IT is the fashion of our day to think no evil of Greece. In art we are experiencing another Renaissance, not like that of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in a revival of ancient Rome, but in a movement leading behind Rome to the classic and even the pre-classic models of Greece. In itself it is a healthful tendency, a needed corrective to the sensational search for novelty which characterised the closing years of the nineteenth century. But in our admiration for the Greek spirit we ought not to forget that after Alexander that spirit lost much of its beauty, and aged very rapidly. We may indeed regret the fact that Rome, like certain persons of our acquaintance, seemed at times to possess a strong faculty for assimilating the worst of her surroundings, while occasionally curiously unresponsive to the better things; and yet we ought in justice to strive to realise the fact. that not only is the Greek spirit at its best an unteachable thing, but that at the historical moment when Rome came under that influence the Greek world was very old and weary.
[paragraph continues] It was Rome's misfortune and not her fault that when she was old enough to go to school, Alexandrianism with its pedantic detail was the order of the day in mythology, and the timorous post-Socratic schools were the teachers of philosophy. Naturally if Rome had been another Greece she would have worked back from these later forms to the truer, purer spirit, but Rome was not Greece, and no thoughtful man ever pretended that she was. In the third century before Christ Greece began actively to influence Rome; before that time Hellenic influence had been confined largely to the effects on religion produced by the Sibylline books, and to the effects on society caused by the presence of Greek traders. But now Greek thought as embodied in the literature began to affect Roman thought, and to bring into being a literature based on Greek models. Three centuries of Sibylline oracles had produced for Rome the pathological religious condition of the Second Punic War, when she did not think twice before breaking down the religious barrier which had hitherto separated the national from the adopted elements in her religion, and at the same time unhesitatingly reached out to Asia Minor for an Oriental cult, masquerading in Greek colours, and placed on the Palatine the Great Mother of Pessinus. From this time on two influences were steadily at work which shaped the history of Roman religion in the two remaining centuries till the close
of the republic: one, mythology, directly affecting the forms of the cult and the beliefs concerning the individual gods; the other, philosophy, attacking the whole foundation of religious belief in general.
Greece gave her gods to Rome when she herself was weary of them, she gave her the tired gods, exhausted by centuries of handling, long ago dragged down from Olympus, and weary with serving as lay-figures for poets and artists, and being for sever rigged out in new mythological garments, or jaded with the laboratory experiments of philosophers who tried to interpret them in every conceivable fashion or else to do away with them entirely. It is no wonder that it did not take the Romans more than a century to come to the end of these gods, to find that the only one among them who could satisfy their religious desires was the least Greek of them all, the Magna Mater, and having found this to go forth to take to themselves more like unto her, in a word, to crave the sensational cults of the Orient. And the philosophy which Greece gave Rome was no better than the mythology. It is not strange that human thought experienced a reaction after a century which contained both Plato and Aristotle, but it is a pity that Rome should have learned her philosophy from a period of doubt and scepticism an age in which the lesser masters, who had known the greater ones, had gone, leaving nothing but pupils' pupils.
The history of religion in Rome during the last two centuries of the republic is the story of the action and reaction of these two tendencies--the one toward the novel and sensational in worship, which we may call superstition, the other the philosophy of doubt, which we may call scepticism--in the presence of the established religion of the state. This much the two centuries have in common, but here their resemblance ends. In the first of these centuries (B.C. 200-100) the state religion was able to hold her own, at least in outward appearance, and to wage war against both tendencies. In the other century (B.C. 100 to Augustus) politics gained control of the state religion and so robbed her of her strength that she was crushed between the opposing forces of superstition and scepticism. It is to the story of the earlier of these two centuries, the second before Christ, that we now turn.
With the close of the Second Punic War there began for Rome a period of very great material prosperity. This prosperity was, to be sure, not exactly distributed, and it is not without its resemblance to some of our modern instances of commercial prosperity, in that it was not so much a general bettering of economic conditions as the very rapid increase of the wealth of a relatively small number, an increase gained at the expense of positive detriment to a large element in the population.
