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Major Religions in Rome


Religion in Ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompasses the practices and beliefs the ancient Romans regarded as their own, as well as the many cults imported to Rome or practiced by peoples under Roman rule. The Romans thought of themselves as highly religious, and attributed their success as a world power to their collective piety (pietas) in maintaining good relations with the gods. According to legendary history, most of Rome's religious institutions could be traced to its founders, particularly NomaPopulous, the Sabine second king of Rome, who negotiated directly with the gods. This archaic religion was the foundation of the most maiorum, "the way of the ancestors" or simply "tradition", viewed as central to Roman identity. The priesthoods of public religion were held by members of the elite classes. There was no principle analogous to "separation of church and state" in ancient Rome. During the Roman Republic (509 BC-27 BC), the same men who were elected public officials served as augurs and pontiffs. Priests married, raised families, and led politically active lives. Julius Caesar became Pontifex Maximus before he was elected consul. The augurs read the will of the gods and supervised the marking of boundaries as a reflection of universal order, thus sanctioning Roman expansionism as a matter of divine destiny. The Roman triumph was at its core a religious procession in which the victorious general displayed his piety and his willingness to serve the public good by dedicating a portion of his spoils to the gods, especially Jupiter, who embodied just rule. As a result of the Punic Wars (264-146 BC), when Rome struggled to establish itself as a dominant power, many new temples were built by magistrates in fulfillment of a vow to a deity for assuring their military success. Roman religion was thus practical and contractual, based on the principle of do UT des, "I give that you might give." Religion depended on knowledge and the correct practice of prayer, ritual, and sacrifice, not on faith or dogma, although Latin literature preserves learned speculation on the nature of the divine and its relation to human affairs. Even the most skeptical among Rome's intellectual elite such as Cicero, who was an augur, saw religion as a source of social order. For ordinary Romans, religion was a part of daily life. Each home had a household shrine at which prayers and libations to the family's domestic deities were offered. Neighborhood shrines and sacred places such as springs and groves dotted the city. Apuleius described the everyday quality of religion in observing how people who passed a cult place might make a vow or a fruit offering, or merely sit for a while. The Roman calendar was structured around religious observances. In the Imperial era, as many as 135 days of the year were devoted to religious festivals and games (ludic). Women, slaves, and children all participated in a range of religious activities. Some public rituals could be conducted only by women, and women formed what is perhaps Rome's most famous priesthood, the state-supported Vestal Virgins, who tended Rome's sacred hearth for centuries, until disbanded under Christian domination. The Romans are known for the great number of deities they honored, a capacity that earned the mockery of early Christian polemicists. The presence of Greeks on the Italian peninsula from the beginning of the historical period influenced Roman culture, introducing some religious practices that became as fundamental as the cult of Apollo. The Romans looked for common ground between their major gods and those of the Greeks, adapting Greek myths and iconography for

Latin literature and Roman art. Etruscan religion was also a major influence, particularly on the practice of augury, since Rome had once been ruled by Etruscan kings. Imported mystery religions, which offered initiates salvation in the afterlife, were a matter of personal choice for an individual, practiced in addition to carrying on one's family rites and participating in public religion. The mysteries, however, involved exclusive oaths and secrecy, conditions that conservative Romans viewed with suspicion as characteristic of "magic", conspiracy (conjuration), and subversive activity. Sporadic and sometimes brutal attempts were made to suppress religionists who seemed to threaten traditional morality and unity, as with the senate's efforts to suppress the Bacchanals in 186 BC. As the Romans extended their dominance throughout the Mediterranean world, their policy in general was to absorb the deities and cults of other people’s rather than try to eradicate them, since they believed that preserving tradition promoted social stability. One way that Rome incorporated diverse peoples was by supporting their religious heritage, building temples to local deities that framed their theology within the hierarchy of Roman religion. Inscriptions throughout the Empire record the side-by-side worship of local and Roman deities, including dedications made by Romans to local gods. By the height of the Empire, numerous international deities were cultivated at Rome and had been carried to even the most remote provinces, among them Cybele, Isis, Emona, and gods of solar monism such as Mithras and Sol Invites, found as far north as Roman Britain. Because Romans had never been obligated to cultivate one god or one cult only, religious tolerance was not an issue in the sense that it is for competing monotheistic systems. The monotheistic rigor of Judaism posed difficulties for Roman policy that led at times to compromise and the granting of special exemptions, but sometimes to intractable conflict. In the wake of the Republic's collapse, state religion had adapted to support the new regime of the emperors. Augustus, the first Roman emperor, justified the novelty of one-man rule with a vast program of religious revivalism and reform. Public vows formerly made for the security of the republic now were directed at the wellbeing of the emperor. So-called "emperor worship" expanded on a grand scale the traditional Roman veneration of the ancestral dead and of the Genius, the divine tutelary of every individual. Imperial cult became one of the major ways Rome advertised its presence in the provinces and cultivated shared cultural identity and loyalty throughout the Empire. Rejection of the state religion was tantamount to treason. This was the context for Rome's conflict with Christianity, which Romans variously regarded as a form of atheism and novel superstition. From the 2nd century onward, the Church Fathers began to condemn the diverse religions practiced throughout the Empire collectively as "pagan." In the early 4th century, Constantine I became the first emperor to convert to Christianity, launching the era of Christian hegemony. The emperor Julian made a short-lived attempt to revive traditional and Hellenistic religion and to affirm the special status of Judaism, but in 391 under Theodosius I Christianity became the official

