Roman Empire | Roman Religious Practices

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[1] Mommsen, Hist. of Rome (E.T.), vol. ii. p. 433.

[2] Cumont, Les Religions orientales dans le paganisme romain, p. 36. Cp. Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, p. 63. Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God, vol. ii. p. 133.

[3] See some valuable remarks in Lord Cromer's Modern Egypt, vol. ii. p. 135.

[4] Since this lecture was written this scholar has passed away, to the great grief of his many friends; and I refrain from mentioning his name.

[5] Ira W. Howerth, in International Journal of Ethics, 1903, p. 205. I owe the reference to R. Karsten, The Origin of Worship, Wasa, 1905, p. 2, note. Cp. E. Caird, Gifford Lectures ("Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers"), vol. i. p. 32. "That which underlies all forms of religion, from the highest to the lowest, is the idea of God as an absolute power or principle." To this need only be added the desire to be in right relation to it. Mr. Marett's word "supernaturalism" seems to mean the same thing; "There arises in the region of human thought a powerful impulse to objectify, and even to personify, the mysterious or supernatural something felt; and in the region of will a corresponding impulse to render it innocuous, or, better still, propitious, by force of constraint (i.e. magic), communion, or conciliation." See his Threshold of Religion, p. 11. Prof. Haddon, commenting on this (Magic and Fetishism, p. 93), adds that "there are thus produced the two fundamental factors of religion, the belief in some mysterious power, and the desire to enter into communication with the power by means of worship." Our succinct definition seems thus to be adequate.

[6] The Golden Bough, ed. 2, vol. i. p. 62.

[7] Liberal Protestantism, p. 64.

[8] For religio as a feeling essentially, see Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer, p. 318 (henceforward to be cited as R.K.). For further development of the meaning of the word in Latin literature, see the author's paper in Proceedings of the Congress for the History of Religions (Oxford, 1908), vol. ii. p. 169 foll. A different view of the original meaning of the word is put forward by W. Otto in Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, vol. xii., 1909, p. 533 (henceforward to be cited as Archiv simply). See also below, p. 459 foll.

[9] See, e.g., Frazer in Anthropological Essays presented to E. B. Tylor, p. 101 foll.

[10] Staatsverwaltung, iii. p. 2. This will henceforward be cited as Marquardt simply. It forms part of the great Handbuch der römischen Alterthümer of Mommsen and Marquardt, and is translated into French, but unfortunately not into English. I may add here that I have only recently become acquainted with what was, at the time it was written, a remarkably good account of the Roman religion, full of insight as well as learning, viz. Döllinger's The Gentile and the Jew, Book VII. (vol. ii. of the English translation, 1906).

[11] Two fragments of ancient carmina, i.e. formulae which are partly spells and partly hymns, survive--those of the Fratres Arvales and the Salii or dancing priests of Mars. For surviving formulae of prayer see below, p. 185 foll. Our chief authority on the ritual of prayer and sacrifice comes from Iguvium in Umbria, and is in the Umbrian dialect; it will be referred to in Bücheler's Umbrica (1883), where a Latin translation will be found. The Umbrian text revised by Prof. Conway forms an important part of that eminent scholar's work on the Italian dialects.

[12] F. Leo, in Die griechische und lateinische Literatur und Sprache, p. 328. Cp. Schanz, Geschichte der röm. Literatur, vol. i. p. 54 foll.

[13] Among Roman poets Ovid is the worst offender, Propertius and Tibullus mislead in a less degree; but they all make up for it to some extent by preserving for us features of the worship as it existed in their own day. The confusion that has been caused in Roman religious history by mixing up Greek and Roman evidence is incalculable, and has recently been increased by Pais (Storia di Roma, and Ancient Legends of Roman History), and by Dr. Frazer in his lectures on the early history of Kingship--writers to whom in some ways we owe valuable hints for the elucidation of Roman problems. See also Soltau, Die Anfänge der römischen Geschichtsschreibung, 1909, p. 3.

[14] Most welcome to English readers has been Mr. T. E. Peet's recently published volume on The Stone and Bronze Ages in Italy, and still more valuable for our purposes will be its sequel, when it appears, on the Iron Age.

[15] Roman Festivals, p. 142 foll.; henceforward to be cited as R.F.

[16] See Virgil's Messianic Eclogue, by Mayor, Fowler, and Conway, p. 75 foll.

[17] Wissowa, R.K. p. 227.

[18] An account of this in English, with photographs, will be found in Pais's Ancient Legends of Roman History, p. 21 foll., and notes.

[19] Mannhardt, Mythologische Forschungen, p. 72 foll.

[20] Ibid., p. 156 foll.

[21] Lectures on the Early History of Kingship, lectures 7-9.

[22] Not long after these last sentences were written, a large work appeared by Dr. Binder, a German professor of law, entitled Die Plebs, which deals freely with the oldest Roman religion, and well illustrates the difficulties under which we have to work while archaeologists, ethnologists, and philologists are still constantly in disagreement as to almost every important question in the history of early Italian culture. Dr. Binder's main thesis is that the earliest Rome was composed of two distinct communities, each with its own religion, i.e. deities, priests, and sacra; the one settled on the Palatine, a pastoral folk of primitive culture, and of pure Latin race; the other settled on the Quirinal, Sabine in origin and language, and of more advanced development in social and religious matters. So far this sounds more or less familiar to us, but when Dr. Binder goes on to identify the Latin folk with the Plebs and the Sabine settlement with the Patricians, and calls in religion to help him with the proof of this, it is necessary to look very carefully into the religious evidence he adduces. So far as I can see, the limitation of the word patrician to the Quirinal settlement is very far from being proved by this evidence (see The Year's Work in Classical Studies, 1909, p. 69). Yet the hypothesis is an extremely interesting one, and were it generally accepted, would compel us to modify in some important points our ideas of Roman religious history, and also of Roman legal history, with which Dr. Binder is mainly concerned.

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