[paragraph continues] Thus it was that a century of which the first seventy years provide an almost unparalleled spectacle of the increase of national territory, accompanied, according to the ancient methods of taxation, by a vast increase in national wealth, should close with the tragedies of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus and the legacy of class hatred which produced the civil wars. This growth in wealth and territory was not without its effects on the outward appearance of the state religion. The territory was gained by a series of minor wars in the course of which many temples were vowed; and the spoils of the war provided the means for the fulfilment of the vows. Thus to the outward observer it might well have seemed that the religion of the state was enjoying a time of great prosperity. Between the close of the Punic War (B.C. 201) and the year of Tiberius Gracchus (B.C. 133) we have accurate knowledge of the dedication of no less than nineteen state temples, and there were undoubtedly many others of which we have no record. Another apparently good sign is the fact that the Sibylline books are silent, so far as the introduction of new deities is concerned. Yet these surface indications are deceptive. As for the Sibylline books, now that the pomerium line had been broken down, and the temples of Greek gods might be placed anywhere in the city, it was a very simple matter for the state to bring in any Greek god that it pleased, and likening him to a
more or less similar Roman god and calling him by the Roman name, to put up a temple to him anywhere. It was also true that, as Roman theology was now based on the principle that every Roman god had his Greek parallel and vice versa, there were no gods left, whose names would have occurred at all in the Sibylline books, who could not be brought in now without them. And as for the vowing of new temples, this represented at best merely the habit formed during more devout days; religion was moving by the momentum acquired during the Second Punic War, and the gods to whom these temples were erected were really Greek gods under Roman names, In a word, not only was the state religion becoming more and more of a form day by day, but the form was that of Greece and not of Rome. It is extremely interesting to trace this movement in detail, to look behind the outward appearance and see the remarkable changes that were really taking place.
If we look at the temples which were built in the years following the Second Punic War, we shall have no difficulty in finding examples of the introduction of Greek gods under Roman names. During the war itself in the year B.C. 207 a Roman general had vowed a temple to Juventas on the occasion of a battle near Siena. Juventas was an old Roman goddess, one of those abstract deities which had been produced by the breaking off and becoming
independent of a cult-title. She was intimately associated with Juppiter, and had a special shrine in the Capitoline temple. Juventas was the divine representative of the putting away of childish things and the assumption of the responsibilities and privileges of young manhood. This act was symbolised by the Romans in the beautiful ceremony of putting on the toga of manhood (toga virilis), when the lad was led by his father to the Capitoline temple to make sacrifices to Juppiter, and at the same time a contribution was made to the treasury of Juventas. But this was not the goddess in whose honour the temple vowed at Siena was built at the Circus Maximus and dedicated B.C. 191. This Juventas was nothing more or less than the Greek Hebe, the female counterpart of Ganymedes, as cupbearer to the gods. Similarly in B.C. 179 a temple was dedicated to Diana at the Circus Flaminius, but this was not the old goddess of Aricia, whose cult Rome had adopted for the sake of increasing her influence in the Latin league. It was the Greek Artemis, who at her first coming into Rome had been associated with Apollo in the temple built in B.C. 43 1, and was now given a temple of her own. Perhaps the strangest of all is the temple which was erected to Mars in the Campus Martius in B.C. 138. It might well be supposed that the Romans would keep holy the reputed father of their race, the god to whom, under Juppiter, their
success was due. On the contrary in B.C. 217, when they were carrying out a Greek ceremony of offering a banquet to a set of gods, arranged in pairs, they showed no hesitation in grouping together Mars and Venus to represent the Greek pair Ares and Aphrodite, thus doing violence to Mars by bringing him into a relationship with Venus which was entirely foreign to old Roman thought, and identifying him with Ares, with whom he had nothing to do. Now in B.C. 138 a temple is built to Ares under the name of Mars, close beside the venerable old altar of Mars, one of the oldest and most sacred of Roman shrines.
But this passion for identifying Greek gods with Roman ones did not confine itself to finding a parallel for the greater gods of Greece; and less known deities were introduced into Rome in the same way. The old Roman god, Faunus, in whose honour the ancient festival of the Lupercalia was yearly celebrated, had as his associate a goddess, Fauna, who was better known as the "good goddess" (Bona Dea). Eventually this new title Bona Dea crowded out the old title Fauna, so that it was almost entirely forgotten. Bona Dea was a goddess of women, and the most characteristic feature of her worship was the exclusion of men from taking part in it. Now there was a Greek goddess, called Damia, also a goddess of women, from whose cult also men were excluded, and her cult spread from
[paragraph continues] Greece to the Greek colonies of Southern Italy, especially Tarentum, and so eventually to Rome. But by the time she arrived in Rome the connexion of Fauna and Bona Dea had been entirely forgotten. Damia was surely a Bona Dea, yes she was the Bona Dea, for was not the proof at hand in the fact that men were excluded from both cults? So a temple was built for her, probably shortly after the Second Punic War, and from the time no one ever thought of poor Fauna again, except scholars and poets, who amused themselves, as was their wont, by putting her in various genealogical relationships to Faunus, as sister, wife, or daughter, while Damia lived and prospered under the stolen title of the Bona Dea.
