Religious transformation in the Roman Empire (pt.I.)


In some respects the pagan religion of the Romans can be described as if it was a timeless unchanging system. This is to some extent misleading: as we could read previously, the introduction of new cults was a regular event. More significantly still, the city’s whole religious life was in fact adjusted quite dramatically to the realities of power in the state: we know enough, for example, to be certain that the religion of early Rome was built around the position of the king; that in the religion of the late Republic, the location of authority within the system had become fragmented so that power was shared between the senate, the popular assemblies, the many priests of different kinds and the magistrates of the particular year; and that by the end of Augustus’ reign (14 AD), there had been such radical restructuring that the Emperor can be said not only to be the head of the state religion but to be reorganizing the whole cult around his house, his family.

All religious decisions seem to come to him; he has become almost the only human to be depicted in the act of sacrificing to the gods; and his own status has risen almost to that of a god himself. The Emperor in many ways plays the role of guaranteeing Rome’s relationship with the gods that once had been shared between the whole ruling elite. In some ways, this religious transformation is the most important change of all in the period of the establishment of the new monarchy.

These were of course radical changes, and they would have horrified Cicero’s contemporaries had they lived to see them; but a far deeper transformation of religious life was in progress that affected not just the public life of the Empire, but the experience of all its inhabitants. The religion of Rome before 1 BC, like that of many cities of the ancient world, was an inherent part of the city’s life and activity. The individual assumed a certain religious place derived from his or her family, trade or dwelling and participated more or less actively in the festivals and ceremonies of the state, many of which had both central and domestic rituals associated with them. It is an oversimplification to say that this was a religion of ritual alone; but the specific nature of the individual’s ideas or beliefs was not an issue, as long as he or she conformed to a normal pattern of behaviour. That does not mean that some were not sceptical and others pious; but such variations had no consequences in terms of provoking persecution or of converting from one religion to another. There were no alternative religions to which one could convert at the time.

Four hundred years later, the social location and significance of religion had changed radically. By this time, a range of religions (Judaism, Christianity, paganism), cults (Mithraism, the Isis cult) and sects within religions (Arianism, Donatism, Orthodoxy) were competing for members. The notion of competition should not be exaggerated here: there was a great deal of peaceful co-existence and mutual tolerance as well as conflict. We know of families in which some members were Christian, some pagan; and we know of cities where there seems to have been no real violence for long periods. What is beyond all doubt, however, is that individual members by birth of one religion often converted to a different religion as a result of a change of conviction. The option to do so now existed and individuals – as well as whole families – made use of it. This is logically implied by the fact that Christianity started as a tiny group (in the 30s AD) and grew, very slowly at first, over the course of three centuries. In this period, in each generation the Christian groups must have contained a high percentage of converted pagans. The mixing of paganism and Christianity will have happened both externally between the rival groups and internally in the minds and hearts of the converts.

One approach to the question, and a traditional one, is implied by concentrating more on events internal to pagan life and less on the competition with new religions. Two trends have been very much emphasized in the past: the first was the rise to major importance of mystery cults; the second was a supposed trend towards monotheism, which allegedly predisposed pagans to accept a Judaeo-Christian outlook. Both these ideas have formed part of a coherent scheme of staged development starting from polytheism, passing through mystery cults and belief in the afterlife, then through monotheism to the final culmination in Christianity. The scheme was essentially a (brilliant) nineteenth-century construction and is no longer defended or defensible, though its assumptions may still be powerful.

One problem with the scheme is that the elements that are supposed to represent ‘progress’ were in fact already present in religious life long before the Roman Empire in both Greece and Italy. The mystery cults, for instance, clearly went back in their basic structure at least to the early Greek society of the sixth century BC and the idea of monotheism was discussed and highly influential also in early Greek thought. The Stoics believed in worshipping the gods and goddesses, but they saw them only as aspects of the single divine principle, the logos – the rationality inherent in the nature of the universe.

In some sense, both mystery cult and philosophical ideas about a single deity may be seen as anticipations of what happened in later history, but it is also entirely clear that both could co-exist for very long periods in a pagan and polytheist environment. Neither the existence of the mysteries nor the possibility that all the gods should be seen as a unity proved fatal to pagan practice over hundreds of years. What is needed is a demonstration that some quite new factor arose in the imperial period and that its emergence caused the collapse of polytheistic ideas.

