The Conquest of Greece by the Roman Empire and the Success of Mystery Religions

The Conquest of Greece by the Roman Empire and the Success of Mystery Religions

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The successes of mystery religions in the Roman world were greatly influenced by the Roman expansion, especially the conquest of Greece by the Roman Empire where their cultures and traditions were adopted and modified (Perry et al. 2013, p. 122). This was the foremost reason of the initial spread of mystery religions, especially the cult of Hellenised Isis, in Rome. In addition, the political trade involving grains and slaves also played a significant role in the extended reach of the Hellenised cult of Isis among the Romans (Bowden 2010, p. 161). Moreover, the practices of the religion were considered to be appealing to the women and the poor. Gender equality was promoted and the distinct barriers between the different social classes collapsed in the union of the same religion, the Isis religion. There must be reasons behind every success. This essay will discuss on the reason for the successful spread of those mystery religions, especially the cult of Hellenised Isis, in the Roman world and their achievements in terms of historical, political and social reasons.
In the ancient world, Roman Empire had superior military power than any other empires or states. As such, Roman political leaders saw the need for the expansion of Rome’s territories in the Mediterranean world (Perry et al. 2013, p. 122). On the other hand, conquests meant sacrifice and uncertainty. The soldiers believed that the blessings from the superior and supernatural entity were needed. As the proof, most mystery cults were known to succeed in the regions with high relations to military elements (Nock 1998, pp. 131-132). This is especially true to the mystery religion of Isis. Isis was believed to hold “... the keys of the Underworld and the guarantee of salvation...

... middle of paper ... through their significant contributions in the rituals and processions. It was not impossible for a woman to be priestess of a particular mystery religion (MacMullen 1981, p. 72). An example of women’s involvement could be seen in the Isis’ procession where women took most of the roles in the procession. It was described that there were “... women in shining white attire ...” and there were “Others held shining mirrors behind them ...” and also “Others ... carried ivory combs ...” (Apuleius Golden ass ex. 11.1). Each of them had their own important roles to play in the procession. Apuleius mentioned that “[t]here was also a large group of both sexes ... to do honour to [Isis] ...” (Golden ass ex. 11.1) indicating that men were no longer superior to women as there was gender equality. Discrimination, therefore, was no longer in the context of the cult of Isis.

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