We see from this on what a small resemblance such identifications were based, in this case merely on the presence of a similar minor injunction in the laws of each cult. But we have here at least a genuine cult which had arrived and was asking for admission, and in so far we are better off than in most instances, where nothing substantial was gained by the identification. Two forces were now at work assisting in this fusion of Greek and Roman gods, namely art and literature. The capture of Syracuse marked an epoch in Rome's artistic career; for several centuries she had employed Greek architects and had also become acquainted with the artistic types of certain Greek gods, but now all at once a
wealth of Greek sculpture was disclosed to her, and she could not rest content until all her gods were represented in the fashion of man. The adoption of the Greek type, in those cases where an identification had already been effected, was not difficult and was in the main successful, though there followed almost inevitably an enrichment of the Greek element in the Roman god because of the presence of some attribute in the statue, which brought its own myth with it. But there were certain Roman gods for whom Greek parallels could not be found, and in these cases a compromise, usually rather an awkward one, had to be effected, as for example when the Roman gods of the storeroom, the Di Penates, were represented by statues of the Greek Castor and Pollux. In such cases confusion was sure to follow, and subsequent antiquarians would be tempted to write treatises proving the original connexion of Castor or Pollux with the Penates, as gods of protection in general, etc. Literature too in its own way was fully as misleading, and Roman scholars became fascinated with the labyrinths of Alexandrian mythology, and straightway began to build Roman myths as rapidly as possible, establishing lists of old Latin kings and all sorts of genealogies, and weaving as many Greek mythological figures as possible into the legends of the foundation of Italic towns.
It was the ceremonial of the cult however which most often offered the best means of identification,
as we have seen above in the case of Bona Dea-Damia, where the exclusion of men from the rites was the main point of similarity. In a similar way the old Roman god of the harvest, Consus, was identified with the Greek ocean-god Poseidon because horse-races were a characteristic feature of the festivals of each; and the old Roman goddess of women and of childbirth was given as her Greek parallel the Greek goddess Leukothea, the helper of those in peril at sea, because in both cases slaves were forbidden to take part in the cult.
But the effect of the capture of Rome by these Greek gods and Greek ceremonials was not confined to the mere addition of new ideas, and the transformation of certain old Roman deities. This would have been comparatively harmless, but there was inevitably another result: the consequent neglect of all Roman deities for whom no Greek parallels were forthcoming, and the forgetting of all the original Roman ideas which were crowded into the background by the novel and more brilliant Greek ideas. Even the festivals of the old Roman year were treated in the same cavalier manner. The interest of the people continued only with those ceremonies which frightened them or pleased them. There were certain festivals, for example the Lupercalia, the old ceremony of purification on February 15, for which a reverence was still felt; and others like the Parilia, the birthday of Rome, on April 21,
or the Anna Perenna festival on March 15, which involved open-air celebrations and picnics. These and others like them were always kept up, while many others were totally neglected. Naturally for the present the forms were continued by the state the festivals were celebrated at least by the priests and every temple received sacrifice on its birthday. The wheels of the state religion were still running, but the power behind them had stopped, and it was only momentum which kept them in motion.
It is only when we realise these things that we can understand how it was possible that the most learned scholars at the close of the republic were so desperately ignorant concerning old Roman religion. In regard to many of the old Roman gods they know absolutely nothing, and try to disguise their ignorance behind a show of learning based on etymological sleight-of-hand; in regard to the rest their information is so tangled with Greek ideas that it is often almost impossible to unravel the mass and separate the old from the new. This unravelling has been the tedious occupation of the last half century in the study of Roman religion; and so patiently and successfully has it been accomplished that, although we would give almost anything for a few books of Varro's Divine Antiquities, it is tolerably certain that the possession of these books would not change in the least the fundamental concepts underlying the modern reconstruction
of ancient Roman religion; though it is equally certain that these books would emphasise just so much more strongly, what we already realise, that this modern reconstruction is in distinct contradiction to many of Varro's favourite theories. It is an accomplishment of which History may well be modestly proud, that modern scholars have been able to eliminate, to a large degree, the personal equation and the myopic effects of his own time from the statements of the greatest scholar of Roman antiquity, and thus though handicapped by the possession of merely a small percentage of the facts which Varro knew, to arrive at a concept of the whole matter infinitely more correct than that which his books contained.
