Religion in Republican Rome

Religion in Republican Rome: Rationalization and Ritual Change

Jörg Rüpke
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 328
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    Religion in Republican Rome
    Book Description:

    Roman religion as we know it is largely the product of the middle and late republic, the period falling roughly between the victory of Rome over its Latin allies in 338 B.C.E. and the attempt of the Italian peoples in the Social War to stop Roman domination, resulting in the victory of Rome over all of Italy in 89 B.C.E. This period witnessed the expansion and elaboration of large public rituals such as the games and the triumph as well as significant changes to Roman intellectual life, including the emergence of new media like the written calendar and new genres such as law, antiquarian writing, and philosophical discourse.

    InReligion in Republican RomeJörg Rüpke argues that religious change in the period is best understood as a process of rationalization: rules and principles were abstracted from practice, then made the object of a specialized discourse with its own rules of argument and institutional loci. Thus codified and elaborated, these then guided future conduct and elaboration. Rüpke concentrates on figures both famous and less well known, including Gnaeus Flavius, Ennius, Accius, Varro, Cicero, and Julius Caesar. He contextualizes the development of rational argument about religion and antiquarian systematization of religious practices with respect to two complex processes: Roman expansion in its manifold dimensions on the one hand and cultural exchange between Greece and Rome on the other.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0657-9
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    Roman religion as we know it is largely the product of the middle and late Republic, the period falling roughly between the victory of Rome over its Latin allies in 338 B.C.E. and the attempt of Italian peoples in the Social War to stop Roman domination, resulting in the victory of Rome over all of Italy in 89.

    Impelled by sea changes in the nature and structure of the Roman aristocracy, and itself helping to consolidate, channel, and constrain those changes, Roman religion was transformed over this period. The inventions and revisions then undertaken might be separately classified and analyzed...

  4. Chapter 1 The Background: Roman Religion of the Archaic and Early Republican Periods
    (pp. 8-23)

    The mapping of change needs a background. However, our knowledge of religion in early Rome is very limited. Contemporary literary sources or reliable later accounts are not available before the second half of the fourth or third century B.C.E. respectively.¹ Already by this time, the armies of Rome and its allies had started to build an empire that by the end of the first century B.C.E. comprised the whole of the Mediterranean coast. This is the period under scrutiny in this book. What is more, by the end of the first century C.E. much of the Mediterranean’s hinterland, to wit,...

  5. Chapter 2 Institutionalizing and Ordering Public Communication
    (pp. 24-34)

    This chapter will substantiate the claim made earlier that religion is an important and growing field in public communication. The analysis undertaken here seeks to document the extent and boundaries of processes of rationalization. I concentrate on systematization as a historical process and form of rationalization. It is seen above all in the growing number of explicit norms regulating—and hence institutionalizing—occasions of public, and specifically religious, communication. At every stage of the planning for such occasions, notes were taken and protocols written by senators and pontiffs—crucially, not by the magistrates who organized the games but by the...

  6. Chapter 3 Changes in Religious Festivals
    (pp. 35-50)

    As sketched in the previous chapter, the mixture of Roman festivals changed from the fifth and fourth to the second and first centuries, a “long” third century being the turning point. How is this change related to the religious and political development of the Republic? I contended that the ritual changes are related to the changing role of the Senate and the nobility and to the changing notion of “public” in the termres publica.As most of our sources stem from the last century of the Republic—the exceptions being imperial, not earlier—reconstruction of historical change in the...

  7. Chapter 4 Incipient Systematization of Religion in Second-Century Drama: Accius
    (pp. 51-61)

    So far systematization has been observed in the form of changes in institutions. In this, the rationalization of communication served the feathering of space, and the public religion appeared as an instrument rather than an object of rationalization. This chapter will address the first stages of a process that could be termed the theoretical rationalization of religion, turning religion into something that could be known and discussed and subjected to standards of argumentative coherence, that is, rationality. Although the process is visible in other texts, this chapter will concentrate on those texts that were at the center of the stages...

  8. Chapter 5 Ritualization and Control
    (pp. 62-81)

    The findings of the previous chapters invite us to apply a historicizing analysis to a ritual that took on many different usages in the late Republic but is said to be a remnant of a very early layer of Roman religion, surely predating the period analyzed here: the triumph.¹ From the formation of the republicannobilitasonward, Rome’s imperial success depended greatly on the efficient channeling of potentially disruptive internal rivalries into externally directed imperialist action. In this context, the triumph constituted one of the media through which the Roman nobility could display military success and its rewards to the...

  9. Chapter 6 Writing and Systematization
    (pp. 82-93)

    The analysis of rituals in the previous chapters has shown changes in the forms and functions of religious communication. Beyond the emergence of a field that we more and more plausibly describe as “religion,” these developments are indicative of social change. In a growing city, communication between different groups beyond those connected by more narrowly social ties became more and more important, and the notion of the public was clarified and its realm extended. To speak of rationalization in these contexts might appear audacious; and to be sure, rationalization is difficult to identify and verify. Rather, what the evidence of...

