O Fate, what a pillar of our house shalt thou destroy, withdrawing her mainstay from my unhappy fatherland! But not with impunity, not without bitter toil and sorrow shall the pirate Dorian host laugh exulting in the doom of the fallen; but by the sterns running life’s last lap shall they be burnt along with the ships of pine, calling full often to Zeus the Lord of Flight to ward off bitter fate from them who perish. In that day nor trench nor defence of naval station nor stake-terraced palisade nor cornice shall avail nor battlements. But, like bees, confused with smoke and rush of flame and hurling of brands, many a diver shall leap from deck to sternpeak and prowneck and benched seats and stain with blood the alien dust.
The interesting thing about this more traditional consensus is that it mirrors, very precisely, the facts of religious history. Gods do in fact wax and wane over time, if their importance in the religious life of the cultures that worship them is anything to go by. Many theogonies—that’s what you call a genealogy of the gods, a common feature in polytheist faiths—go on at length about whole generations of gods and goddesses whom nobody’s worshipped in a very long time, while it’s not hard to trace the rise of the more recent deities who replaced them. The ancient world had plenty of examples: the old Roman god of war and livestock, Mavors (later spelled and pronounced Mars), was a hugely important deity in Rome’s early days; later on he became a minor figure reverenced mostly in a few very old traditional ceremonies. The earth god Veiovius had a similar trajectory, while Jupiter, who started out as one among many Roman gods, clawed his way to the serene dignity of Jupiter Optimus Maximus—from which exalted status he had already begun to slip when Christian persecution made the whole matter moot.