state religion of Rome, to the exclusion of all others. Pleas for religious tolerance from traditionalists such as the senator Sumaches (d. 402) were rejected, and Christian monotheism became a feature of Imperial domination. Heretics as well as non-Christians were subject to exclusion from public life or persecution, but Rome's original religious hierarchy and many aspects of its ritual influenced Christian forms, and many pre-Christian beliefs and practices survived in Christian festivals and local traditions. Founding Myths and Divine Destiny The founding of Rome can be investigated through archaeology, but traditional stories handed down by the ancient Romans themselves explain the earliest history of their city in terms of legend and myth. The most familiar of these myths, and perhaps the most famous of all Roman myths, is the story of Romulus and Remus, the twins who were suckled by a she-wolf. This story had to be reconciled with a dual tradition, set earlier in time, that had the Trojan refugee Aeneas escaped to Italy and founded the line of Romans through his son I ulus, the namesake of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Roman Icon Actually Younger Than the City Live Science - June 26, 2012 The icon of Rome's foundation, a life-size bronze statue of a she-wolf with two human infants suckling her, is about 1,700 years younger than its city, Rome's officials admitted on Saturday. The official announcement, made at the Capitoline Museums, where the 30 inch-high bronze is the centerpiece of a dedicated room, quashes the belief that the sculpture was adopted by the earliest Romans as a symbol for their city. The Roman mythological tradition is particularly rich in historical myths, or legends, concerning the foundation and rise of the city. These narratives focus on human actors, with only occasional intervention from deities but a pervasive sense of divinely ordered destiny. For Rome's earliest period, history and myth are difficult to distinguish. Rome had a semi-divine ancestor in the Trojan refugee Aeneas, son of Venus, who was said to have established the nucleus of Roman religion when he brought the Palladium, Lures and Penates from Troy to Italy. These objects were believed in historical times to remain in the keeping of the Vestals, Rome's female priesthood. Aeneas had been given refuge by King Evander, a Greek exile from Arcadia, to whom were attributed other religious foundations: he established the Ara Maxima, "Greatest Altar," to Hercules at the site that would become the Forum Barium, and he was the first to celebrate the Lupercalia, an archaic festival in February that was celebrated as late as the 5th century of the Christian era. The myth of a Trojan founding with Greek influence was reconciled through an elaborate genealogy (see Latin kings of Alba Longa) with the well-known legend of Rome's founding by Romulus and Remus. The most common version of the twins' story displays several aspects of hero myth. Their mother, Rhea Silvia, had been ordered by her uncle the king to remain a virgin, in order to preserve the throne he had usurped from her father. Through divine intervention, the rightful line was restored when Rhea Silvia was impregnated by the god Mars. She gave birth to twins, who were duly exposed by order of the king but saved through a series of miraculous events. Romulus and Remus regained their grandfather's throne and set out to build a new city, consulting with the gods through augury, a characteristic religious institution of Rome that is portrayed as

existing from earliest times. Divine communication did not prevent brotherly disagreement, and Romulus kills Remus, an act that is sometimes seen as sacrificial. Fratricide thus became an integral part of Rome's founding myth. Romulus was credited with several religious institutions. He founded the Consuela festival, inviting the neighboring Sabine’s to participate; the ensuing rape of the Sabine women by Romulus's men further embedded both violence and cultural assimilation in Rome's myth of origins. As a successful general, Romulus is also supposed to have founded Rome's first temple to Jupiter Feretories and offered the spoiloptima, the prime spoils taken in war, in the celebration of the first Roman triumph. Romulus became increasingly autocratic, but in popular tradition was spared a normal human death and instead was mysteriously spirited away and deified. His Sabine successor Noma was pious and peaceable, and credited with numerous political and religious foundations, including the first Roman calendar; the priesthoods of the Sallie, flames, and Vestals; the cults of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirine’s; and the Temple of Janus, whose doors stayed open in times of war but in Noma’s time remained closed. After Noma’s death, the doors to the Temple of Janus remained open until the reign of Augustus, or so the claim went. Each of Rome's legendary or semi-legendary kings was associated with one or more religious institutions still known to the later Republic. TullesHostiles and Ankus Marcius instituted the fetial priests. The first "outsider" Etruscan king, Lucius Tarquinii’sPrisca’s, founded a Capitoline temple to the triad Jupiter, Juno and Minerva which served as the model for the highest official cult throughout the Roman world. The benevolent, divinely fathered Servia’sTullie’s established the Latin League, its Aventine Temple to Diana, and the Comp Italia to mark his social reforms. Servia’sTullie’s was murdered and succeeded by the arrogant Tarquinii’sSuperbugs, whose expulsion marked the beginning of Rome as a republic with annually elected magistrates. The Roman historians regarded the essentials of Republican religion as complete by the end of Noma’s reign, and confirmed as right and lawful by the Senate and people of Rome: the sacred topography of the city, its monuments and temples, the histories of Rome's leading families, and equally important oral and ritual traditions. Rome's history was represented as a coherent and sacred continuity, imperiled by religious negligence and personal ambition. According to Cicero, the Romans considered themselves the most religious of all peoples; and their extraordinary success proved it. Rome offers no native creation myth, and little mythography to explain the character of its deities, their mutual relationships or their interactions with the human world, but Roman theology acknowledged that di immortals (immortal gods) ruled all realms of the heavens and earth. There were gods of the upper heavens, gods of the underworld and a myriad of lesser deities between. Some evidently favored Rome because Rome honored them, but none were intrinsically, irredeemably foreign or alien. The political, cultural and religious coherence of an emergent Roman super-state required a broad, inclusive and flexible network of lawful cults. At different times and in different places, the sphere of influence, character and functions of a divine being could expand, overlap with those of others, and be redefined as Roman. Change was embedded within existing traditions.