  10. Chapter 7 The Pontifical Calendar and the Law
    (pp. 94-110)

    The development of the Roman calendar between the end of the fourth century and the second century can be followed in some detail. In this chapter I will advance the thesis that this development can best be analyzed as a process of rationalization. New rules are developed and coherently applied to procedures. As a whole, this process went far beyond technical changes. It had far-reaching consequences not simply for politics and religion, but for law in particular.

    Reports from Roman antiquarians who wrote between the second century B.C.E. and the fifth century C.E. allow for the drafting of a detailed...

  11. Chapter 8 Religion and Divination in the Second Century
    (pp. 111-125)

    This chapter investigates additional institutional changes that may betray rationalization or at least systematization in religious thought and practice. As we reach into the second century B.C.E., the increasing richness of the historical record will enable us to employ methods of analysis not possible up to this point. In particular, prosopographical data for the period will enable us to trace the contours of actual debates and to attempt to reconstruct the events that led to important institutional changes in the priesthoods. Divination, already touched upon in Chapter 4, will be of central interest. I claim that in the second-century processes...

  12. Chapter 9 Religion in the Lex Ursonensis
    (pp. 126-143)

    Compared to the texts analyzed in the previous chapters, the late republicanlex Ursonensisprofesses a type of legal reasoning that, in the first century B.C.E., is new to Roman religious thought.¹ Before we continue to consider earlier and less pronounced systematic forms of describing religion in the chapters that follow, thelex Ursonensisoffers us the opportunity to examine the development of juridical thinking, one of the most important legacies of Roman culture to later ages. This chapter claims that by the end of the period under consideration another city’s religion could be described in a way that employs...

  13. Chapter 10 Religious Discourses in the Second and First Centuries: Antiquarianism and Philosophy
    (pp. 144-151)

    I stressed at the very beginning of this work that the Weberian concept of rationality should not be restricted in its usage to theoretical rationality, that is, to a certain way of arguing by applying Aristotelian logic. Instead, starting with ritual, I have traced the systematization of procedures and institutional arrangements, of political aims and values, and sought to describe these as incipient forms of rationalization. In the immediately previous chapters I extended this inquiry and its heuristic to the domain of law. In order to vindicate the claim that all the traces detected so far are part of a...

  14. Chapter 11 Ennius’s Fasti in Fulvius’s Temple: Greek Rationality and Roman Tradition
    (pp. 152-171)

    The choice of sources for this chapter, purportedly dealing with antiquarian texts in republican antiquarianism, may come as a surprise. Thefastipainted in the temple of Hercules of the Muses are hardly ever considered in accounts of early antiquarian writing. Thus my claim that it is an important early example of a specific intellectual form of systematizing religion within the framework developed in the previous chapter needs some preparatory justification. What might be one of the earliest Latin instances of an antiquarian text and historiographical work is known only from a few quotations. What is more, there is no...

  15. Chapter 12 Varro’s tria genera theologiae: Crossing Antiquarianism and Philosophy
    (pp. 172-185)

    For writers in the Roman Empire, and for Christian apologists, Varro’sAntiquitates rerum divinarumsupplied the canonical description of traditional Roman religion. Quite a number of literary sources for Roman religion point or lead back to Varro, whose books have for the most part not been preserved. But it is not as a source of factual knowledge that Varro is of interest for this study. It is rather Varro’s use of the termtheologia—today a central term in the description of religion—that raises the question of his role in the history of the rationalization of Roman religion and...

  16. Chapter 13 Cicero’s Discourse on Religion
    (pp. 186-204)

    Throughout this book, and in particular in Chapter 12, Cicero has been looming in the background. While the whole process—or rather the bundle of processes—analyzed so far was decisively informed by the (or some) Romans’ reaction to Greek rational thought, Cicero must be given pride of place. Toward the end of his life, motivated by the death of his daughter Tullia as well as by his experience of political silencing under Caesar’s dictatorship, Cicero embarked on the project of providing a systematic account of Greek philosophy in the Latin language. He completed this endeavor in less than two...

  17. Chapter 14 Greek Rationality and Roman Traditions in the Late Republic
    (pp. 205-220)

    Historical change is a difficult thing to analyze and involves many areas and interacting factors. Previous research on the middle and late Republic has concentrated on only a few of these and has tended to do so from a political, cultural, or literary perspective. Research with a political focus has been concentrated on the elite, on the Roman nobility. Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp’s book on the origins of the Roman nobility is one of the recent rallying points of this approach,¹ while subsequent discussion has given the date of 338 B.C.E., the end of the wars against the Latins, an aura of...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 221-260)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-300)
  20. Index Locorum
    (pp. 301-310)
  21. General Index
    (pp. 311-318)
  22. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 319-321)