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Monday, January 22, 2007
IT TOOK more than 1,600 years, but the ancient Greek god Zeus was honoured once again, pagan-style, by a tiny group of modern worshippers at an ancient temple in the heart of Athens.
It was the first known ceremony of its kind at the 1,800-year-old temple of Olympian Zeus since the ancient Greek religion was outlawed by the Roman empire in AD4.
Some 200 people attended the ceremony organised by Ellinais, an Athens-based group campaigning to revive ancient religion, next to the ruins of the temple.
The group defied a ban by the Culture Ministry, which had declared the central Athens site off-limits.
Worshippers dressed in ancient costume recited ancient hymns calling on Zeus, King of the Gods and the Mover of Things, to bring peace to the world.
"Our message is world peace and an ecological way of life in which everyone has the right to education," said Kostas Stathopoulos, one of three high priests overseeing the event.
The event celebrated the nuptials of Zeus with Hera, the goddess of love and marriage, below the imposing Corinthian-style columns in the city centre.
To the Greeks, ecological awareness was fundamental, he said, after a priestess, with arms raised up to the sky, called on Zeus "to bring rain to the planet".
Said priest Giorgos Alexelis: "Our hymns stress the brotherhood of man and do not single out nations."
To curious onlookers, the ceremony conjured up scenes out of a Hollywood epic but to organisers who follow a calendar marking time from the first Olympiad in 776 BC, the ceremony was far more than simple recreation.
"We are Greeks and we demand from the government the right to use our temples", said high priestess Doreta Peppa.
Ellinais, which has 34 official members, was founded last year. It won a court battle for official state recognition of the ancient Greek religion and is demanding government approval for its offices to be registered as a place of worship, which could allow it to perform weddings and other duties
"We do not believe in dogmas and decrees.
"We believe in freedom of thought," Mr Stathopoulos said.
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