Several versions of a semi-official, structured pantheon were developed during the political, social and religious instability of the Late Republican era. Jupiter, the most powerful of all gods and "the fount of the auspices upon which the relationship of the city with the gods rested", consistently personified the divine authority of Rome's highest offices, internal organization and external relations. During the archaic and early Republican eras, he shared his temple, some aspects of cult and several divine characteristics with Mars and Quirine’s, who were later replaced by Juno and Minerva. A conceptual tendency toward triads may be indicated by the later agricultural or plebeian triad of Ceres, Liber and Liberal, and by some of the complementary threefold deity-groupings of Imperial cult. Other major and minor deities could be single, coupled, or linked retrospectively through myths of divine marriage and sexual adventure. These later Roman pantheistic hierarchies are part literary and mythography, part philosophical creations, and often Greek in origin. The Hellenization of Latin literature and culture supplied literary and artistic models for reinterpreting Roman deities in light of the Greek Olympians, and promoted a sense that the two cultures had a shared heritage. The impressive, costly, and centralized rites to the deities of the Roman state were vastly outnumbered in everyday life by commonplace religious observances pertaining to an individual's domestic and personal deities, the patron divinities of Rome's various neighborhoods and communities, and the often idiosyncratic blends of official, unofficial, local and personal cults that characterized lawful Roman religion. In this spirit, a provincial Roman citizen who made the long journey from Bordeaux to Italy to consult the Sibyl at Tibur did not neglect his devotion to his own goddess from home. Roman calendars show roughly forty annual religious festivals. Some lasted several days, others a single day or less: sacred days (dies fast) outnumbered "non-sacred" days (dies negate). A comparison of surviving Roman religious calendars suggests that official festivals were organized according to broad seasonal groups that allowed for different local traditions. Some of the most ancient and popular festivals incorporated ludic ("games," such as chariot races and theatrical performances), with examples including those held at Palestrina in honor of Fortuna Primogenital during Comp Italia, and the Lodi Romani in honor of Liber. Other festivals may have required only the presence and rites of their priests and acolytes, [26] or particular groups, such as women at the Bona Deaf rites. Other public festivals were not required by the calendar, but occasioned by events. The triumph of a Roman general was celebrated as the fulfillment of religious vows, though these tended to be overshadowed by the political and social significance of the event. During the late Republic, the political elite competed to outdo each other in public display, and the ludic attendant on a triumph were expanded to include gladiator contests. Under the Principe, all such spectacular displays came under Imperial control: the most lavish were subsidized by emperors, and lesser events were provided by magistrates as a sacred duty and privilege of office. Additional festivals and games

celebrated Imperial accessions and anniversaries. Others, such as the traditional Republican Secular Games to mark a new era (speculum), became imperially funded to maintain traditional values and a common Roman identity. That the spectacles retained something of their sacral aura even in late antiquity is indicated by the admonitions of the Church Fathers that Christians should not take part. The meaning and origin of many archaic festivals baffled even Rome's intellectual elite, but the more obscure they were, the greater the opportunity for reinvention and reinterpretation - a fact lost neither on Augustus in his program of religious reform, which often cloaked autocratic innovation, nor on his only rival as mythmaker of the era, Ovid. In his Fast, a long-form poem covering Roman holidays from January to June, Ovid presents a unique look at Roman antiquarian lore, popular customs, and religious practice that is by turns imaginative, entertaining, high-minded, and scurrilous; not a priestly account, despite the speaker's pose as a vats or inspired poet-prophet, but a work of description, imagination and poetic etymology that reflects the broad humor and burlesque spirit of such venerable festivals as the Saturnalia, Consuela, and feast of Anna Perennial on the Ides of March, where Ovid treats the assassination of the newly deified Julius Caesar as utterly incidental to the festivities among the Roman people. But official calendars preserved from different times and places also show a flexibility in omitting or expanding events, indicating that there was no single static and authoritative calendar of required observances. In the later Empire under Christian rule, the new Christian festivals were incorporated into the existing framework of the Roman calendar, alongside at least some of the traditional festivals. The Latin word temple originally referred not to the temple building itself, but to a sacred space surveyed and plotted ritually through augury: "The architecture of the ancient Romans was, from first to last, an art of shaping space around ritual." The Roman architect Vitruvius always uses the word temple to refer to this sacred precinct, and the more common Latin words aides, delirium, or faun for a temple or shrine as a building. The ruins of temples are among the most visible monuments of ancient Roman culture. Animal sacrifice took place at an altar outdoors, as did public religious ceremonies. The main room (cellar) inside a temple housed the cult image of the deity to whom the temple was dedicated, and often a small altar for incense or libations. It might also display art works looted in war and rededicated to the gods. Temple buildings and shrines within the city commemorated significant political settlements in its development: the Aventine Temple of Diana supposedly marked the founding of the Latin League under Servia’sTullie’s. Many temples in the Republican era were built as the fulfillment of a vow made by a general in exchange for a victory. Sacrifices and offerings required an accompanying prayer to be effective. Pliny the Elder declared that "a sacrifice without prayer is thought to be useless and not a proper consultation of the gods." Prayer by itself, however, had independent power. The spoken word was thus the single most

