1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Roman Religion
ROMAN RELIGION. In tracing the history of the religion of the Roman people we are not, as in the case of Greece, dealing with separate, though interacting, developments in a number of independent communities, but with a single community which won its way to the headship first of Latium, then of Italy and finally of a European empire. But this very fact of its ever-extending influence, coupled with an absence of dogmatism in belief, which made it at all times ready and even anxious to adopt foreign customs and ideas, gave its religion a constantly shifting and broadening character, so that it is difficult to determine the original essentials. By the time when Latin literature begins, the genuine Roman religion had already been overlaid by foreign cults and modes of thought, by the classical period it was—except in formal observance—practically buried and to a large extent fossilized. But the comparative study of religions has suggested the lines of reconstitution and the careful analysis of survivals embedded in literature and the evidence of monumental remains, and in particular of the old calendars, has enabled modern scholars to make good progress in the task of separating the elements due to different periods and influences.
The Roman people were of Aryan stock, a section of a host of invaders from the north, who overran and settled in the Italian peninsula. They preserved traces of their original nationality not merely in the general cast of their religious thought, but in certain common features such as the worship of the hearth (Vesta) and of the sky-divinity (Jupiter) (see Greek Religion). But the development of their religion was arrested at an earlier stage than that of the Greeks: with them—at any rate in the genuine Roman period—Animism never passed into Anthropomorphism; they stopped at the conception of the “spirit” without reaching that of the “god.” Their belief might be described as a polydemonism rather than a polytheism, or more correctly, to avoid altogether the intrusion of foreign notions, as a “multinuminism.”
In the cult and ritual of Rome there are enshrined many survivals from a very early form of religious thought prior to the Fetishism. development of the characteristic Roman attitude of mind. Fetishism—the belief in the magic or divine power of inanimate objects—is seen in the cult of stones, such as the silex of Jupiter (Iuppiter), which plays a prominent part in the ceremonial of treaty-making, and the lapis used in the ritual of the aquaelicium, a process, probably magic in origin, designed to produce rain after a long drought. The boundary-stones between properties (termini) were also the objects of cult at the annual festival of the Terminalia, and the “god Terminus,” the symbolic boundary-stone, shares with Jupiter the great temple on the Capitol. Tree-worship (q.v.) again is a constantly recurring feature, seen, for instance, in the permanently sacred character of the ficus Ruminalis and the caprificus of the Campus Martius, and above all in the oak of Iuppiter Feretrius, on which the spolia opima were hung after a victory. Nor did Roman fetishism stop short at natural objects. The household was always the centre of religious cult, and certain objects in the house—the door, the hearth, the store—cupboard (penus)—seem always to have had a sacred significance, and so became the objects and later the sites of the domestic worship. Of the cult of animals there is just sufficient trace to show that it must formerly have had its place in religious rite; the animals, once the objects of worship, appear in later times as the attributes of divinities, for instance, the sacred wolf and woodpecker of Mars.
But Fetishism must very early have developed into Animism, the feeling of the sacredness of the object into the sense of an Animism. indwelling spirit. In the animistic attitude we have indeed the true background of the genuine Roman religion; but its characteristic and peculiar development is a kind of “higher Animism,” which can associate the “spirit” not merely with visible and tangible objects, but with states and actions in the life of the individual and the community. No doubt the later indigitamenta (“bidding-prayers”) which give us detailed lists of the spirits which preside over the various actions of the infant, or the stages in the marriage ceremony, or the agricultural operations of the farmer, are due in a large measure to deliberate pontifical elaboration, but they are a true indication of the Roman attitude of mind, which reveals itself continually in the analysis of the cults of the household or the festivals of the agricultural year.