During this second century before Christ, therefore, the state religion was apparently unchanged so far as the outward form was concerned. The terminology and the ceremonies were much the same as before, but the content was quite different: Greek gods and Greek ideas had displaced Roman gods and Roman ideas, and the official representatives of religion, the state priests, were carrying the whole burden of worship on their own shoulders, because popular interest had been in the main deflected and was working along other lines. These lines of rival interest were superstition and scepticism, phenomena which at first sight appear as distinct opposites, but which are on the contrary very closely akin, so that
they usually occur together not only in the same age, but frequently even in the same individual. They are purely relative terms, and the essence of superstition consists in its surplus element, just as the essence of scepticism lies in its deficiency. No religion judged from the standpoint of the worshipper can properly be called a superstition, but if once we can establish the essential things in a religion, then any large addition to those essential things savours of superstition. Speaking with historical sympathy we have no right therefore to designate early Roman religion as a superstition--it may of course be relatively so in comparison with other religious forms--but once we have established the essential elements in that early religion, we may consider the introduction of new and entirely different elements as superstition. The old religion of Rome consisted in the exact and scrupulous fulfilment of a large number of minute ceremonials. The result of this careful fulfilment of ritual was that the powers around man did him no harm but rather good, and that was the end of the whole matter. Religion did not command or even permit special inquiries into these powers; it was not only not man's duty to try to know the gods, it was his positive duty to try not to. Through the influence of Greece there had now come into Rome an altogether new idea, nourished largely by the Sibylline books, and represented most fully in the Magna Mater, the idea
of the perpetual service of a god, a consecration to him, to the exclusion of all other things, and a life given over to the orgiastic performance of cult acts, which produced a state of ecstasy and consequently a communion with the deity. Along with this there went a belief in the possibility, by means of certain books and certain men, of obtaining from the gods a knowledge of the future. It is these surplus beliefs, quite contrary to the spirit of old Roman religion, which may justly be called superstition.
The Sibylline books had aroused these feelings, a knowledge of the oracle at Delphi had increased them, the rites of Aesculapius had carried them farther, but it was not until the Magna Mater came that they seem to have burst forth in any large degree. But aside from the rapid growth of the Magna Mater cult itself we have in this second century two instances of this tendency. The first was connected with the god Dionysos-Liber, innocent enough at his first reception in B.C. 493, in the company of Demeter-Ceres and Kore-Libera. To be sure the state had introduced him merely as the god of wine, but the mystery element in Dionysos took firm hold on private worship, and the Bacchanalian clubs or societies began to spread over Italy. In the course of about three centuries they had become a formidable menace to the morals and even the physical security of the inhabitants of Rome. Their meetings instead of occurring three times a year
took place five times a month, and finally in B.C. 186 the famous Bacchanalian trial took place, of which Livy (Bk. xxxix.) gives such a graphic account, and to which a copy of the inscription of the decree of the Senate, preserved to our day, gives such eloquent testimony, providing as it does severe penalties for subsequent offenders, and recognising on the other hand large liberty of conscience.
The same love of mystery and longing for knowledge which produced the Bacchanalian clubs accorded a warm reception to astrology and made men listen with eagerness to those who could tell their fortunes or guide their lives by means of the stars. We do not know when the bearers of this knowledge first arrived in Rome, but Cato, in his Farm Almanac, our earliest piece of prose literature, in giving rules for the behaviour of the farm bailiff especially enjoins the intending landowner that his bailiff should not be given to the consultation of Chaldaean astrologers. Within half a century the problem of the Chaldaeans grew so serious that state interference was necessary, and in B.C. 139 the praetor Cn. Cornelius Hispalus issued an edict ordering the Chaldaeans to leave Rome and Italy within ten days.
The same age which produced this growth of superstition brought also the antidote for it in the shape of a sceptical philosophy, but the only trouble was that this philosophy not only cured
superstition but in doing so killed the genuine religious spirit underlying it. It cast out, to be sure, the seven devils of superstition, but when men returned to themselves again, they found their whole spiritual house swept and garnished. With the death of the direct pupils of Aristotle, the Greek mind had thought out all the problems of philosophy of which man at that time was able to conceive. The following generations of philosophers devoted themselves either to the elaboration of detail or to a renewed examination of the foundations of belief, with the result that their smaller minds came to smaller conclusions, and the end of their investigations was one increased scepticism. The schools of the day showed many slight variations and bore many different names, but they all agreed in being more or less pervaded by a sceptical spirit, and by accenting ethics as against metaphysics, though they defined ethics very differently according to their starting point.
