Recently, I’ve been working on a short story in which I’ve set it in a Hellenic inspired Atlantis. Making this decision, I’ve done a significant amount of research on the Ancient Greek religion, since one of the characters is a priest of Poseidon.
The first thing I learned is that the term priest has either changed significantly over time, or another word must define their role better. A Greek priest didn’t look out for the worshipers. The role of the priest was specifically to see to the god they worshiped and the gifts given to that god. They also were in charge of running rituals on the holy days.
This alone was neat, but the next thing I learned was that because the duties of the priest were not ‘full time,’ most priests had an actual job in addition to their role. A number of examples I found included sailors (An common profession in Greece) and artisans.
Greek priests were also quite influential in their communities. Their position to deal directly with the gods put them in a position that people would seek them out for advice.
I also found out that the gifts given to gods could run a wide range of things, from statues of the gods, to gifts of tools, to simple crafted objects with oaths engraved into them. One interesting practice regarding Poseidon is that he was gifted horses on a number of occasions that were cast into the sea in offering. Even Alexander The Great performed this ritual.