The “powers” (numina, not dei), which thus become the objects of worship, are spirits specialized in function and limited in sphere. They are not conceived of in any anthropomorphic form, their sex even may often be indeterminate (“sive mas, sive femina” is the constantly recurring formula of prayer), but the sphere of action of each is clearly marked and an appeal to a spirit. Outside his own special sphere would never even be thought of. Locality thus becomes an important point in the conception of the numen: the household spirits must be worshipped at the door, the hearth, the store-cupboard, and the external spirits of the fields and countryside have their sacred hill-tops or groves. But the numen has no form of sensuous representation, nor does he need a house to dwell in: statue and temple are alien to the spirit of Roman religion. Nor are the numina, not being anthropomorphic, capable of relation to one another: hence there is no Roman mythology. Yet, all powerful in their individual spheres of action, they can influence the fortunes of men and can enter into relations with them. The primary attitude of man to the numina seems clearly to be one of fear, which survives prominently in the “impish” character of certain of the spirits of the countryside, such as Faunus and Inuus, and is always seen in the underlying conception of religio, a sense of awe in the presence of a superhuman power. But the practical mind of the Roman gives this relation a legal turn: the ius sacrum, which regulates the dealings of men with the divine powers, is an inseparable part of ius publicum, the body of civil law, and the various acts of worship, prayer and thanksgiving are conceived of under the legal aspect of a contract. The base-notion is that the spirits, if they are given their due, will make a return to man: the object of the recurring annual festivals is to propitiate them and forestall any hostile intention by putting them, as it were, in debt to man—more rarely to express gratitude for benefits received.
In such a religion exactness, of ritual must play a large part—so large, indeed, that many modern critics have been Ritual. misled into regarding the Roman religion as a mere network of formalities, without any background of genuine religious feeling. This formalism shows itself in many ways. It is necessary in the first place to make quite certain that the right deity is being addressed: hence it is well to invoke all the spirits who might be concerned, and even to add a general formula to cover omissions: here we have the ritual significance of the indigitamenta. Place, again, as we have seen, was an essential element even in the conception of the numen, and is therefore all-important in ritual. So, too, is the character of the offering: male victims must be sacrificed to male deities; female victims to goddesses: white animals are the due of the di superi, the gods of the upper world, black animals of the gods below. Special deities, moreover, will demand special victims, while the more rustic numina, such as Pales (q.v.), should be given milk and millet cakes rather than a blood-offering. All-important, too, is the order of ceremonial and the formula of prayer: a mistake or omission or an unpropitious interruption may vitiate the whole ritual, and though such misfortunes may occasionally be expiated by the additional offering of a piaculum, in more serious cases the whole ceremony must be recommenced ab initio. Herein lies the importance of the priesthood: the priest is not, as in other religions, the mediator between god and man, but on the one hand for the purpose of state-worship the chosen representative of the whole people, on the other the repository of tradition and ritual lore.
This conception of the nature of the numina and man's relation to them is the root notion of the old Roman religion, Household worship. and the fully-formed state cult of the di indigetes even at the earliest historical period, must have been the result of long and gradual development, of which we can to a certain extent trace the stages. The original settlement on the Palatine, like its neighbour on the Quirinal, was an agricultural community, whose unit both from the legal and religious point of view was not the individual but the household. The household is thus at once the logical starting-point of religious cult, and throughout Roman history the centre of its most real and vital activity. The head of the house (paterfamilias) is the natural priest and has control of the domestic worship: he is assisted by his sons as acolytes (camilli) and deputes certain portions of the ritual to his wife and daughters and even to his bailiff (vilicus) and his bailiff's wife. The worship centres round certain numina, the spirits indwelling in the sacred places of the original round hut in which the family lived. Janus, the god of the door, comes undoubtedly first, though unfortunately we know but little of his worship in the household, except that it was the concern of the men. To the women is committed the worship of the “blazing hearth,” Vesta, the natural centre of the family life, and it is noticeable that even to Ovid (Fast. vi. 291-92) the conception of Vesta was still material and not anthropomorphic. The Penates (q.v.) were the numina of the store-cupboard, at first vague and animistic, but later on, as the definite deus-notion was developed, identified with certain of the other divinities of household or state religion.