potent religious action, and knowledge of the correct verbal formulas the key to efficacy. Accurate naming was vital for tapping into the desired powers of the deity invoked, hence the proliferation of cult epithets among Roman deities. Public prayers were offered loudly and clearly by a priest on behalf of the community. Public religious ritual had to be enacted by specialists and professionals faultlessly; a mistake might require that the action, or even the entire festival, be repeated from the start. The historian Titus Livy reports an occasion when the presiding magistrate at the Latin festival forgot to include the "Roman people" among the list of beneficiaries in his prayer; the festival had to be started over. Even private prayer by an individual was formulaic, a recitation rather than a personal expression, though selected by the individual for a particular purpose or occasion. Oaths of business, clientage and service, patronage and protection, state office, treaty and loyalty appealed to the witness and sanction of deities. Refusal to swear a lawful oath, and a sworn oath broken carried much the same penalty; both repudiated the fundamental bonds between the human and divine. In Latin, the word sacrificial means the performance of an act that renders something saucer, sacred. Sacrifice reinforced the powers and attributes of divine beings, and inclined them to render benefits in return. Offerings to household deities were part of daily life. Lures might be offered spelt wheat and grain-garlands, grapes and first fruits in due season, honey cakes and honeycombs, wine and incense, food that fell to the floor during any family meal, or at their Comp Italia festival, honey-cakes and a pig on behalf of the community. Their supposed underworld relatives, the malicious and vagrant Lemurs, might be placated with midnight offerings of black beans and spring water. The most potent offering was animal sacrifice, typically of domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs. Each was the best specimen of its kind, cleansed, clad in sacrificial regalia and garlanded; the horns of oxen might be gilded. Sacrifice sought the harmonization of the earthly and divine, so the victim must seem willing to offer its own life on behalf of the community; it must remain calm and be quickly and cleanly dispatched. Sacrifice to deities of the heavens (di super, "gods above") was performed in daylight, and under the public gaze. Deities of the upper heavens required white, infertile victims of their own sex: Juno a white heifer (possibly a white cow); Jupiter a white, castrated ox (boss mas) for the annual oath-taking by the consuls. Di super with strong connections to the earth, such as Mars, Janus, Neptune and various genii - including the Emperor's - were offered fertile victims. After the sacrifice, a banquet was held; in state cults, the images of honored deities took pride of place on banqueting couches and by means of the sacrificial fire consumed their proper portion (extra, the innards). Rome's officials and priests reclined in order of precedence alongside and ate the meat; lesser citizens may have had to provide their own.

Chthonic gods such as Dis pater, the di infer ("gods below"), and the collective shades of the departed (di Manes) were given dark, fertile victims in nighttime rituals. Animal sacrifice usually took the form of a holocaust or burnt offering, and there was no shared banquet, as "the living cannot share a meal with the dead". Ceres and other underworld goddesses of fruitfulness were sometimes offered pregnant female animals; TELUS was given a pregnant cow at the Fordicidia festival. Color had a general symbolic value for sacrifices. Demigods and heroes, who belonged to the heavens and the underworld, were sometimes given black-and-white victims. Rovigo (or Robing’s) was given red dogs and libations of red wine at the Robigalia for the protection of crops from blight and red mildew. A sacrifice might be made in thanksgiving or as an expiration of a sacrilege or potential sacrilege. The same divine agencies who caused disease or harm also had the power to avert it, and so might be placated in advance. Divine consideration might be sought to avoid the inconvenient delays of a journey, or encounters with banditry, piracy and shipwreck, with due gratitude to be rendered on safe arrival or return. In times of great crisis, the Senate could decree collective public rites, in which Rome's citizens, including women and children, moved in procession from one temple to the next, supplicating the gods. Extraordinary circumstances called for extraordinary sacrifice: in one of the many crises of the Second Punic War, Jupiter Capitoline’s was promised every animal born that spring (see very sacrum), to be rendered after five more years of protection from Hannibal and his allies. The "contract" with Jupiter is exceptionally detailed. All due care would be taken of the animals. If any died or were stolen before the scheduled sacrifice, they would count as already sacrificed, since they had already been consecrated. Normally, if the gods failed to keep their side of the bargain, the offered sacrifice would be withheld. In the imperial period, sacrifice was withheld following Trajan's death because the gods had not kept the Emperor safe for the stipulated period. In Pompeii, the Genius of the living emperor was offered a bull: presumably a standard practice in Imperial cult, though minor offerings (incense and wine) were also made. Human Sacrifice Human sacrifice in ancient Rome was rare but documented. After the Roman defeat at Cannae two Gaul’s and two Greeks were buried under the Forum Barium, in a stone chamber "which had on a previous occasion [228 BC] also been polluted by human victims, a practice most repulsive to Roman feelings". Livy avoids the word "sacrifice" in connection with this bloodless human life-offering; Plutarch does not. The rite was apparently repeated in 113 BC, preparatory to an invasion of Gaul. Its religious dimensions and purpose remain uncertain. In the early stages of the First Punic War (264 BC) the first known Roman gladiatorial minus was held, described as a funeral blood-rite to the manes of a Roman military aristocrat. The gladiator minus was never explicitly acknowledged as a human sacrifice, probably because death was not its inevitable outcome or purpose. Even so, the gladiators swore their lives to the infernal gods, and the combat was dedicated as an offering to the di manes or other gods. The event was therefore a sacrificial in the strict sense of the term, and Christian writers later condemned it as

