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"Because of their limited scientific knowledge, our ancestors resorted to the supernatural to explain their environment."

Loris De Nardi, researcherof the ICS, analyses in an informative essaythe explanation of disasters in history through mythological beings and divinity.

/Loris de Nardi, researcherdel Institute for Culture and Society

09 | 05 | 2022

"Because of their limited scientific knowledge, our ancestors turned to the supernatural to satisfy their curiosity and explain their environment. This is what Loris de Nardi, researcherMarie Curie of the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) of the University of Navarra, in his essayof knowledge dissemination"La explicación sobrenatural de las catástrofes en la Historia"(The supernatural explanation of catastrophes in history).

According to him, they did not limit themselves to observing hydrometeorological, geological and biological phenomena, but tried to understand and even foresee them. "They attributed to divinities or mythological beings, first, and to God, later, the cause of events that otherwise could not have been explained, and therefore understood," he says at reference letterfor disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, epidemics...

In his essay, he mentions several myths and legends surrounding the city of Messina, a city located on the island of Sicily. With them, the ancient inhabitants explained the numerous shipwrecks and earthquakes through the presence of monsters. They also sought the protection of Poseidon, god of the sea.

Roman divinities and persecution of Christians

It also alludes to the alliance between the Roman people and their divinities to ensure their satisfaction and to "prevent their anger from risking public safety" with punishments in the form of disasters.

"This helps to explain the hostile treatment that the Romans reserved for Christians," he notes. One of the reasons for the persecution," he adds, "was that they refused to participate in public ceremonies dedicated to the divinities, which was blamed for a series of natural disasters and military defeats that plagued the Roman empire.

However, he stresses that pagan beliefs were not overcome with the rise of Christianity: "Medieval and modern culture, which owed so much to the Romans, never completely got rid of these beings capable of controlling the waves of the sea or lightning. They became smaller and persisted in Mediterranean folklore".