To these numina of the sacred places must be added two other important conceptions, that of the Lar familiaris and the Genius. Lar and Genius. The Lar familiaris has been regarded as the embodiment of all the family dead and his cult as a consummation of ancestor-worship, but a more probable explanation regards him as one of the Lares (q.v., numina of the fields worshipped at the compita, the places where properties marched) who had special charge of the house or possibly of the household servants (familia); for it is significant that his worship was committed to the charge of the vilica. The Genius is originally the “spirit of developed manhood,” the numen which is attached to every man and represents the sum total of his powers and faculties as the Juno does of the woman: each individual worships his own Genius on his birthday, but the household-cult is concerned with the Genius of the paterfamilias. The established worship of the household then represents the various members of the family and the central points of the domestic activity; but we find also in the ordinary religious life of the family a more direct connexion with morality and a greater religious sense than in any other part of the Roman cult. The family meal is sanctified by the offering of a portion of the food to the household numina: the chief events in the individual life, birth, infancy, puberty, marriage, are all marked by religious ceremonial, in some cases of a distinctively primitive character. The dead, too, though it is doubtful whether in early times they were actually worshipped, at any rate have a religious commemoration as in some sense still members of the family.
The next stage in the logical development of the state religion should naturally be found in the worship of the gens, Agricultural worship. the aggregate of households belonging to one clan, but our information about the gentile worship is so scanty and uncertain that we cannot make practical use of it. It is more profitable to turn from the life of the household to the outdoor occupations of the fields, where the early Roman settler met with his neighbours to celebrate the various stages of the agricultural year in religious ceremonies which afterwards became the festivals of the state calendar. Here we have a series of celebrations representing the occupations of the successive seasons, addressed sometimes to numina who developed later on into the great gods of the state, such as Jupiter, Mars or Ceres, sometimes to vaguer divinities who remained always indefinite and rustic in character, such as Pales and Consus. Sometimes again, as in the case of the Lupercalia (q.v.), the attribution is so indefinite that it is hard to discover who was the special deity concerned; in other cases, such as those of the Robigalia and the Meditrinalia, the festival seems at first to have been addressed generally to any interested numina and only later to have developed an eponymous deity of its own. Roughly we may distinguish three main divisions of the calendar year, the festivals of Spring, of the Harvest and of Winter, preserving on the whole their peculiar characteristics. (1) In the Spring (it must be remembered that the old Roman calendar began the year with March) we have ceremonials of anticipation and prayer for the crops to come: prominent among them are the Fordicidia, with its symbolic slaughter of pregnant cows, addressed to Tellus, the Cerealia, a prayer-service to Ceres for the corn-crop, and the most important of the rustic celebrations of lustration and propitiation, the Parilia, the festival of Pales. To these must be added the Ambarvalia (q.v.), the lustration of the fields, a movable feast (and therefore not found in the calendars) addressed at first to Mars in his original agricultural character (see Mars). (2) Of the Harvest festivals the most significant are the twin celebrations on August 21st and 25th to the divinity-pair Consus and Ops, who are both concerned with the storing of the year's produce, and two mysterious vintage festivals, the Vinalia Rustica and the Meditrinalia, connected originally with Jupiter. (3) The Winter festivals are less homogeneous in character, but we may distinguish among them certain undoubtedly agricultural celebrations, the Saturnalia (at first connected with the sowing of the next year's crop, but afterwards overlaid with Greek ceremonial), and a curious repetition of the harvest festivals to Consus and Ops.
