the most explicit example of such a thing as an explanation for the absence of visible deities seems to come from a Roman rendition of something said by Hesiod in his poem Works and Days, wherein he provides a breakdown of human history in five stages or ages. The ages are the Golden; the Silver; the Bronze; the Age of Heroes (which was brought to an end by the Trojan War); and the Iron Age, in the last of which Hesiod lived and which apparently continues in increasingly worsening conditions today.

Works and Days forecasted that later on in the Age of Iron the goddesses Aidos and Nemesis were going to shroud "their sweet forms in pale mantles" and escape from the world and its corruption to go up Mt Olympos [Olympus], forsaking "humankind to join the company of the deathless gods, and leaving nothing but bitter sorrows for mortal men. And there will be no help against evil."

About half a millennium after Hesiod, Aratus writes a poem entitled Phainomena in which he explains the origin of the constellation Parthenon, the "Maiden," which is called Virgo in Latin. There was a Titan goddess named Astraia [Astraea], the "Starry" One, whom mortals refer to as Dike, "Justice." She dwelt freely among the men of the Golden Age in a time of peace when she would gather together the elders of towns in order to share her wisdom with them.

Then came the Silver Age, which made her reticent about hanging out with humans, although she did continue to meet with them. Finally when the people of the Bronze Age began to use bronze for daggers to rob wayfarers and when they started "to eat of the flesh of the ploughing-ox", she couldn't take it anymore and fled into the sky, where she is now visible as the "Virgin" constellation.

A couple of centuries after Aratus, the Roman poet Ovid takes this up in his poem the Metamorphoses, wherein he seems to combine Hesiod and Aratus by saying that it was during the Iron Age, perhaps at its onset, that Pudor, Veritas and Fides (Modesty, Truth and Loyalty, whom the Greeks would have called Aidos, Aletheia and Pistis respectively) were the first virtues or powers to flee from the world. The situation got gradually but dramatically worse before finally Pietas (Piety) was vanquished and Astraea became, according to A.S. Kline's translation, the

last of all the immortals to depart

and "herself abandoned the blood-drenched earth."

Ovid's version of the decline of virtue in human society reads a lot more strongly as corresponding to a steady decline in the number of the gods (at least the peace-loving ones) who dwell on Earth. Ovid's connection of this with the time of the Titans (Astraea herself being a Titan) is made even stronger since in his version of Man's Ages, the Golden Age was the best because it was governed by Jupiter's father Saturnus (the Roman equivalent of Zeus' father Kronos).

That age came to an end because Saturnus was ousted by Jupiter, in effect making Saturnus's exile the beginning of the gods' flight from the world of mortals. (The sequel to this story appears in Works and Days, as well as in the writing of Pindar, both of which say that Zeus was eventually reconciled to Kronos, whom he installed as king over the Islands of the Blessed, where humans who were deemed worthy of a pleasant postmortem existence would dwell after their deaths.)

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