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Tag Archives: Roman Religion

Is Amphiaraus a god?

It’s not every day that you hear of a legal dispute about whether a certain divinity is or isn’t a god. This may be because our states – at least, Australia, the UK and the US – have no formal obligations towards gods, and will generally refuse to comment on the true divinity of a god in the interests of protecting religious freedom.

Riace Bronze B, speculatively suggested to be a depiction of Amphiaraus (source) http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/date/2012/08/15

Riace Bronze B, speculatively suggested to be a depiction of Amphiaraus (source)

The Roman republic had it the other way around. There was no official obligation for the state to tolerate religions, but the state was formally obliged to serve gods. John North, in his article, “Religious Toleration in Republican Rome,” has argued that while the Romans were generally tolerant in practice, the concept of “religious toleration” as a moral obligation was absent from Roman thought:

We certainly do not know at any period of any theoretical principle of allowing plurality of worship or belief. The toleration, if that is what it was, was a function of situation not theory.[1]

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When Classics and Theology were the same subject

Classicists are usually vaguely aware that the study of ancient literature is a very, very old field of research, and that it used to be merged with the study and exposition of Christian theology. It is rare, however, for a Classicist to actually come up against past scholarship and see firsthand what kind of work that that unholy (or holy?) union had once produced. More often, modern Classicists are looking uncomfortably at each other, trying to spy latent “Christianizing” approaches in their own work, without actually having a clear definition of what could constitute a “Christianizing” approach in the first place.

oracles1

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