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Rome's Religious History - Essay Example

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The city of Rome sprang up from settlements around a ford on the river Tiber, a crossroads of traffic and trade (Durant, 1944). According to archaeological evidence, the village of Rome was probably founded sometime in the 8th century BC, though it may go back as far as the 10th century BC (Matyszak, 2003)…
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Romes Religious History
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Download file to see previous pages In fact, Beard, North and Price (1998) did not provide any definition of 'religion' in their work on religions of Rome because according to them, modern categories for thinking about religion are coloured by Christian ideas. They would not, therefore, be applicable for understanding the religion in ancient Rome. This was the same idea espoused by Imber (2007).
Meanhile, Dumezil and Krapp (1996) described Roman religions as not only influenced by other religions, but influenced them as well. The worship of certain gods became the special concerns of certain parts of society, all of which needed attention to assure Rome's success in war, civil administration, and the production of food and goods. In trying to identify "religion" in the Graeco-Roman world, James Rives (2006) said the concept of "religion" does not seem to be a part of their traditional culture although it perhaps began in the second century.
The religious history of Rome started from mythical origins, with its character and development running through the later Republican centuries with pagan response, to the coming of new religious forms during the centuries of Roman imperial rule (North, 2000). There were 12 or 15 major deities of the Romans familiar from art and myth where some are more popular than others (Rives, 2006) For example, it is said that the rural god, Silvanus, appears in more than 1,100 inscriptions from the western empire.
In categorizing Roman deities, Mirza and Tsang (2007) virtually adopted the same ones of Turcan (2002) as follows: religions of the family, religions of the state, and religions in the imperial age. The only difference is that while Turcan (2000) promised to look into Roman religions the way Romans looked at them, Mirza and Tsang (2007) said they are exposing Rome for what its religions were. This paper looks into Roman religions from both stances of various authors. Finally, it presents the difficulties involved in studying Roman religions and makes a conclusion on this issue.
Aspects of Roman Religions
Numina. Religions in ancient Rome combined several different cult practices and embraced more than a single set of beliefs. The Romans originally followed a rural animistic tradition in which many spirits or gods were each responsible for specific, limited aspects of the cosmos and human activities. The early Romans referred to these gods as numina. For example, there were different numina for ploughing, for horses, and for cattle. There were no temples or statues, but the rites were clean and simple and they were practiced with an exactness believed pleasing to gods (Mirza and Tsang, 2007).
Influences. Early in the history of the Roman Republic, foreign gods were imported especially from Greece, which had a great cultural influence on the Romans. In addition, the Romans connected some of their indigenous deities with Greek gods and goddesses. As the Roman Empire expanded and included people from a variety of cultures, there were more and more gods. The legions brought home cults originating from Egypt, Britain, Iberia, Germany, India and Persia. The cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithras were particularly important.
The ancient Roman beliefs and practices continued, including the worship of the lares and penates or spirits specific to a family, with altars in the home, the festivals such as the Lupercalia and Saturnalia, and a complex system of lucky and unlucky days (Mirza and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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