human sacrifice. The small woolen dolls called Mania, hung on the Comp Italia shrines, were thought a symbolic replacement for child-sacrifice to Mania, as Mother of the Lures. The Joni took credit for its abolition by their ancestor L. Julius Brutus, traditionally Rome's Republican founder and first consul. Political or military executions were sometimes conducted in such a way that they evoked human sacrifice, whether deliberately or in the perception of witnesses; for a gruesome example, see Marcus Marius Gratidianus. Officially, human sacrifice was obnoxious "to the laws of gods and men." The practice was a mark of the "Other", attributed to Rome's traditional enemies such as the Carthaginians and Gaul’s. Rome banned it on several occasions under extreme penalty, notably in 81 BC. Its alleged practice helped justify the conquest of Gaul and both invasions of Britain as righteous acts of war in suppression of the Druids, the elite priestly class among the Gaul’s: according to Pliny the Elder, the British clung to the practice for as long as they could. Despite an empire-wide ban under Hadrian, human sacrifice may have continued covertly in North Africa and elsewhere. The most maiorum established the dynastic authority and obligations of the citizen-paterfamilias ("the father of the family" or the "owner of the family estate"). He had priestly duties to his lures, domestic Penates, ancestral Genius and any other deities with whom he or his family held an interdependent relationship. His own dependents, who included his slaves and freedmen, owed cult to his Genius. Genius was the essential spirit and generative power - depicted as a serpent or as a perennial youth, often winged - within an individual and their clan (gens (pl. genets). A paterfamilias could confer his name, a measure of his genius and a role in his household rites, obligations and honors upon those he fathered or adopted. His freed slaves owed him similar obligations. A pater families was the senior priest of his household. He offered daily cult to his lures and Penates, and to his di parents/diveparents at his domestic shrines and in the fires of the household hearth. His wife (mater families) was responsible for the household's cult to Vesta. In rural estates, bailiffs seem to have been responsible for at least some of the household shrines (Laragia) and their deities. Household cults had state counterparts. Vesta is the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. Vesta's presence is symbolized by the sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples. Her closest Greek equivalent is Hestia. The importance of Vesta to Roman religion is indicated by the prominence of the priesthood devoted to her, the Vestal Virgins, Rome's only college of full-time priests. In Vergil's Aeneid, Aeneas brought the Trojan cult of the lures and Penates from Troy, along with the Palladium which was later installed in the temple of Vesta. A Roman sculpture depicting a Vestal

The Vestals were a public priesthood of six women devoted to the cultivation of Vesta, goddess

of the hearth of the Roman state and its vital flame. A girl chosen to be a Vestal achieved unique religious distinction, public status and privileges, and could exercise considerable political influence. Upon entering her office, a Vestal was emancipated from her father's authority. In archaic Roman society, these priestesses were the only women not required to be under the legal guardianship of a man, instead answering directly to the Pontifex Maximus. A Vestal's dress represented her status outside the usual categories that defined Roman women, with elements of both virgin bride and daughter, and Roman matron and wife. Unlike male priests, Vestals were freed of the traditional obligations of marrying and producing children, and were required to take a vow of chastity that was strictly enforced: a Vestal polluted by the loss of her chastity while in office was buried alive. Thus the exceptional honor accorded a Vestal was religious rather than personal or social; her privileges required her to be fully devoted to the performance of her duties, which were considered essential to the security of Rome. The Vestals embody the profound connection between domestic cult and the religious life of the community. Any householder could rekindle their own household fire from Vesta's flame. The Vestals cared for the Lures and Penates of the state that were the equivalent of those enshrined in each home. Besides their own festival of Vestavia, they participated directly in the rites of Aprilia, Parentally and Fordicidia. Indirectly, they played a role in every official sacrifice; among their duties was the preparation of the mole salsa, the salted flour that was sprinkled on every sacrificial victim as part of its immolation. One mythological tradition held that the mother of Romulus and Remus was a Vestal virgin of royal blood. A tale of miraculous birth also attended on Servia’sTullie’s, sixth king of Rome, son of a virgin slave-girl impregnated by a disembodied phallus arising mysteriously on the royal hearth; the story was connected to the fascines that was among the cult objects under the guardianship of the Vestals. Augustus' religious reformations raised the funding and public profile of the Vestals. They were given high-status seating at games and theatres. The emperor Claudius appointed them as priestesses to the cult of the deified Livia, wife of Augustus. They seem to have retained their religious and social distinctions well into the 4th century, after political power within the Empire had shifted to the Christians. When the Christian emperor Gratian refused the office of pontifex maximus, he took steps toward the dissolution of the order. His successor Theodosius I extinguished Vesta's sacred fire and vacated her temple. Public religion took place within a sacred precinct that had been marked out ritually by an augur. The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are. This was known as "taking the auspices." The ceremony and function of the augur was central to any major undertaking in Roman society - public or private - including matters of war, commerce, and religion. The original meaning of the Latin word temple was this sacred space, and only later referred to a