The particular mysteries that were most prominent in these years were those of Isis, claiming to have originated in Egypt; of Attis and Cybele from Asia Minor; of Bacchus, immediately from Greece, but originally from further afield; and of Mithras from Persia. In every case, there is some substance in the claimed origin, but also a substratum of the older Greek mysteries. Perhaps, the eastern connections resulted from real contacts with the east or easterners; perhaps, it was no more than a veneer of easternness, derived from reading or learning. Mysterious wisdom was known to be a possession of the ancient eastern civilizations and the cults must have derived prestige from the association as well as natural supporters among the descendants of easterners living in the west. The cults did have some elements in common: they all had a mystery only revealed to the initiate at a ceremony; they all seem to have offered a personal experience of the divine and some contact with an experience of symbolic death and rebirth. But, beyond these basic points, they had very different ideas and systems.

The cult of Mithras, for instance, excluded women from its groups, whereas the other cults did not. It also had its own special appeal to two groups of people: soldiers in the frontier zones and freedmen in Rome and in Ostia (the port of Rome). On the other hand, there is little evidence that it had any importance among the elite groups of Rome, even though leading Romans played their parts in the cult when on the frontiers. The main evidence about the cult’s character has to be inferred from the decoration and imagery of Mithraic shrines or caves, which were the characteristic meeting-places of the cult, where cult-meals were probably held in honour of the god. There is also a plentiful and varied tradition of sculpture, including the scene of bull-slaying by Mithras himself.

There is hardly any written evidence about the ideas of the cult’s adherents from their own point of view; and even Christian writers, so loquacious about paganism in other contexts, tell us little in this case. We know that there was an elaborately structured system of grades, so that the individual group member would have undergone a series of initiations starting out under the grade of ‘raven’ and moving up through five grades (‘male bride’, ‘soldier’, ‘lion’, ‘Persian’, ‘sun-runner’) to become finally a‘father’. Each of these grades was under the protection of a planet, including the sun and moon, starting from Mercury and finishing with Saturn. These grades, and the movements of individuals through them, must have been controlled by theories about the universe and about the connections between stars and human experience on the earth. The individual ascent through the seven grades must have reflected the soul’s progress through the stars. It seems clear that they were combining in a very original way the old idea of the mystery cult and up-to-date ideas about the stars and the universe. The details are all very controversial and it is far from certain that the same theory was being applied in all the parts of the Empire… [To be continued]

Books of interest can be found at the bottom of the page here


Religion in the Roman Empire (pt.III.)


The Romans had a clear sense that the dead needed to be remembered and honoured and there were annual festivals to achieve this. At the festival of the Parentalia, which occupied nine days in February, offerings were brought by families to the tombs or graves of their families outside the walls of the city. The next day after the end of this period was a time of reunion and reconciliation amongst the living members of the family. It was an obligation of those who inherited an estate to maintain the sacra of the family, that is to ensure that the rituals for the ancestors were properly carried out. All this implied that there was a sense of the continuing existence and power of the dead, at least in the mass if not as individual personalities.

Families – at least elite families – also kept a memorial of their ancestors in the form of wax masks, likenesses that lived in the atrium of the house; at noble funerals these masks were worn by actors dressed in the triumphal or magisterial robes of the dead man as part of the procession that followed the corpse. Imperial funerals were later modeled on this ritual. This implies that the family as a unit was conceived as developing its glory over time. It does not imply any concern with the individual’s survival of death.

In the second festival, in the middle of May, the dead were conceived in a different way and called lemures (hostile spirits); the ritual was intended to placate them and keep them away from the living. Ovid in his Fasti connects this ritual with the violent death of the founder Remus, killed by his own brother Romulus; this may not be entirely reliable, but it does suggest that the idea underlying the festival concerned the restless ghosts of those who had been abused. At least, the evidence suggests that the two festivals expressed opposite visions of the dead, at peace or not at peace.

It is usually argued that a concern with the individual’s survival of death originated in the period of the Empire, partly under the influence of Greek philosophy, partly in the so-called mystery cults and in the context of Christianity. This is all highly questionable in the case of the mysteries. At least in the case of pagans, however, it seems certain that there was a widespread debate of which people were aware; tombstones quite regularly assert the dead person’s rejection of the idea of survival, worked so as to imply that others do believe in it.

