Religion in the Roman Empire
Religion in the Roman Empire was extremely diverse, due to Rome’s ability to blend in new religious beliefs from freshly conquered territory into the empire, from the Hebrew Religion in Palestine, the Classical Greek Gods of Homer in Asia Minor, the Druids in Gaul and Germania and Celt’s in Britannia, Rome’s religious tolerance was a vital hallmark which greatly attributed in its ability to successfully mend in new people and cultures into the empire. Rome’s religious toleration extended to new religions as long as they agreed to worship the Emperor and religious rituals stayed in the context of Roman civility, which refrained from practicing human sacrifices or mutilation, and did not incite rebellion. Since Roman religion was not based on a core belief which forbade the introduction of other religious beliefs such as the Hebrew and later Christian religion, but rather a mixture of Latin and Greek religious influence with added deities as the empire expanded, which encompassed individual family household gods, regional and the classic Roman and Greek deities such as the Roman God Neptune or Greek counterpart Poseidon, both gods of the sea, the introduction of new religious practices into Roman life was very acceptable. As more and more diverse deities made their way into Rome from the conquered provinces, an individual’s search for reward in the afterlife or in life, influenced Roman cultural integration and choosing whether or not to worship newly introduced deities. During the Greek Archaic period, the worship of the Homeric Gods found in Homers The Iliad and The Odyssey written around 750 B.C., which displayed the relationship between Bronze age Gods and Goddesses and the Homeric Greek Heroes of the Iliad such as Achilles, Prince, Agamemnon and Menelaus during the Greek Achaeans decade long siege of Troy, as well as Odysseus relationship with the Gods on his long return to his wife, son and kingdom in Ithaca after the Achaeans victory over the Trojan in 1190 B.C.. During this period the Gods were wary much involved with the daily lives of Greeks in Homer, such as in the Odyssey, Odysseus troublesome journey homeward after the Fall of Troy was due the Sea God Poseidon who hated Odysseus for blinding his son the Cyclops, and daughter of Zeus the goddess of wisdom Athena’s devotion to adding Odysseus in his journey and his son Telemachus against the suitors who invaded his home in hopes of wedding his devoted mother Penelope, by coming down to earth as different forms ranging from a little girl to an old man, to mentor or assist Odysseus and Telemachus. Latter Classical and Hellenistic Age Greeks believed such divine intervention and direct contact between Gods and humans were true, but ceased to occur past the Bronze Age due to the passage of time away from creation and pollution of the purity that once was Earth during the Homeric period which allowed the God’s to interact and walk amongst the Greeks of the Bronze Age period. These Archaic Greek religious influences made their way to the Italian Peninsula via Greek colonies in Sicily and southern Italy during 8th and 7th centuries. However, the as Roman culture evolved, they took these Greek God’s and Goddesses and slightly fitted them according to their cultural Latin traditions and beliefs, changing their names and adding or reducing character traits, to fit a more disciplined Roman culture. However, much of the background tales remained similar, for example in book eight of Homers The Odyssey, the tale of the Greek God of War Ares love affair with the Greek God of Love Aphrodite is discovered and entrapped in the act by Aphrodite husband Hephaestus who parades them in front of the other Gods, similarly the Roman poet Ovid in Metamorphoses book 4, depicts the Roman God of War Mars and God of Love Venus affair being discovered by the Sun who told Venus husband Vulcan who made a trap to catch them in...
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