building. Rome itself was an intrinsically sacred space; its ancient boundary (pomerium) had been marked by Romulus himself with oxen and plough; what lay within was the earthly home and protectorate of the gods of the state. In Rome, the central references for the establishment of an augural temple appear to have been the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) and the pomerium. Magistrates sought divine opinion of proposed official acts through an augur, who read the divine will through observations made within the temple before, during and after an act of sacrifice. Divine disapproval could arise through unfit sacrifice, errant rites (victim) or an unacceptable plan of action. If an unfavorable sign was given, the magistrate could repeat the sacrifice until favorable signs were seen, consult with his augural colleagues, or abandon the project. Magistrates could use their right of augury (isaugured) to adjourn and overturn the process of law, but were obliged to base their decision on the augur's observations and advice. For Cicero, himself an augur, this made the augur the most powerful authority in the Late Republic. By his time (mid-1st century BC) augury was supervised by the college of pontifices, whose powers were increasingly woven into the magistracies of the cursus honored. Roman religion (religion) was an everyday and vital affair, a cornerstone of Rome's most maiorum (the customs and traditions "of the ancestors"). Care for the gods, the very meaning of religion, had therefore to go through life, and one might thus understand why Cicero wrote that religion was "necessary". Religious behavior - pietas in Latin, Eusebia in Greek - belonged to action and not to contemplation. Consequently religious acts took place wherever the faithful were: in houses, boroughs, associations, cities, military camps, cemeteries, in the country, on boats. 'When pious travelers happen to pass by a sacred grove or a cult place on their way, they are used to make a vow, or a fruit offering, or to sit down for a while' (Apuleius, Fluorides 1.1). Religious law centered on the ritualized system of honors and sacrifice that brought divine blessings, according to the principle do UT des ("I give, that you might give"). Proper, respectful religion brought social harmony and prosperity. Religious neglect was a form of atheism: impure sacrifice and incorrect ritual were vitiate (impious errors). Excessive devotion, fearful groveling to deities and the improper use or seeking of divine knowledge were superstition. Any of these moral deviations could cause divine anger (iredecorum) and therefore harm the State. The official deities of the state were identified with its lawful offices and institutions, and Romans of every class were expected to honor the beneficence and protection of mortal and divine superiors. Participation in public rites showed a personal commitment to their community and its values. Official cults were state funded as a "matter of public interest" (res public). Non-official but lawful cults were funded by private individuals for the benefit of their own communities. The difference between public and private cult is often unclear. Individuals or collegial associations could offer funds and cult to state deities. The public Vestals prepared ritual substances for use in public and private cults, and held the state-funded (thus public) opening ceremony for the parentally festival,

which was otherwise a private rite to household ancestors. Some rites of the domes (household) were held in public places but were legally defined as private in part or whole. All cults were ultimately subject to the approval and regulation of the censor and pontifices. Rome had no separate priestly caste or class. The highest authority within a community usually sponsored its cults and sacrifices, officiated as its priest and promoted its assistants and acolytes. Specialists from the religious colleges, and professionals such as haruspices and oracles were available for consultation. In household cult, the paterfamilias functioned as priest, and members of his familiar as acolytes and assistants. Public cults required greater knowledge and expertise. The earliest public priesthoods were probably the famines (singular, Flamen), attributed to king Noma: the major famines, dedicated to Jupiter, Mars and Quirine’s, were traditionally drawn from patrician families. Twelve lesser famines were each dedicated to a single deity, whose archaic nature is indicated by the relative obscurity of some. Famines were constrained by the requirements of ritual purity; Jupiter's Flamen in particular had virtually no simultaneous capacity for a political or military career. In the Regal era, a rex sanctorum (king of the sacred rites) supervised regal and state rites in conjunction with the king (rex) or in his absence, and announced the public festivals. He had little or no civil authority. With the abolition of monarchy, the collegial power and influence of the Republican pontifices increased. By the late Republican era, the famines were supervised by the pontifical collegial. The rex sanctorum had become a relatively obscure priesthood with an entirely symbolic title: his religious duties still included the daily, ritual announcement of festivals and priestly duties within two or three of the latter but his most important priestly role - the supervision of the Vestals and their rites - fell to the more politically powerful and influential pontifex maximus. Public priests were appointed by the collegial. Once elected, a priest held permanent religious authority from the eternal divine, which offered him lifetime influence, privilege and immunity. Therefore civil and religious law limited the number and kind of religious offices allowed an individual and his family. Religious law was collegial and traditional; it informed political decisions, could overturn them, and was difficult to exploit for personal gain. Priesthood was a costly honor: in traditional Roman practice, a priest drew no stipend. Cult donations were the property of the deity, whose priest must provide cult regardless of shortfalls in public funding - this could mean subsidy of acolytes and all other cult maintenance from personal funds. For those who had reached their goal in the Cursus honored, permanent priesthood was best sought or granted after a lifetime's service in military or political life, or preferably both: it was a particularly honorable and active form of retirement which fulfilled an essential public duty. For a freedman or slave, promotion as one of the Comp Italiasevere offered a high local profile, and opportunities in local politics; and therefore business.

