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Impiety is classically a lack of proper concern for the obligations owed to public religious observation or cult. Impiety was a main Pagan objection to Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, for unlike other initiates into mystery religions
Greco-Roman mysteries
Mystery religions, sacred Mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious cults of the Greco-Roman world, participation in which was reserved to initiates....

, early Christians refused to cast a pinch of incense before the images of the gods, among whom were the protective deified Emperors. Impiety in ancient civilizations was a civic concern, rather than religious. It was believed that it could bring down upon the whole res publica
Res publica
Res publica is a Latin phrase, loosely meaning "public affair". It is the root of the word republic, and the word commonwealth has traditionally been used as a synonym for it; however translations vary widely according to the context...

the wrath of the tutelary deities who protected the polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...


Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 and Anaxagoras
Anaxagoras was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae in Asia Minor, Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to bring philosophy from Ionia to Athens. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows, and the sun, which he described as a fiery mass larger than...

 were put to death for impiety (against ancient Greek gods), and Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 was also charged with impiety after the death of Alexander the Great. According to the Vita Aristotelis Marciana, a much mutilated single manuscript in the Biblioteca Nazionale di San Marco
Biblioteca Marciana
The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana is a library and Renaissance building in Venice, northern Italy; it is one of the earliest surviving public manuscript depositories in the country, holding one of the greatest classical texts collections in the world. The library is named after St. Mark, the...

 in Venice, written about 1300, Aristotle left the city, saying, "I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy" (Vita Aristotelis, 41). The medieval Christian compiler has rendered the Athenians' crime as a "sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

". However, sin was an alien concept to the Greeks and Romans. When Aramaic had to be translated into Greek in editing the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

, the Greek word hamartia came to be used. Hamartia ("missing the mark") is only very approximately translated as "sin."