The dead must in this case have been carrying on an argument familiar among the living. Here as elsewhere we must never forget the limits of the subject under discussion: ‘paganism’ as such had no explicit beliefs or doctrines that were codified, debated or challenged as such; individuals of course had their thoughts and doubts, but in earlier Rome such ideas would have had no consequences, good or bad, because the question of leaving the religion and joining a different one did not arise. It was only with the emergence of religious alternatives that the nature of such religious issues became transformed.

Books of interest can be found at the bottom of the page here

Religion in the Roman Empire (pt.II.)

In many ways, the most important evidence we have about the religious history of Rome comes from a set of records, mostly though not exclusively preserved on stone, and mostly dating from the age of the first emperor, Augustus (31 BC-14 AD). They provide us with quite elaborate calendars of Roman religion, mainly as it was in the republican era, though with some more recent anniversaries noted. These calendars in their fullest versions encode a great deal of information not just about religious festivals, but about the legal status of different days and the organization of time in relation to public life. Days are given individual markings, showing whether the popular assemblies could meet, the courts sit and so on. All these matters fell within the responsibility of the college of pontifices. Some sets of calendars also have attached notes explaining the entries and probably derived from the work of Roman scholars of the late republican period.

The calendars seem to reveal a distinction between festivals marked in capital letters and those, seemingly added to the calendar at a later date, in smaller letters. The capital-letter festivals seem to represent some older stage of the calendar’s history: they do not, for instance, include the different sets of games (ludi) which became important later on and which are mostly recorded as introductions of the republican period; again, the great gods of the later period do not have festivals of their own, whereas many gods and goddesses, later completely obscure, do. So, the calendars provide us with another example of the pattern of slow change and adjustment of Roman religious life, even in a document intended to reflect an unchanging annual rhythm. The copies of this calendar, widely distributed under the rule of Augustus, must show what importance was attached to the religious tradition as a marker of what it was to share a Roman identity, as all Italians were by the late Republic supposed to do, since they had all received the citizenship of Rome during the preceding century.

When it comes to the interpretation of these festivals, we have a quite rich tradition to turn to – especially a poetic account of the calendar written by the Augustan poet Ovid (43 BC-17 AD) and covering the first six months of the year, but also including scattered writings derived from the antiquarian tradition of the late republican period. At one time this body of material was methodically scoured to see whether it could tell us about the earliest periods of Roman history; scholars today often regard that as a misguided search, but use the same material to assess the religious attitudes of the writers’ own period. The results are surprising: what characterizes the tradition is the variety of different interpretations of the same festivals that emerges. Ovid in particular is proud to display a number of different views: sometimes he calls them Greek, sometimes Italian, sometimes they contradict one another, sometimes they are compatible. Ovid does not declare his choice among the possibilities he expounds. The view now being argued is that Romans did not expect their festivals to have a fixed canonical meaning. The rituals were thought of as never-changing, but evidently the meaning for those experiencing them was not fixed, at least over any period of time. We can prove this clearly in a handful of cases: for example, the Parilia is celebrated as a festival of shepherds, but later as the Birthday of Rome. If this is right, then the later commentators, like Ovid, are simply echoing the range of possible meanings that participants would have attributed to them at the time.

Divination was an area to which the Romans gave a good deal of attention and on which they prided themselves for their care and concern – at least as remembered from the time of their ancestors. Late republicans tell us that originally nothing was done, no action attempted, without a prior consultation of the gods. Various priests (haruspices, quindecimviri, augures) were involved and could give advice, though in this case as in others, it was the magistrates not the priests who carried out many of the rituals on the state’s behalf. At least so far as our records go, the most prominent feature of this activity was not so much foretelling the future as communicating warnings and advice as to which deities needed to be offered sacrifices or piacular offerings. Even if, as is quite possible, our sources deliberately play down the prophetic elements and play up the pious fulfilling of ritual obligations, it was undoubtedly a major part of the diviner’s job to identify the deities and the ceremonies needed.

The Romans distinguished between signs for which the diviner asked (impetrativa) and those that the gods sent on their own initiative (oblativa), warning of dangers to the state. The most distinctive form of warning was the prodigy (prodigium), whole lists of which are recorded, particularly by Livy for the middle to late Republic. To judge by these lists, a prodigy could be any event that the Romans judged to be outside the normal course of nature. Some of them we should classify as miraculous (for example the raining from the sky of blood, milk or stones), but many were natural or at least believable events: the birth of deformed animals, the intrusion of wild animals into urban space, lightning striking buildings and even natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. They do all tend to involve the transgressing of some boundary, seen by the Romans as natural and they all imply the need for placatory action.