In passing to the religion of the state we are clearly entering on a later period and a more developed form of society. The State religion. loose aggregation of agricultural households gives place to the organized community with new needs and new ideals, and at the same time in religious thought the old vague notion of the numen is almost universally superseded by the more definite conception of the deus—not even now quite anthropomorphic, but with a much more clearly realized personality. We find then two prominent notes of the state influence, firstly, the adaptation of the old ideas of the household and agricultural cults to the broader needs of the community, especially to the new necessities of internal justice between citizens and war against external enemies, and secondly the organization of more or less casual worship into something like a consistent system. Adaptation proceeds at first naturally enough on the lines of analogy. As Janus is in the household the numen of the door, so in the state he is the god associated with the great gate near the corner of the forum: the Penates have their analogy in the Di Penates populi Romani Quiritium by whom the magistrates take their oath on entering office, the Lar familiaris in the Lares Praestites of the community, and the Genius in the new notion of the Genius populi Romani or Genius urbis Romae. But the closest and most curious analogy is seen in the case of Vesta. The Vesta of the state is in fact the king's hearth, standing in closing proximity to the Regia, the king's palace; the Vestal Virgins, who have charge of the sacred fire, are the “king's daughters,” and as such even in republican times were in the manus of the pontifex maximus, who was the successor of the king on the legal side of his religious duties, as the rex sacrorum was on the sacrificial side. But adaptation meant also reflection and the widening of old conceptions under the influence of thought and even of abstract ideas. Thus, the simple reflection that the door is used for the double purpose of entrance and exit leads to the notion of the Janus of the state as bifrons (“two-faced”): the thought of the door as the first part of the house to which one comes, produces the more abstract idea of Janus as the “god of beginning,” in which character he has special charge of the first beginnings of human life (Consevius), the first hour of the day, the Calends of the month and the first month of the year in the later calendar: for the same reason his name takes the first place in the indigitamenta. But development proceeds also on broader and more important lines. Jupiter in the rustic-cult was a sky-god concerned mainly with the wine festivals and associated with the sacred oak on the Capitol. Now he develops a twofold character: as the receiver of the spolia opima he becomes associated with war, especially in the double character of the stayer of rout (Stator) and the giver of victory (Victor), in which last capacity he later gives birth to an offshoot in the abstract conception of the goddess Victoria. As the sky-god again he is appealed to as the witness of oaths in the special capacity of the Dius Fidius, producing once more an abstract offshoot in the goddess Fides. In these two conceptions, justice and war, lie the germs of the later idea of Jupiter as the embodiment of the life of the Roman people both in their internal organization and in their external relations. In much the same manner Mars takes on in addition to his agricultural character the functions of war-god, which in time completely superseded the earlier idea. Finally, we must notice, as the sign of the synoecismus of the two settlements, the inclusion of the Colline deity, Quirinus, apparently the Mars of the originally rival community. In these three deities, Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus, we have the great triad of the earliest stage of the state religion.
Organization showed itself in the fixing of the annual calendar and the development of the character and functions of the priesthood, and as we should expect, in a new conception of the legal relation of the gods to the state. In the earlier stage—whose notions of course still persist alongside of the state religion—each household has its own relations to its numina: now the state approaches the gods through its duly appointed representatives, the magistrates and priests. Their presence is typical of that of the whole people, and the private citizen is required to do no more on festival days than a ceremonial abstinence from work. It is obvious that the state religion has a less direct connexion with morality and the religious sense than the worship of the household, but it has its ethical value in a sense of discipline and a consecration of the spirit of patriotism.
The later stages represent not the spontaneous development of the genuine Roman religion, but its alteration and External influences. supersession by new cults and ideas introduced from foreign sources. Authorities are generally agreed in recognizing three periods:—(1) from the end of the Regal epoch to the second Punic War, when Rome was influenced by other peoples in Italy, with whom she was brought into contact by commerce or war; (2) from the second Punic War to the end of the Republic, when contact with Greek and oriental sources and the growth of literature revolutionized religious notions and led to a philosophic scepticism; (3) the Imperial epoch, opening with a revival of old religious notions and later marked by the official worship of the deified emperors and the wide influence of oriental cults.
