Starting from the 2nd century CE Imperium Romanum began a process of intense religious changes. Oriental religions, such as Mithraism began to play an increasingly important role in the Roman state. One of the reasons for the development of these cults was the serious crises that the empire experienced in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Events such as the civil war of 193-197, or the difficult internal situation during the so-called crisis of the 3rd century, favoured the emergence of religious phenomena, the roots of which dated back to earlier epochs.
The Roman state existed in practice for XIII centuries, being the power which was impacting the history. Therefore, I decided that I would tell the history of ancient Rome in the articles below, which will not necessarily cover only the Eternal City.
I encourage you to send articles and point out any corrections or inaccuracies.
War is one of the most radical actions that a human society can take. Among ancient societies, this type of behaviour was most often perceived in a religious and magical context. Humans appeased the gods before the conflict began, and subsequent victories or defeats were attributed to their direct intervention. Ancient Greek and Roman societies functioned no differently.
Political situationImperium Romanum in the 1st century BCE it was conducive to increasing the power of prominent Roman politicians. People like Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Gnaeus Pompey Magnus, and Gaius Julius Caesar achieved an extraordinary position in Roman society. They tried to exalt themselves as much as possible, for example by celebrating triumphs, civil wars or organizing games.
Romans were very attached to their religion. Making sacrifices to the pantheon of gods had not only religious significance but was also a sign of belonging to a particular social group. This faith, although very formalistic, was shaped over the centuries, initially taking over the beliefs of the Etruscans and Greeks, and finally basing its values on the preaching of the cult of the emperor and transferring the Eastern culture to Rome.
With the development of the Imperium, a huge number of different religions with a shorter or longer traditions found themselves within the borders of the Roman state. As a result, a process of intense religious change began. Romans became more and more interested in attractive Eastern cults over time. These include, among others, Egyptian cults, primarily the goddess of Isis and Serapis.
One of the most breakthrough periods in the history of Roman Empire were the years of wars with Carthage. The First Punic War began in 264 BCE and ushered in a new chapter in the history of Rome, the so-called period of the great conquests. The very rapid spread of the territorial power of the Romans influenced many aspects of the internal life in their country, including religion, which underwent significant transformations during this period.
In the times of the republic, the Romans were famous for their extraordinary religiosity. This opinion was already expressed by a Greek Polybius and Cicero, writing that: piety and we are religious above all peoples and nations. The early Roman religion, however, was very reluctant to exalt and worship outstanding individuals. It was related to the political and social system in Rome. In this way, the possibility of the return of the monarchical system so hated by the Romans was avoided. However, despite this, as the Empire grew, eminent leaders began to play an increasing role in Roman politics and religion. Over time, they began to be assigned unique features, which were to be due to the protection of the gods. Ultimately, this process led to the divine exaltation of individuals or so-called deification.
In the 18th book of the Iliad, there is a description of Achilles’ shield, made for him by Hephaestus at the request of the hero’s mother – Tethys. Virgil, the entire “Aeneid” modelled on both epics of Homer (“Iliad” and “Odyssey”), did not fail to include in his work (in book VII) an analogous description of the shield Aeneas. The differences between them illustrate well the different goals and characters of the works of the two poets.
For centuries, people have tried to find out what the future holds. Hence, it was common to refer to all kinds of fortune-tellers or priests – augur or haruspices who they foretold from the entrails of animals. Special attention was also paid to all kinds of fortune-telling, which, as it was believed, were not a coincidence, but were interfering with the gods.
It is commonly assume that Bacchus was counterpart of Dionysos. But what it actually means? It’s highly not obvious and doesn’t concern only the Dionysos nor even Rome itself, but the essential methodological problems of religious science and history of religion. Were gods identify with each other just like that?