The senate was the authority that dealt initially with all prodigies; they sought the advice of the specialists in the particular field and followed their advice. Measures taken to deal with prodigies generally consisted of rituals, but all the priests sometimes produced at least generalized warnings. There was nothing unacceptable about prediction as such, and on formal occasions such as the declaration of a war the diviners (haruspices) did predict victory and expansion of the frontiers. The augurs were responsible for consultations either before action in the city or before campaigns and battles. They sought the answer to straightforward questions of consent or denial; without consent the action could not or should not proceed. There was, however, no question of the gods guaranteeing victory or success in advance. It seems a more useful approach to say that the gods and goddesses were seen as a part of the community, sharing in the activities and at least normally supporting the Romans in whatever they did. But their support could not be taken for granted: it was earned by the care and skill of the priests and magistrates. The Romans succeeded because they were so scrupulous in the execution of the religio the gods required.

In the republican period, there was no question that contemporary human beings could ever cross the dividing line between the human and the divine. Only in the mythical past were they aware of Romans who had become gods. In the very late Republic, this line started to be blurred, as increasingly superhuman honours began to be conceded to the great generals who were conquering the known world – Pompey and, most of all, Caesar. All the same, in Rome itself, living men did not receive divine honours even in the imperial period; but this was not true of the provinces, where the living Emperor could be and was the object of a full cult.

In Rome itself, there was a quite elaborate ceremony that developed in the course of the first century AD, in which, after orations in praise of the dead Emperor and a parade involving the members of the elite of Rome, his body was ritually burned on an elaborate pyre and his soul, symbolized by the flight of an eagle, ascended to the heavens. This ceremony only took place after the senate had recognized that he had become a god; some emperors were never so recognized at all, apparently because the senate disapproved of their rule. In their life-times, a careful ritual distinction was maintained between the dead divine emperors (the divi), to whom sacrifice was offered directly, and the living ruler, who received no sacrifices for himself, only for his genius (inherited spirit?). The divi themselves were very prominent in the space of the city as much of the new temple building was in their honour, including some of the grandest temples ever built in Rome.

These careful distinctions applied apparently only inside Rome. Everywhere else, sacrifice took place, though sometimes it is recorded as for rather than to the Emperor. There was no direction from the centre, so the cult was organized and devised in the various regions and cities of the Empire. But temples to the Emperor, or to him together with the goddess Roma, games in his honour, priests of his cult and so on, all were to be found throughout the provinces. Cities competed in devising festivals in his honour more spectacular than those of their rivals. Statues and images of him abounded in the cities.

There is no doubt that all this is important, but it is also important not to get the new cult out of proportion. The new gods in no sense replaced the old ones: they did not become the recipients of prayers or vows, or play any role in the private lives of the citizens. They did not offer cures or help with childbirth. Their place was in the public arena. It is also a mistake to think that this was in any sense a new religion different from traditional paganism: it fitted neatly into the pattern of the multiplicity of gods and goddesses worshipped in the vast areas of the Empire, offering no challenge to the belief in the old gods. Modern interpreters have often found the whole phenomenon deeply problematic; ancient commentators sometimes found it a suitable subject for wit, but few ancients seem to have protested or refused to participate apart from the Christians, for whom it was used as a test of their commitment. [To be continued…]

Books of interest can be found at the bottom of the page here

Religion in the Roman Empire (pt.I.)

Much of the practice of Roman pagan religion seems at first sight deceptively familiar to us: the conceptions were much the same – there were deities, prayers, vows, sacrifices, festivals, sacred persons and sacred spaces. There was a constant need to consult the deities about what should happen or be done and much the same acceptance that prayers might be answered or not answered, but that the pious must maintain their devotion even when the situation was at a low ebb. There was also a distinction between proper devotion to the gods and excessive concern about them, for which the Roman term was superstition. A good deal of the vocabulary is the same too: superstitio, religio, sacrificium. But such parallels can be deeply deceptive. It is all too easy to think, without thinking too much, that the Romans had a religion just like modern ones, that we can coin a word ‘pagan-ism‘ and it will mean the same as religio does for the Romans. But modern religions are systems of belief and systems of morality, while religio seems only to concern the institutions and practices of religious life. Not of course that the Romans lacked beliefs or morality, but their religious system did not explicitly connect a set of rituals with particular ideas and beliefs.