(1) By the end of the regal period Rome had ceased to be a mere agricultural community and had developed into a city-state. There had consequently grown up within the state a large artisan class, excluded from the old patrician gentes and therefore from the state cult: at the same time the beginnings of commerce had opened relations with neighbouring peoples. The consequence was the introduction of certain new deities, the di novensides, from external sources, and the birth of new conceptions of the gods and their worship. We may distinguish three main influences, to a certain extent historically successive. (a) Tradition always assigned to the last three kings of Rome a connexion with the mysterious people of Etruria, and their influence at this period though not very Etruria. definite was certainly extensive. To them, possibly through the mediation of Falerii, a Latin town on the Etruscan border, was due the introduction of Minerva, who, as the goddess of handicraft and protectress of the artisan gilds, was established in a temple on the Aventine. Soon, however, she found her way on to the Capitol, and there a new Etruscan triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, possibly going back from Etruria to Greece, was enshrined in a magnificent new temple built by Etruscan workmen and decorated in the Etruscan manner. In this temple the deities were represented by images, and on its dedication day, September 13th, at the novel festival of the opulum Jovis, the images were adorned and set out as partakers of the feast, a proceeding wholly foreign to the native Roman religion (see further Etruria, § Religion). (b) Secondly, in war and peace Rome formed relations with her neighbours of Latium, and, as a sign of the Latin league which resulted, the cult of Diana was brought from Aricia and established on the Aventine in the “commune Latinorum Dianae templum” (Varro, Ling. Lat. v. 43): about the same time was built the temple of Jupiter Latiaris on the Alban mount, its resemblance in style to the new Capitoline temple pointing to Rome's hegemony. So great was Rome's sense of kinship to the Latins that in two cases Latin cults were introduced inside the pomoerium: the worship of Hercules, which came from Tibur in connexion with commerce, was established at the ara maxima in the forum boarium, and the Tusculan cult of Castor as the patron of cavalry found a home close to the forum Romanum: it is a strange irony that both these deities should in reality have been in their origin Greek. Other Italian cults introduced at this period were those of Juno Sospes and Juno Regina, Venus and Fortuna Primigenia, a goddess of childbirth who came from Praeneste. (c) Later on in the same period contact with the cities of Magna Graecia brought about the wide-reaching introduction of the Sibylline books. Whatever may be their origin—and they came from Cumae—they Magna Graecia. were placed in the Capitoline temple under the care of a special commission of two (duoviri sacris faciundis, later decemviri and quindecimviri), and their “oracles,” which were referred to in times of great national stress, recommended the introduction of foreign cults. In 43 B.C., at a time of serious famine, they ordered the building of a temple to the Greek triad Demeter, Dionysus and Persephone, who were identified with the old Roman divinities. Ceres, Liber and Libera: Apollo must have come with or before the books themselves, though his temple was not built till 433 B.C.: Mercury followed, the representative of Ἑρμῆς Ἐμπολαῖος, Asclepius was brought from Epidaurus to the Tiber island in 293 B.C., and Dis and Proserpina, with their strange chthonic associations and night ritual, probably from Tarentum in 249 B.C. With new deities came new modes of worship: the graecus ritus, in which, contrary to Roman usage, the worshipper's head was unveiled, and the lectisternium (q.v.), an elaborate form of the “banquet of the gods.” In this period, then, we find first a legitimate extension of cults corresponding to the needs of the growing community, and secondly a religious restlessness and a consequent tendency to more dramatic forms of worship.