During the Imperial era, priesthood of the Imperial cult offered provincial elites full Roman citizenship and public prominence beyond their single year in religious office; in effect, it was the first step in a provincial cursus honored. In Rome, the same Imperial cult role was performed by the Aval Brethren, once an obscure Republican priesthood dedicated to several deities, then co-opted by Augustus as part of his religious reforms. The Avals offered prayer and sacrifice to Roman state gods at various temples for the continued welfare of the Imperial family on their birthdays, accession anniversaries and to mark extraordinary events such as the quashing of conspiracy or revolt. Every January 3 they consecrated the annual vows and rendered any sacrifice promised in the previous year, provided the gods had kept the Imperial family safe for the contracted time. Haruspices was also used in public cult, under the supervision of the augur or presiding magistrate. The haruspices divined the will of the gods through examination of entrails after sacrifice, particularly the liver. They also interpreted omens, prodigies and portents, and formulated their expiation. Most Roman authors describe haruspices as an ancient, ethnically Etruscan "outsider" religious profession, separate from Rome's internal and largely unpaid priestly hierarchy, essential but never quite respectable. During the mid-to-late Republic, the reformist Gaius Gracchus, the populist politician-general Gaius Marius and his antagonist Sulla, and the "notorious Vere’s" justified their very different policies by the divinely inspired utterances of private diviners. The senate and armies used the public haruspices: at some time during the late Republic, the Senate decreed that Roman boys of noble family be sent to Etruria for training in haruspices and divination. Being of independent means, they would be better motivated to maintain a pure, religious practice for the public good. The motives of private haruspices - especially females - and their clients were officially suspect: none of this seems to have troubled Marius, who employed a Syrian prophetess. Omens and Prodigies Omens observed within or from a divine augural temple - especially the flight of birds - were sent by the gods in response to official queries. A magistrate with isauguries (the right of augury) could declare the suspension of all official business for the day (obnuntiato) if he deemed the omens unfavorable. Conversely, an apparently negative omen could be re-interpreted as positive, or deliberately blocked from sight. Prodigies were transgressions in the natural, predictable order of the cosmos - signs of divine anger that portended conflict and misfortune. The Senate decided whether a reported prodigy was false, or genuine and in the public interest, in which case it was referred to the public priests, augurs and haruspices for ritual expiation. In 207 BC, during one of the Punic Wars' worst crises, the Senate dealt with an unprecedented number of confirmed prodigies whose expiation would have involved "at least twenty days" of dedicated rites. Livy presents these as signs of widespread failure in Roman religion. The major prodigies included the spontaneous combustion of weapons, the apparent shrinking of the sun's disc, two moons in a daylight sky, a cosmic battle between sun and moon, a rain of red-hot stones, a bloody sweat on statues, and blood in fountains and on ears of corn: all were expiated by sacrifice of

"greater victims". The minor prodigies were less warlike but equally unnatural; sheep become goats, a hen become a cock (and vice-versa) - these were expiated with "lesser victims". The discovery of an androgynous four-year old child was expiated by its drowning and the holy procession of 27 virgins to the temple of Juno Regina, singing a hymn to avert disaster: a lightning strike during the hymn rehearsals required further expiation. Religious restitution is proved only by Rome's victory. In the wider context of Greco-Roman religious culture, Rome's earliest reported portents and prodigies stand out as atypically dire. Whereas for Romans, a comet presaged misfortune, for Greeks it might equally signal a divine or exceptionally fortunate birth. In the late Republic, a daytime comet at the murdered Julius Caesar's funeral games confirmed his deification; a discernable Greek influence on Roman interpretation. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions (3rd century), this funerary stele preserves the traditional abbreviation D. M., Dis Minibus, "for the Manes gods", with the Christian motto in Greek Ictuswonton ("fish of the living") and the identity of the deceased in Latin Roman beliefs about an afterlife varied, and are known mostly for the educated elite who expressed their views in terms of their chosen philosophy. The traditional care of the dead, however, and the perpetuation after death of their status in life were part of the most archaic practices of Roman religion. Ancient votive deposits to the noble dead of Latium and Rome suggest elaborate and costly funeral offerings and banquets in the company of the deceased, an expectation of afterlife and their association with the gods. As Roman society developed, its Republican nobility tended to invest less in spectacular funerals and extravagant housing for their dead, and more on monumental endowments to the community, such as the donation of a temple or public building whose donor was commemorated by his statue and inscribed name. Persons of low or negligible status might receive simple burial, with such grave goods as relatives could afford. Funeral and commemorative rites varied according to wealth, status and religious context. In Cicero's time, the better-off sacrificed a sow at the funeral pyre before cremation. The dead consumed their portion in the flames of the pyre, Ceres her portion through the flame of her altar, and the family at the site of the cremation. For the less well-off, inhumation with "a libation of wine, incense, and fruit or crops was sufficient". Ceres functioned as an intermediary between the realms of the living and the dead: the deceased had not yet fully passed to the world of the dead and could share a last meal with the living. The ashes (or body) were entombed or buried. On the eighth day of mourning, the family offered further sacrifice, this time on the ground; the shade of the departed was assumed to have passed entirely into the underworld. They had become one of the di Manes, who were collectively celebrated and appeased at the parentally, a multi-day festival of remembrance in February. A standard Roman funerary inscription is Dis Minibus (to the Manes-gods). Regional variations include its Greek equivalent, theirs katachthonis and Laudanum’s commonplace but mysterious "dedicated under the trowel" (sub ascidedicate).

