The scientific study of Greek religion took place in the field of philology and science of antiquity, now isolating itself and now participating in the progress of the science of religions. It began as a reaction to classical and rationalistic dogmatism (G. Hermann, De mythologia Graecorum antiquissima, Leipzig 1807) and to romantic symbolism (F. Creuzer, Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker, besonders der Griechen, vol. 4, Leipzig-Darmstadt 1810 -12, 2nd edition vol. 6, 1819-23, 3rd edition, vol. 4, 1837-42, translated and expanded by F. Guigniaut, Les religions de l’antiquité considérées mainment dans leurs formes symboliques et mythologiques, Paris 1825-31; R. Payne-Knight,An inquiry into the symbolical language of ancient art and mythology, London 1818, 2nd ed. 1836) with the essentially critical and negative work of Ch. A. Lobeck (Aglaophamus, sive de theologiae mysticae Graecorum causis, Königsberg 1829) and with the critical and constructive ensemble of KO Müller (Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftlichen Mythologie, Gottinga 1825; Geschichte der hellenischen Stämme, vols. 3, 1824, 2nd ed. 1844), to which, although it appeared only later (but the composition dates back to a few decades earlier), that of FG Welcker (Griechische Götterlehre, vols. 3, Göttingen 1857-62). The studies of this first historical school (Ph. Buttmann, Mythologus, Gesammelte Abhandlungen über die Sage des Altertums, vols. 2, Berlin 1828-29). With respect to which the following address represents a regression in antihistoricism, also mythological, but according to the theory of Max Müller then dominant in the science of religions, that is, the so-called comparative mythology, which preceded the philological and historical analysis of myths glottology of divine names in the context of Indo-European languages and reduced mythical figures to expressions of meteoric and astral phenomena (solar or lunar). This theory was also widely applied to the interpretation of Greek mythology (Ad. Kuhn: various essays reprinted in volume by E. Kuhn, Mythologische Studien, I, Gütersloh 1886). The work of L. Preller (Griechische Mythologie, vols. 2, Leipzig 1854, 3rd edition, of Plew, 1872; 4th edition of I vol., of Robert, 1894) and the first volumes of the Lexicon by W. Roscher (Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen u.römischen Mythologie, Lipsia, dal 1884) ne risentono ancora l’influenza.
But H. Usener brilliantly gets away from it (Götternamen, 1896, reprint 1928). The philological-historical investigation is then resumed, but on a much richer and more complex level. Archeology, which previously contributed to the study of classical Greek religion with the so-called “mythology of art” (E. Gerhard, Griechische Mythologie, vol. 2, Berlin 1854-55; J. Overbeck, Griechische Kunstmythologie, vols. 3, Leipzig 1873-1889), i.e. primarily with the determination of the figurative types of divinities, now opened unexpected new horizons on the most ancient phases of Greek religion with the discoveries of the Mycenaean and Minoan civilization, while with the abundant harvest of papyri, of the epigraphs, etc. the history of Greek religion also continued downwards beyond the classical age, and the vast religious problem of the Hellenistic age was outlined. For its part, the science of religions was opening up new perspectives, both towards folklore, through the comparison with the elementary religious forms of the vulgar Europeans, especially on the example of W. Mannhardt (Antike Waldund Feldkulte aus nordeuropäischen Überlieferung erläutert, Berlin 1875-1877, 2nd edition, 1904-05;, ibid. 1884), and towards ethnology through the comparison with uncultivated peoples on the example of EB Tylor (Primitive Culture, vols. 2, 1871) and the English anthropological school (JG Frazer, Pausanias’ Description of Greece, vol. 6, London 1898, 2nd ed. 1932; id., Apollodorus, The Library, vol. 2, London 1921).
Thus, within the new historical school, alongside representatives of the more or less strictly philological direction, such as C. Robert (Die griechische Heldensage, voll. 3, Berlin 1920-23), O. Kern (Die Religion der Griechen, I, 1926), and especially U. von Wilamowitz (Der Glaube der Hellener, vol. 2, Berlin 1931-32), there was no shortage of scholars more or less oriented towards the science of religions, such as E. Rohde (Psyche, 1894, 9ª 10th edition, 1925), A. Dieterich (Abraxas, Leipzig 1891, Nekyia, 1893; Mutter Erde, ein Versuch über Volksreligion, 1905, 3rd edition, 1925), and MP Nilsson (see below). The increasing attention paid to worship, rather than myth, is due to the influence of the science of religions (P. Stengel, Die griechischen Kultusaltertümer, 3rd ed., Munich 1920; MP Nilsson, Griechische Feste, Leipzig 1906; LR Farnell, The cults of the Greek States, vols. 3, Oxford 1896; S. Eitrem, Opferritus und Vorropfer der Griechen und Römer, Oslo 1915; L. Deubner, Attische Feste, Berlin 1932). And another trend, not unrelated to Wilamowitz and others either (Farnell, The higher aspects of Greek religion, London 1912), but today especially nourished by modern currents of thought – theological, philosophical, psychological (psychoanalysis) – wants from myth as from cult to increasingly distinguish, even within Greek religion, religious experience as a value in itself (WF Otto, Die Götter Griechenlands, Bonn 1929).
For its part, the historical-philological study of Greek religion has now entered a more perfect phase with the reconstructions of the development of “Greek religious history” (G. Murray, Five Stages of Greek religion, 1925; LR Farnell,Outline history of Greek religion, 1920; F. M. Cornford, Greek religious thought from Homer to the age of Alexander, 1923), che oramai si presenta abbastanza bene delineato nei suoi periodi principali (R. Pettazzoni, La religione nella Grecia antica fino ad Alessandro, Bologna 1921; M. P. Nilsson, Den grekiska religionens historia, Stoccolma 1921 = A history of Greek religion, Oxford 1925).