The Roman Empire is credited with many things due partially to their ability to share, spread, and adapt culture. Rome was successful because it both conquered and shared the fruits of conquest with the conquered. Religion was one part of the culture that demonstrated the tolerance of Romans. For example, at the time of Jesus’ birth, paganism could be divided into three spheres: the official state religion, the traditional cults of the hearth and countryside, and the new mystery religions from the East. Even though the official religion in the Roman Empire began as Pagan, it ended as Christianity when Emperor Theodosius declared it as the official religion in A.D. 380. The following examines two works of fiction that deal with religion during the Roman Empire.
Ancient Roman mythology consisted of a combination of rituals, beliefs, and observances of supernatural occurrences. They were based heavily on the idea of Greek mythology. As legend has it, the gods resembled human figures but they were bigger stronger and much more beautiful than that of the ancient roman gods. Even though the Roman gods were not depicted to be as beautiful they still were thought of with high admiration by roman citizens. The roman’s paid homage to the gods, in doing so they expected protection, fertility, prosperity, and good health in return for their allegiance.
Pentheus is worshiped and revered in Thebes just as he reveres Apollo. Apollo represents rationality, law, order, harmony and philosophical enlightenment. Dionysus is the god of wine and pleasure and represents all that is irrational, chaotic, and physically pleasing. Dionysus takes possession of the women of Thebes who have denied his godly descent from Zeus. He dresses them as bacchanals and sends them to the mountains to learn the rites of Bacchus, so that his prestige will be greater than that of Apollo in Thebes. A rumor reaches Pentheus that there is another controlling his people, specifically the women. His immediate reaction is outrage and Pentheus returns to Thebes to find that the women have indeed left their homes for the mountains, where they are said to "frisk in mock ecstasies...where they serve the lusts of men" (ln 210-220). Pentheus considers himself to be the protector of civilized society and does not want the Bacchae to disrupt the civic order and duty to which they are bound. Pentheus hostile response to the erotic liberation of the women by Dionysis is due to the closely held belief that sexual energy should be repressed within the c...
In Irenaeus’ Against the Heresies his principal attack is against the Valentinian Gnostics, whose myths shifted away from “creation” to Epist...
The first part of this paper will explore the mystery-religions, the reasons behind their popularity, and the Hellenistic world in which they grew that began with Alexander the Great. Next, their characteristics and connections first with Judaism and later with Christianity will be more deeply discussed. In the second part it will be shown that the mystery-religions helped to clear the pathway for the Christianization of the Greco-Roman world by men such as Paul the Apostle. Finally, the Emperor Constantine’s role in this story will be mentioned, during whose reign the mystery-religions declined and Christianity became the major religion of Europe and the near east. The paper will conclude with a brief speculation about the significance of these ideas to modern Christianity.
This paper will discuss the well published work of, Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New York: Schocken, 1975. Print. Sarah B. Pomerory uses this book to educate others about the role women have played throughout ancient history. Pomerory uses a timeline to go through each role, starting with mythological women, who were called Goddesses. She then talks about some common roles, the whores, wives, and slaves during this time. Pomerory enlightens the audience on the topic of women, who were seen as nothing at the time. Men were seen as the only crucial part in history; however, Pomerory’s focus on women portrays the era in a new light.
The society in which classical myths took place, the Greco-Roman society was a very patriarchal one. By taking a careful gander at female characters in Greco-Roman mythology one can see that the roles women played differ greatly from the roles they play today. The light that is cast upon females in classical myths shows us the views that society had about women at the time. In classical mythology women almost always play a certain type of character, that is to say the usual type of role that was always traditionally played by women in the past, the role of the domestic housewife who is in need of a man’s protection, women in myth also tended to have some unpleasant character traits such as vanity, a tendency to be deceitful, and a volatile personality. If one compares the type of roles that ladies played in the myths with the ones they play in today’s society the differences become glaringly obvious whilst the similarities seem to dwindle down. Clearly, and certainly fortunately, society’s views on women today have greatly changed.
Illustrated in Aristophanes comedies, sex with one’s female slaves was tolerated in Greek society (Freeman, 224). There was also a difference between sexually oriented entertainment, such as dancers or plays, and women who actually engaged in prostitution (Freeman, 217). In Homer’s tales of heroes he portrayed women being readily available simply to meet sexual drives, and in his tales they were not the same women who were chosen for wives and were not shown the same respect as a wife (Freeman, 137). This illustrates the relationship between how and what the Greeks worshiped and how they lived out their own lives, including how they related to sexuality. Sexuality was represented and worshiped through the goddesses Aphrodite and Dionysus, Aphrodite being the more tame goddess of sexuality, while Dionysus was a patron of sexual abandon (Freeman, 237-238). The festivals celebrating Dionysus were affairs where the attendees could engage in unrestrained sexual activity, essentially purging oneself of unruly sexual desires and making self-discipline more accessible the rest of the year (Freeman, 242 & 270). Aphrodite on the other hand, inspired Sappho to dedicate herself and to lead a group of women in worshiping the goddess, and throughout her life she wrote sensual, though sometimes subtle, poetry which is valued for its quality even today (Freeman,
Ruprecht, Louis A., Jr. "Athenagoras the Christian, Pausanius the Travel Guide, and a Mysterious Corinthian Girl." Harvard Theological Review 85 (1992): 35-49.
Motivated by love, spring, and the renewal of both, The Vigil of Venus is a poem reflecting optimism and the hope of forgiveness, possibly signaling the end of the Roman era and a new beginning for the people of Rome. Venus seems to mourn what is to come and states, “And her life’s one wedlock show her flushed with the beauty no man saw,” (643) Bewildered at the absence of recognition in the charm and beauty of Rome, her love is genuine, and is proven with this poem, as she hopes for love and looks forward to possible peace. One of Venus’ primary functions in mythology was love, and this poem allows her to paint a picture of love with colorful symbolism, giving hope for love to the reader, whether or not the reader has experienced it before, a promise of things to come, perhaps personally, or for Rome. When reflecting on The Vigil of Venus, one can see the similarities between the love and devotion to Rome, and the love and affection one might feel for someone. Although, those who have studied Roman literature might not approach this poem with similar views, I however, feel that despite any objections others might have, Venus was optimistic. Ultimately, I believe this poem is suggestive of a faith in the likelihood of love and new beginnings, either for Rome, or for an individual. In the end, Venus remains fearless and clings to the hope of passion and forgiveness, despite past wrongs and an unfamiliar future, which can be translated into hope for