The gods and goddesses of the Roman people were literally without number. There were some high gods and goddesses, with complex different functions and rituals – Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Mars, Diana – who were consistently important in all periods. They were, however, not formed into a pantheon, but they certainly did have areas in which they specialized. Mostly they were shared with other Italian communities, especially Mars who was important throughout Italy, not just where Latin was spoken as by the Romans, but also in the areas of southern Italy where the language was Oscan, as for example by the Samnites. It is clear that these deities were very early on identified with corresponding Greek ones, and these identifications remain constant over time. So far as we can tell, there were few local myths that belonged to the Roman gods and no tradition that they had family relationships like Greek gods. They borrowed Greek stories and it is often these that we meet in later poets.

There were then innumerable grades of lesser gods. Some were specific to one particular place or one natural process, for example the growing of crops. Some were identified with what might be seen as human products, such as Terminus who was the boundary marker of the farm. Specific deities were the patrons of the household and the farm, especially the Lares and Penates, and were worshipped in individual families. Other gods were associated with a specific moment in the calendar of festivals and never occur except in that single annual ritual moment. Some gods seem not to receive worship in the city, but belong to the countryside or the wilds. Some are revealed and defined by a single spot and a single moment in history.

New gods were discovered or introduced at most periods of Roman history. Romans had a strong sense of the Roman-ness of the gods of Rome, but no sense that they should constitute a closed list or that newcomers would not be welcome. Gods are sometimes introduced from abroad, as the healing god Aesculapius from Greece in 296 BC or Magna Mater (Cybele) from Asia Minor in 207 BC; or tempted out from enemy cities and offered cult by the Romans; or identified with the many personifications recognized by the Romans in the course of the third-second centuries BC. This preparedness to experiment and innovate continued in the imperial period, not least in the inscribed records, preserved in large quantities, of a priestly group called the Arval Brethren, where we still find a constant process of adaptation and development.

This all raises some problems for the understanding of the whole situation. In many ways the Roman religious tradition was and had to be deeply conservative: it placed huge emphasis on the accurate repetition of religious rituals – even the smallest aberration led to a repeat performance (instauratio) of the whole; the rituals were supposed to have been handed by the religious founder Numa Pompilius, the second Roman king (traditional dates 715-673 BC), to the first of the Roman priests; so the Roman religious order depended fundamentally on the retention of this revealed ritual practice. In many cases, we do not know how the apparent opposition between conservatism and innovation was reconciled in practice; but part of the answer must lie in the Romans’ tendency to see as the revival of some ancient practice or forgotten deity what we might prefer to call an innovation. Thus, for instance, the Magna Mater, apparently a strange and foreign goddess, turns out in Roman poets to be the goddess of Troy, and so an ancestral power re-accepted. In any case, the reality for the historian must be innovation, even when contemporaries could not or did not accept it as such.

The Romans from a very early date had a rich variety of priestly groups (collegia or sodalitates) with defined and specialized functions. These seem always to have been responsible for choosing their own members and for keeping their own records and lists of members, though their numbers seem to have been fixed and changes were made by state legislation not by the colleges themselves. The duties of the groups varied widely, from officiating or performing at a single occasion in the calendar (as the Luperci on 15 February – the Lupercalia) to taking general responsibility for a whole area of religious activity (as the fetiales take responsibility for the rituals of declaring war and making treaties). Four groups (pontifices, augures, quindecimviri, septemviri) were regarded as the major colleges and their affairs were controlled by law in the late Republic, while others remained under their own control.

All the priests had some ritual duties to perform and it might be assumed that originally they were primarily ritual officers. By the late Republic and later, when we have reliable information, they presided over the rituals and carried out symbolic actions, but had many assistants who carried out the killing of victims and the watching of birds on their behalf. The priests themselves, at least in the most important colleges, were almost all leading men of the political oligarchy; in many cases we know the priesthoods they held – Cicero and Mark Antony were augures, Caesar the pontifex maximus. Members of the top families of the ruling elite often took these priesthoods at an early age, before they had become senators and started on their political careers.

