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Etruria, lest any form be neglected, and so had three kinds at their command: their own auspices; the Etruscan haruspices; and the oracles contained in the Sibylline books (Cicero, ib., i, 2); while, in addition, they occasionally consulted the Pythian oracle at Delphoi (Livy, i, 56; v, 15; xxix, 10). The Romans had thus accepted two foreign teachers in religion: the Etruscans, who had a moderate early influence; and the virile, aggressive Greeks of Magna Græcia.
The religious invasion.
Before the Republic, prominent Italic deities, such as Minerva of Etruria, Diana of Aricia, and Hercules of Tibur (Livy, i, 45), had been received in Rome without disturbing the sobriety of the religious morale or the sense of duty of the citizens to their gods; and when, in the first years of the Republic, famine threatened (496) B.C.), the Senate, following the directions found in the 'books,' invited three Greek divinities, Dionysos, Demeter, and Kore, to Rome. They were given the names of similar old Roman deities, Liber, Ceres, and Libera; but their cults remained entirely Greek; and since the city was reserved for native gods, these foreigners were given a temple outside the pomarium which marked the sacred limits (Livy, i, 44). In time, Ceres displaced the old earthmother Tellus, and set an example for Hellenic deities to overshadow native divinities. For some years, other Greek gods came to Rome, but then a reaction followed, and the 'books' were silent for nearly two centuries. The immigration practically ceased, except that Apollo (as Apollo Medicus) was introduced very early, and Aphrodite arrived under the Italic name of Venus. The old official deities remained unchanged, but new fashions prevailed; and since the ancient divinities proved inefficient, they were neglected, the worship of new gods with
strange ceremonies becoming such a public disgrace that, in 425 B.C., the ædiles were instructed to see that the citizens should worship no other than native deities (Livy, iv, 30).
Greek and Semitic deities.
Foreign influence had an early effect on religion as shown by the worship of both Greek and Roman deities and by the more emotional Greek rites (ritus Græcus) observed at the first lectisternium (399 B.C.), which was ordered by the Duoviri, "ex Sibyllinis libris," on account of a pestilence (Livy, v, 13). In 293 B.C., by the advice of the Decemviri, Asklepios was invited to Rome to stay a pestilence, and thenceforth the immigration of Greek gods was renewed with increased vigor, so that, by the end of the third century B.C., there was a host of Greek divinities outside the pomarium. Meanwhile, Semitic deities were introduced from Syria (Atargatis and others) by slaves and merchants; and the Romans, uncertain of the identity of these divinities, but wishing to protect the State from the malevolence of any of them, accepted di novensides freely. Many were enrolled by the magistrates as State gods, and legal obligations to them were assumed.
In 216 B.C., when the people were in despair because of many prodigies and through fear of Hannibal, devotion to alien cults gained the upper hand to such an extent that the authorities could no longer control the people, and the Senate ordered that all books of soothsayers must be given up so that no sacrifice could be made according to new and foreign rites (Livy, xxv, 1). When, in this emergency, the Decemviri finally had recourse to the Sibylline books, they reported that only the Idaian
18 Cumont, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, pp. 103 ff.
mother-goddess (Mater Deum Magna Idæa), Kybele (Rhea) of Pessinus, could free Rome and Italy from her enemies (ib., xxix, 10, 11). Accordingly, brought to Rome in 204 B.C. as Magna Mater, she was received with acclaim and was accorded the highest honors, including a temple within the pomarium on the Palatine. She brought relief and fulfilled all the promises made for her, but the orgiastic and barbaric character of her cult, and the conduct of her followers (the emasculated 'Galli') on the streets, scandalized the Romans; and she was the only Oriental deity invited to Rome. The people, and especially the youth of the city, were contaminated by the demoralizing influence of her cult; and shortly afterward, when the mysteries of Bacchus were surreptitiously introduced, very many yielded to their enticements. The debaucheries under cover of the frequent Bacchanalia were finally disclosed to the Senate (186 B.C.), the guilty were severely punished, and the cult was officially placed under heavy restrictions (ib., xxxix, 8-19).
The sacred barrier of Rome had been invaded. Any foreign deity was now permitted to have an altar in the city, and it became difficult to find a contrast between Roman and Græco-Roman gods. Cults of Semitic divinities, Oriental Magi, Chaldæan mathematici or astrologers, Greek philosophers, physicians, craftsmen, and merchants from all parts flocked to Rome, exploiting their intellectual and religious wares and giving counsel. On the other hand, urgent protests against these alien influences, which were rapidly undermining the old faith of the Romans, the sobriety of religion, and the citizen's sense of duty to the State, were not lacking. In 173 B.C. the Epicureans were expelled; in 161, all philosophers were forced to leave; and in 139, the Chaldæi were
driven from the city and Italy by order of the Senate (Valerius Maximus, I, iii, 3). In 155 в.c. philosophers came to Rome on a peaceful mission, and Stoicism, which though sceptic laid strong emphasis on ethics, appealed as the best among philosophies, with the result that it became the national philosophy." Nevertheless, it came too late; the ancient virtues and conservative traits of the Romans, which had caused them to keep a jealous supervision over their native religion, were enfeebled; and their ideals were becoming antiquated; while, under the influence of Greek religions and philosophies, the people generally were lacking in duty to their gods. The definite spiritual conquest of Rome had begun during the third century B.C.; and during the second century, the State religion had difficulty in holding its own against these adverse influences. The Chaldæans and philosophers had never lacked defenders and patrons; and when they returned to the city, their teachings attracted more and more the attention of the serious-minded. Greek art and literature filtered through many agencies; but after the victory over Macedonia, the Hellenization of Rome proceeded more rapidly and without effective resistance.
Decline of native religion. Greek influences.
The old Roman religion was disintegrating, and all the influences of Hellas combined for a comparison between her deities and the Roman gods, thus leading to a confusion of the two pantheons.15 It was assumed that parallels existed between the deities of the two States; and as these were ascertained, their divinities were fused or adjustments were made, so that a blending was effected. Roman gods for whom no similarities were found and for whom no compromises were possible were displaced 14 Carter, op. cit., pp. 123 ff.
15 Ib., pp. 112 ff.
and forgotten, both as to name and function, unless they were recorded on the old calendars. Temples to divinities under Roman titles were actually shrines of Greek deities, this process of syncretism being fostered by Hellenic art and mythology, and the substitution continued during the last two centuries of the Republic until all the Roman gods had been supplanted except Vesta (a symbol of the State's vitality), who appears throughout to have retained her original character and name. Little of the Roman religion remained except the old household cult. By the end of the first century B.C., the identification of the old Roman deities was all but impossible, and Varro was obliged to include in his list many di incerti,1 or divinities for whom no function was known. The gods of Rome who had risen above the class of numina and indigitamenta, who always "remained in the amorphous twilight of religious perception, """ had now acquired a personality, and many had become anthropomorphic, so that Greek craftsmen represented them in art, though always after the Greek pattern. Similarly, Greek myths were adapted to Roman deities, and, as used by poets and other writers, formed the basis of Roman mythology, while Greece furnished Rome with her philosophers and physicians, and her teachers educated the Roman youth.
The many Oriental cults coming to Rome from Phrygia, Persia, Syria, and Egypt contributed very largely to the religious unrest. Semitic deities with their followers, priests, slaves, and merchants, and the closely related Chaldæans with their Oriental lore, had long been resident in Rome; while sailors and soldiers returning from the wars in the East brought with them other cults
16 Wissowa, Religion, p. 72. 17 Farnell, in ERE vi, 404.