(2) The two chief notes of the next period are superstition and scepticism: both the populace and the educated classes lose faith Greek deities. in the old religion, but they supply its place in different ways. The disasters of the early part of the second Punic War revealed an unparalleled religious nervousness: portents and prodigies were announced from all quarters, it was felt that the divine anger was on the state, yet there was no belief in the efficacy of the old methods for restoring the pax deum. Accordingly recourse is had, under the direction of the Sibylline books, to new forms of appeal for the divine help, the general vowing of the ver sacrum and the elaborate Greek lectisternium after Trasimene in 217 B.C., and the human sacrifice in the forum after Cannae in the following year. The same spirit continues to show itself in the almost reckless introduction of Greek deities even within the walls of the pomoerium and their ready identification with gods of the old religion, whose cult they in reality superseded. Thus we hear of temples dedicated to Juventas = Hebe (191 B.C.), Diana = Artemis (179 B.C.), Mars = Ares (138 B.C.), and nd even such unexpected identifications as that of the Bona Dea (q.v.)—a cult title of the ancient Fauna, the female counterpart of the countryside numen Faunus—with a Greek goddess of women, Damia. At the same time the new acquaintance with Greek art introduces the making of cult statues, in which the identified Greek type is usually adopted without change, with such curious results as the representation of the Penates under the form of the Dioscuri. But more significant still was the order of the Sibylline books in 206 B.C. for the introduction of the worship of the Magna Mater (see Great Mother of the Gods) from Pessinus and her ultimate installation on the Palatine in 191 B.C.: the door was thus opened to the wilder and more orgiastic cults of Greece and the Orient, which at once laid hold on the popular mind. In the train of the Magna Mater came the secret Oriental deities. cult of Bacchus, which grew to such proportions in private worship that it had to be suppressed by decree of the Senate in 186 B.C., and later on were established the cults of Ma of Phrygia, introduced by Sulla and identified with Bellona, the Egyptian Isis, and, after Pompey's war with the pirates, even the Persian Mithras (q.v.). In all these more emotional rituals, the populace sought expression for the religious emotions which were not satisfied by the cold worship of the older deities.
Meanwhile a corresponding change was taking place in the attitude of the educated classes owing to the spread of Greek literature. The knowledge of Greek mythology, to which they were thus introduced, set poets and antiquarians at work in a field wholly foreign to the Roman religious spirit, the task of creating a Roman anthropomorphic mythology. This they accomplished partly by the popular process of adoption and identification, partly by imitative creation. In this way grew up the “religion of the poets,” whose falseness and shallowness was patent even to contemporary thinkers. But more important was the influence of philosophy, which led soon enough to a general scepticism among the upper classes. Its first note is struck by Ennius in his translation of the Scepticism. Sicilian rationalist Euhemerus, who explained the genesis of the gods as apotheosized mortals. In the last century of the Republic the two later Greek schools of Epicureanism and Stoicism laid hold on Roman society. The influence of Epicureanism was wholly destructive to religion, but not perhaps very widespread: Stoicism became the creed of the educated classes and produced several attempts, notably those of Scaevola and Varro, at a reconciliation of philosophy and popular religion, in which it was maintained that the latter was in itself untrue, but a presentation of a higher truth suited to the capacity of the popular mind. Such a theory was bound to be fatal, as it makes religion at once a mere instrument of statecraft.
The result on the old religion was twofold. On the one hand, worship passed into formalism and formalism into disuse. Some of the old cults passed away altogether, others survived in name and form, but were so wholly devoid of inner meaning that even the learning of a Varro could not tell their intention or the character of the deity with whom they were concerned. The old priesthood, and in particular the flaminia, came to be regarded as tiresome restrictions on political life and were neglected: from 87 to 11 B.C. the office of flamen Dialis was vacant. On the other hand, as the result in part of the theory of Stoicism, religion passed into the hands of the politicians: cults were encouraged or suppressed from political motives, the membership of the colleges of pontifices and augurs, now conferred by popular vote, was sought for its social and political advantages, and augury was debased till it became the meanest tool of the politician. In the general wreck of the old religion, little survived but the household cult, protected by its own genuineness and vitality.