The role in which we know them best and can see them at work through the surviving sources is not as religious agents, but as religious advisors. The state’s main religious agents were in fact the high magistrates (consuls and praetors), who held the sacrifices, formally consulted the gods/goddesses and took vows to them binding the state to future actions. The priests appear as helpers and advisors, dictating the formulas to the magistrate; or else as experts on the religious law (the ius divinum). They kept books which contained (or were supposed to contain) the rituals and the precedents from earlier rulings on points of religious law. It was in this capacity that the senate when faced with religious decisions consulted the priests. Even here, however, the final decision lay not with the priests, who only gave a statement as to the rules of the sacred law, but with the senate itself; only they could produce action, even though they followed the priests’ advice.

The origins of this complex system of priesthood must go back to very early times, but in the form we actually meet it in the second/third centuries BC it is clear that it expresses in religious terms the dominant theory of the republican era. Power over religious matters in the state was distributed as widely as it could be: the priesthoods themselves had rules that prevented more than one member of any family from joining any particular college and any individual from joining more than one college; meanwhile the religious issues concerning the state were divided between the colleges so that none had a monopoly of advice. It is true that the pontifex maximus had great authority, but in no sense was he or anyone else the head of the system. The significance of this system became dramatically apparent as soon as the Republic broke down and the new emperor almost at once appropriated all the priesthoods of any significance and also became permanently the pontifex maximus.

The ritual of sacrifice is a key to the whole religious order of the Romans. Sacrifices were involved in all the main festivals and occurred before any military action or in any celebration of victory. Images of sacrifice are to be found not just when sacrificial events are recorded as on bas-reliefs, but also when sacrificial instruments are depicted regularly as artistic motifs. The imagery of a monument such as the Ara Pacis – whose primary references are to victory, peace and the glory of the ruling dynasty – is in fact full of sacrificial elements. Meanwhile, under the Empire, the image of the sacrificer, presented as a magistrate with his toga pulled over his head pouring incense from a saucer onto an altar, became virtually the monopoly of the reigning emperor, a familiar expression of his power.

The ritual was quite elaborate and governed by rules that had to be respected and an order of events to be followed. The victim had to be selected in relation to the god or goddess to whom the sacrifice was to be addressed, in terms of its sex, age and colour; it had to be brought willingly to the altar of the appropriate deity, and sanctified by placing wine and meal on its head (this element was called the immolation (immolatio)); a prayer had to be spoken, naming the deity for whom the victim was intended. The killing had to be instantaneous and the monuments show us how in the case of a large victim the animal was stunned by a blow from a mallet, while a knife was simultaneously slipped into its neck. Any struggle or escape by the victim was very unpropitious. The next stage was the extispicy, the inspection of the entrails by a diviner; at its simplest this confirmed that the sacrifice was acceptable, but more explicit interpretations could be sought and given. Then, when the sacrifice had been confirmed, the carcass was elaborately butchered and the entrails returned to the gods, together with their particular share of the meat. The rest was cooked on the spot and eaten at a feast by the participants; alternatively at least some of the meat found its way on to the meat market.

The Romans are remarkably silent on the significance of this ritual to them. We have no interpretation at all from a believing Roman, only one from a Greek observer and one from a third-century AD Christian convert (Dionysius of Halicarnassus; Arnobius, Against the Gentiles Book VII). Some aspects can be clearly established: the victims were almost invariably farm animals, and were normally eaten – and it may be that a sacrifice gave much of the population their only opportunity to eat meat at all. The effect of the sacrifice must have been to identify the separation, but also the interaction, of men and gods – sharing in the ritual and even sharing in the food, but in food carefully divided between them. It is relevant here that the Romans regularly brought out their gods and goddesses from inside their temple-homes and offered them meals. The second clear point is that there were communications between humans and deities implicit in the ritual programme: the behaviour of the victim and the state of its entrails indicated the acceptance or otherwise of the gods; humans communicated verbally by prayer, but also symbolically by the choice of victim, by the conduct of the ritual, by the offering of the deity’s share. Finally, the whole procedure was informed by the skills and knowledge of the participants on which success of the transaction depended. [To be continued…]

Books of interest

Emperor worship and Roman religion

An introduction to Roman religion

Archaic Roman religion

A companion to Roman religion