Roman Religion in Antiquity Essay

Pages: 8 (2623 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] In the event of a successful conquest, the divinity in question was then accepted as Roman.

The is a concept echoed in the work of Hijmans

, who focuses on two different solar deities found in the Roman pantheon; Sol Indiges, a Roman god, and Sol Invictus, A syrina god of late antiquity. What is interesting here is that many scholars struggle to find agreement amongst themselves, as well as reconciliation within their own research to suggest that these two widely different deities could have existed, albeit at different times, within the same religious environment.

This disagreement is indicative of the general disagreement and debate that has been part and parcel of religion since its existence in human communities. Indeed, Beard, North and Price

mention just such a debate that was ongoing even during ancient Roman times. The discussion of the nature of the gods, as well as their character and activities, were part and parcel of Roman religious life. This was a way in which the Roman community continued to create and recreate their own religious experience. According to the authors, this type of debate was ongoing at least since the first century BC, where Roman intellectuals and writers debated on concerns such as the form and appearance of roman gods, the extent of their intervention with in human affairs, their morality, and their very existence.

To some extent, this debate was also the result of foreign influence, where Greek philosophy became increasingly well-known in Rome and debate became an acceptable way of human interaction and also of human interaction with the divine. Also, the different types of deities that the Greek culture incorporated were used as a basis for debate and speculation on the precise nature of deities and their roles in human life.

In general, there appears to be a sense of near innocence in these debates, where intellectuals honestly attempted to find ever clearer and better explanations for their views of divinity and its role in human life. Today, however, religious debate seems to take a much narrower stance, as suggested by Hijmans

. Today's religious debate, as it began to manifest with the rise of monotheism as opposed to polytheism in ancient times, concerns itself with finding a single correct philosophy or view to the exclusion of all others. This is what the Christian philosophy focused upon when it rose as the official Roman religion during the first centuries after Christ.

The same single-focused view is taken by the debaters Hijmans refers to. Even within a single monotheistic religion, including Christianity, there are debates that focus on the one correct focus to worship, to communicate with God, to display one's religious morality and affiliation, and so on. There are literally thousands of denominations within the Christian religion alone, each with its own conception of what it should be to be a Christian. None of these agree with each other, although their common characteristic is the worship of Jesus as the Son of God.

From an external point-of-view, one might regard this simply as part and parcel of what it is to be human with a drive to worship or at least recognize something beyond the physical. The debaters themselves, however, do not regard it in this way. The central aim of the debate or the disagreement is to arrive at a final, ultimate truth. This is not something Roman debaters aimed to do. The main impression is that, for them, the focus of the debate is upon reaching a mutual understanding of divinity by incorporating the views of others where these are regarded as worth the effort. This is the same paradigm as the Roman religious viewpoint, where foreign gods were incorporated to make for a more complete religious experience.

Today's debates seem to have a more volatile paradigm, with an underlying current focusing on the belief that there is a single correct view of religion and the role of divinity in human life. In addition to the number of gods, this is the fundamental difference between the monotheistic and polytheistic religions, that they have widely different paradigms when it comes to religious and philosophical debate. The Romans were much more open to incorporating foreign elements in both their philosophies and religions, while today, adherents to religion are not.

The Dimensions of Divinity

According to Asman

, polytheism, especially during early Roman times, had a worldview in which all dimensions were ruled by divinity. This is also a division point between monotheism and polytheism. The first dimention of divine presence was the cosmos, where the cooperative processes in nature were the manifestation of the divine presence in the world.

The second dimension of polytheistic divine rule was cult and political organization. Fundamentally, this differs from the monotheistic stance of differentiating between the church and the state.

The third dimension, which is closest to the way in which monotheistic religion is seen today, is the dimension of myth. The major gods and goddesses had specific life histories, many of which were filled with immorality and flaws.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the main differences between today and ancient times appear to be not only material, in terms of concrete differences such as numbers of gods or areas of life that divinity is assumed to affect. There is also a more open sense of acceptance among the polytheistic religions of ancient times than there is today, even within single monotheistic religions. Perhaps this offers some food for thought in future investigations.

References

Asman, J. 2007. Monotheism and Polytheism. Ancient Religions edited by Sarah Iles Johnson. Retrieved from: http://www.evolbiol.ru/large_files/ancient.pdf#page=146

Beard, M. North, J. And Prince, S. 1998. Religions of Rome, Vol.1

Beard, M. North, J. And Prince, S. 1998. Religions of Rome, Vol.2.

Hijmans, S. 2009. Sol: the Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome. Retrieved from: http://dissertations.ub.rug.nl/faculties/arts/2009/s.e.hijmans/vol1/

Thompson, Steven W. 2010. "Daimon Drink": Ancient Greek and Roman Explanations for Drunkenness," Christian Spirituality and Science: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 2. Retrieved from: http://research.avondale.edu.au/css/vol8/iss1/2

Beard, M. North, J. And Prince, S. 1998. Religions of Rome, Vol. 1, p. 2

Beard, M. North, J. And Prince, S. 1998. Religions of Rome, Vol.2., p. 2

Beard, North and Price, p. 27.

Beard, North and Price, Vol. 2 p. 2

Beard, North and Price, Vol. 2 p. 30

Beard, North and Price, Vol 1, Preface

Beard, North and Price, p. 41

Hijmans, 2009, p. 1

Beard, North and Price, p. 35

Hijmans, S. 2009. Sol: the Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome. Retrieved from: http://dissertations.ub.rug.nl/faculties/arts/2009/s.e.hijmans/vol1/

Asman, J. 2007. Monotheism and Polytheism. Ancient Religions edited by Sarah Iles Johnson. Retrieved from: http://www.evolbiol.ru/large_files/ancient.pdf#page=146, p. 18 [END OF PREVIEW]

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