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, for unlike other initiates into mystery religions, 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 the wrath of the tutelary deities who protected the polis.
Socrates was put to death for impiety (against ancient Greek gods); Anaxagoras was prosecuted for impiety and went into exile. Aristotle 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 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". However, sin was an alien concept to the Greeks and Romans. In the New Testament, which most scholars assert was initially composed in Greek, the word "hamartia" was used. Hamartia ("missing the mark") is only very approximately translated as "sin."
See also