Proskynesis


Proskynesis

Proskynesis, (Greek polytonic|προσκύνησις) formed from the Ancient Greek words "pros" and "kuneo" literally means "kissing towards", and refers to the traditional Persian act of prostrating oneself before a person of higher social rank.

According to Herodotus in his "Histories", a person of equal rank received a kiss on the lips, someone of a slightly lower rank gave a kiss on the cheek, and someone of a very inferior social standing had to completely bow down to the other person before them. To the Greeks, giving proskynesis to a mortal seemed to be a barbarian and ludicrous practice. They reserved such submissions for the gods only. This may have led some Greeks to believe that the Persians worshipped their king, who was the only Persian that received proskynesis from everyone, and other misinterpretations caused cultural conflicts. Alexander the Great proposed this practice during his lifetime, in adapting to the Persian cities he conquered, but it failed to find acceptance amongst his Greek companions (an example can be found in the court historian, Callisthenes) - and in the end, he did not insist on the practice.

During the Roman Empire, the emperor Diocletian (C.E. 284-305) introduced the practice, forming a break with the Republican institutions of the principate, which preserved the form, if not the intent, of a representative government according to Edward Gibbon, paraphrasing historians such as Zosimus. The political reason for this change was to elevate the role of the emperor from 'first citizen' to an otherworldly ruler, remote from his subjects, thus reducing the likelihood of successful revolt, which had plagued the Empire for the last 50 years. This change in status was accompanied by reduction in the size of the legions and a reorganization of the Empire into prefectures, dioceses, and smaller provinces. Similarly, the emperor was hailed no longer as "(Imp)erator" on coins, which meant 'commander in chief" but as "(D)ominus (N)oster" - 'Our Lord.' With the conversion of Constantine I to Christianity, proskynesis became part of an elaborate ritual, as asserted by historian John Julius Norwich, whereby the emperor became God's vice-regent on Earth. Titular inflation affected the other principal offices of the Empire.

Eastern Christianity

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the term proskynesis is used theologically to distinguish between the veneration given to icons and relics of the saints from the worship (adoration) which is due to God alone (the latter being designated by the Greek word, "latria") [cite book | last =Ware | first =Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) | title =The Orthodox Church | publisher =Penguin Books | year =1964 | location =London | pages =40 | id =ISBN 0-14-020592-6]

Notes

Bibliography

* Josef Wiesehöfer: "Denn ihr huldigt nicht einem Menschen als eurem Herrscher, sondern nur den Göttern". Bemerkungen zur Proskynese in Iran", in: C.G. Cereti / M. Maggi / E. Provasi (Hgg.), Religious Themes and Texts of Pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia. Studies in Honour of Gh. Gnoli on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday on 6th December 2002, Wiesbaden 2003, S. 447-452.

ee also

*Prostration
*Genuflection
*Zemnoy poklon

External links

* [http://www.livius.org/pp-pr/proskynesis/proskynesis.htm Livius.org: Proskynesis]


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