(3) The revival of Augustus, which marks the opening of the last stage, was perhaps the most remarkable phenomenon in the whole story. It was no doubt very largely political, a part of his plan for the general renaissance of Roman life, which was to centre no longer round the abstract notion of the state, but round the persons Imperial religion. of an imperial house. But it was genuinely religious, in that he saw that no revival could be effective which did not appeal to the deeper sentiments of the populace. It was thus his business to revitalize the old forms with a new and more vigorous content. His new palace on the Palatine he intended to be primarily the seat of the Julian family and the cults associated with it, and secondarily the centre of the new popular religion. With this object he consecrated there his new temple of Apollo (28 B.C.), associated for long with the Julian house, and adopted by Augustus as his special patron at Actium, and transferred to its keeping the Sibylline books, thus marking the new headquarters of the Graeco-Roman religion. Similar in purpose was his institution of the ludi saeculares in 17 B.C., in which a day celebration was added to the old παννυχὶς, and Apollo and Diana deliberately set up as a counterpart to the Capitoline Jupiter and Juno: Horace's hymn written for the festival is a good epitome of Augustus's religious intentions. In the same spirit he established a new shrine of Vesta Augusta within the palace, a private cult at first, but destined to be a serious rival of the ancient worship in the forum. A still more marked action was the building of a great temple at the end of his own new forum to Mars Ultor,—Mars, the ancestor of the Julian gens, as of the Roman people itself, and now to be worshipped as the avenger of Caesar's murderers. Nor did he hesitate to avail himself of the popular outburst, which immediately after the murder had consecrated the site of Caesar's cremation with a bustum, to erect on the spot a permanent temple to his adopted father, under the definitely religious title of divus Julius. No doubt he also did much generally to revive the ancient cults: he rebuilt, as he tells us himself, eighty-two temples which had fallen into disrepair, he re-established the old priesthoods, filling once more the office of flamen Dialis and reviving such bodies as the Sodales Titii (see Titus Tatius) and the Arval Brothers (q.v.); but the new revival attached itself primarily to these four cults, and their tendency was unmistakable. Originally, no doubt, Augustus designed to attract religious feeling generally to the reigning house, but it was inevitable that the more personal note should be given to it. The deification of Julius Caesar was one important step; another was the natural prominence in the palace of the cult of the Genius of the emperor himself. As the palace cults became national, the worship of the Genius was bound to spread, and ultimately Augustus sanctioned its celebration at the compita together with the worship of the old Lares. But here he and the wiser of his successors drew the line, and though under oriental influence divine honours were paid to the living emperor outside Italy, they were never permitted officially in Rome. In the succeeding centuries Augustus's intentions were realized with a fullness which he would hardly have wished, and the cult of the imperial house practically superseded the state religion as the official form of worship.
With this last period the story of Roman religion really draws to a close. For, though the form of the old cults was long preserved and even Antoninus Pius was honoured in an inscription for his care of the ancient rites of religion, the vital spirit was almost gone. In the popular mind, the hosts of exciting oriental cults, which in the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Empire filled Rome with the rites of mysticism and initiation, held undisputed sway; and with the more educated a revived philosophy, less accurate perhaps in thought, but more satisfying to the religious conscience, gave men a clearer monotheistic conception, and a notion of individual relations with the divine in prayer and even of consecration. It was with these elements—fiercely antagonistic because, so closely allied in character—that the battle of Christianity was really fought, and though, after its official adoption, the old religion lingered on as “paganism” and died hard at the end, it was really doomed from the moment when the Augustan revival had taken its irrecoverable bias in the direction of the emperor-worship.
Bibliography.—(a) General.—Preller, Römische Mythologie, edited by Jordan; Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, vol. iii., edited by Wissowa; Th. Mommsen, History of Rome; E. Aust, Die Religion der Römer; G. Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer and Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur römischen Religions- und Stadtgeschichte; W. Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals; J. B. Carter, The Religion of Numa; W. H. Roscher, Lexicon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie; Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft; Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. See further, Greek Religion; Mithras; Etruria, Religion; and articles on the deities, festivals and colleges.
(b) Special.—For the Imperial Period, G. Boissier, La Religion romaine d'Auguste aux Antonins: La fin du Paganisme; Henzen, Acta Fratrum Arvalium; for the private and gentile cults, A. de Marchi, Il culto private di Roma Antica. (C. Ba.)
- e.g. by De Marchi.
- See, however, De Marchi, Il Culto Privato di Roma Antica, vol. ii.