All of us have an idea of the ideal conditions in which we would like to live. They will vary according to the degree of ambition and level of education. However, people have common wishes since we don’t live in isolation (perhaps with rare exceptions) and we require guarantees from other people that they are willing to accept certain rules and conditions for the best possible coexistence. Plato was the first to look for such general or even necessary requirements to create an ideal social structure. He considers different aspects of social reality – the division of society into classes, the specifics of upbringing and education, even the physical structure of the city and its religion. The article is devoted to the consideration of religious practices, associated cult activities and holidays.
In ancient Greece, religion permeated all areas of human life. It would be more correct to say that religion simply did not exist separately from everyday life. Of course, we can distinguish major religious events in the form of solemn organised processions marking the change of seasons, dedicated to the harvest or some other memorable dates. But more often, religious practices were tightly woven into people’s lives, so that even political and military actions were accompanied by an offering to the gods or consultation with the oracle. Understanding the role that religious activity plays in educating citizens, Plato does not seek to create an entirely new popular religion, but as a philosopher interested in the common good, he begins to interpret the images of traditional Greek gods differently. He focuses most of his attention on Zeus, Dionysus and Aphrodite. By comparing traditional notions of the gods with the way Plato portrays them, we conclude that the philosopher has done serious work to rationalise their images. Zeus ceases to be a famous womanizer and head of Olympus, and acquires the traits of a creator, the only good god who is incapable of any evil or injustice. The raucous fun, dancing and intoxication that used to be the cause of many misfortunes and associated with Dionysus are now being declared useful in terms of testing strength and honesty on the one hand, and, on the other, are understood as a necessary means of getting rid of negative energy and bringing people together. The uncontrolled erotic desire sent by Aphrodite is seen by Plato as behavior that is unacceptable in the citizens of an ideal state, and so he develops the doctrine of the two Aphrodites, heavenly and vulgar, in which the heavenly Aphrodite is declared to be a certain stimulus that leads the soul to the supreme good.