In the later Imperial era, the burial and commemorative practices of Christian and non-Christians overlapped. Tombs were shared by Christian and non-Christian family members, and the traditional funeral rites and feast of novemdialis found a part-match in the Christian ConstitutionApostolic. The customary offers of wine and food to the dead continued; St Augustine (following St Ambrose) feared that this invited the "drunken" practices of Parentally but commended funeral feasts as a Christian opportunity to give alms of food to the poor. Christians attended parentally and it’s accompanying Frail and Cristian in sufficient numbers for the Council of Tours to forbid them in AD 567. Other funerary and commemorative practices were very different. Traditional Roman practice spurned the corpse as a ritual pollution; inscriptions noted the day of birth and duration of life. The Christian Church fostered the veneration of saintly relics, and inscriptions marked the day of death as a transition to "new life". Military success was achieved through a combination of personal and collective virtues (roughly, "manly virtue") and the divine will: lack of virtues, civic or private negligence in religion and the growth of superstition provoked divine wrath and led to military disaster. Military success was the touchstone of a special relationship with the gods, and to Jupiter Capitoline’s in particular; triumphal generals were dressed as Jupiter, and laid their victor's laurels at his feet. Roman commanders offered vows to be fulfilled after success in battle or siege; and further vows to expiate their failures. Camillus promised Veii's goddess Juno a temple in Rome as incentive for her desertion, conquered the city in her name, brought her cult statue to Rome "with miraculous ease" and dedicated a temple to her on the Aventine Hill. Roman camps followed a standard pattern for defense and religious ritual; in effect they were Rome in miniature. The commander's headquarters stood at the center; he took the auspices on a dais in front. A small building behind housed the legionary standards, the divine images used in religious rites and in the Imperial era, the image of the ruling emperor. In one camp, this shrine is even called Capitolium. The most important camp-offering appears to have been the suovetaurilia performed before a major, set battle. A ram, a boar and a bull were ritually garlanded, led around the outer perimeter of the camp (a lustrationexercises) and in through a gate, then sacrificed: Trajan's column shows three such events from his Dacian wars. The perimeter procession and sacrifice suggest the entire camp as a divine temple; all within are purified and protected. Each camp had its own religious personnel; standard bearers, priestly officers and their assistants, including a haruspex, and housekeepers of shrines and images. A senior magistrate-commander (sometimes even a consul) headed it, his chain of subordinates ran it and a ferocious system of training and discipline ensured that every citizen-soldier knew his duty. As in Rome, whatever gods he served in his own time seem to have been his own business; legionary forts and vici included shrines to household gods, personal deities and deities otherwise unknown. From the earliest Imperial era, citizen legionaries and provincial auxiliaries gave cult to the emperor and his familiar on Imperial accessions, anniversaries and their renewal of annual vows. Mithraism They celebrated Rome's official festivals in absentia, and had the official triads appropriate to their function - in the Empire, Jupiter, Victoria and Concordia were typical. By the early Severna era, the military also offered cult to the Imperial dive, the current emperor's numen, genius and domes

(or familiar), and special cult to the Empress as "mother of the camp." The near ubiquitous legionary shrines to Mithras of the later Imperial era were not part of official cult until Mithras was absorbed into Solar and Stoic Monism as a focus of military Concordia and Imperial loyalty. Devotion The devotion was the most extreme offering a Roman general could make, promising to offer his own life in battle along with the enemy as an offering to the underworld gods. Livy offers a detailed account of the devotion carried out by Decius Mus; family tradition maintained that his son and grandson, all bearing the same name, also devoted themselves. Before the battle, Decius is granted a prescient dream that reveals his fate. When he offers sacrifice, the victim's liver appears "damaged where it refers to his own fortunes". Otherwise, the haruspex tells him, the sacrifice is entirely acceptable to the gods. Stephanie Randal 2016/3/1


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