One of the earliest philosophical influences which reached Rome was however that of a pre-Socratic school, the school of Pythagoras. This was natural enough in itself, as the headquarters of the school was in Southern Italy, but it is curious and significant that the first pronounced instance of its influence occurred shortly after the Second Punic War, and in connexion with a clever fraud which was perpetrated with a view to influencing religion. In the year
[paragraph continues] B.C. 181 a certain man reported that when he was ploughing his field, which lay on the other side of the Tiber, at the foot of the Janiculum, the plough had laid bare two stone sarcophagi, stoutly sealed with lead, and bearing inscriptions in Greek and Latin according to which they purported to contain, one of them the body of King Numa, the other, his writings. When they were opened the one which ought to have contained the body was empty, in the other lay two rolls, each roll consisting of seven books; the one set of seven was written in Latin and treated of pontifical law, the other consisted of philosophical writings. They were examined, found to be heretical and subversive to true religion, and were accordingly burned in the Comitium. The connexion of Numa and Pythagoras, historically impossible but believed in at this time, makes it practically certain that this was a clever attempt to introduce the philosophy of Pythagoras into Rome under the holy sanction of the name of Numa. Fortunately the zeal of the city praetor frustrated the scheme. But the doctrines of philosophy, which thus failed to enter by the door of religion, found the door of literature wide open for them. As the irony of fate would have. it, Cato, the stalwart enemy of Greek influence, had brought back from Sardinia with him the poet Ennius, and at about the time when the false books of Numa were burning in the Comitium Ennius was giving to the world a Latin
translation of the Sacred History of the Greek Euhemerus. This Euhemerus, a Sicilian who had lived about a century before this time, earned his title to fame by writing a novel of adventure and travel, in which he described a trip which he had taken in the Red Sea along the coast of Arabia to the wonderful island of Panchaia, where he found a column with an inscription on it telling the life history of Ouranos, Kronos, and Zeus, who were thus shown to have been historical characters afterwards elevated into deities. It was this theological element in his book which made him famous. This theory of the historical origin of the gods is even to-day called Euhemerism, and has exerted a baleful influence over writers on mythology from its author's day down to our own. These then were the doctrines which Ennius presented to the Romans in their own tongue, and it is pathetic to realise that his Sacred History formed the first formal treatise on theology which Rome ever possessed. Born under such an evil star, it is small wonder that her theological speculations never reached great metaphysical heights.
In these days it seemed to the Senate that the question of philosophy was beginning to be so serious that it might be considered as a public danger, and that it was therefore their duty to try to cope with it. They chose, of course, the typical Roman method of dealing with such matters, and
the philosophers were expelled from Rome. At first in B.C. 173 it was only the Epicureans who were sent out, but in B.C. 161 the edict was broadened to include philosophers in general. However six years later, in B.C. 155, there came to Rome an embassy of philosophers whose mission was avowedly political and not philosophical, and who thus could not be excluded, while at the same time they book occasion to preach their philosophical doctrines. It was fortunate for Rome that Stoicism, the best among all these philosophies, appealed to her most strongly and became thus the national philosophy of Rome. Stoicism was in many respects quite as sceptical as the others, but it had at least this great advantage that it laid a strong emphasis on ethics, and was in so far capable of becoming a guide of life. It might be well enough for Greeks, whose aggressive work in the world had been done, to settle down to an idle old age with a theory of life which practically excluded the possibility of strong decisive action, but Rome was still young, and most of her work was still before her. She might think herself very old and pretend to take peculiar delight in many of the more decadent forms of Greek thought, but in reality her leaders instinctively turned to Stoicism, as affording a compromise between the mere thoughtless activity of youth, which acts for the love of acting, and the jaded philosophy of the vanity of
all effort. About the middle of the century (circa B.C. 150) there existed in Rome a centre of culture and intellectual influence, a little group of men peculiarly interesting, because they form practically the first instance of an intellectual coterie in the history of Rome. Their leader was the younger Scipio, who had as his associates his friend Laelius, the poet Lucilius, whose brilliant writings, submerged by the more brilliant satires of Horace, form one of the most deplorable losses in Roman literature, and the Stoic philosopher Panaitios of Rhodes. Terence had also belonged to the circle, but he was now dead. Stoicism was the avowed philosophy of these men, and their influence, especially that of Panaitios and Lucilius, did much to popularise their chosen philosophical creed.
While Stoicism claimed superiority to religion and showed the impossibility of attaching any value to religious knowledge, it recognised the necessity of religion for the common people on grounds of expediency, and effected a reconciliation between this denial of religion on the one hand, and the recognition of it on the other, by asserting that the religion of the state was justified not only by expediency but much more by the fact that it was after all only the presentation of the truths of Stoicism in a form which was intelligible to the lower classes. Had this group of Scipio and his associates made an effort to emphasise these
particular doctrines of Stoicism in relation to religion, the downfall of the state religion, which occurred in the following century, might have been hindered. But for reasons, which we shall see in a moment, this downfall could not have been prevented, and it is doubtful whether the influence of any philosophical system, even when supported by such prominent men, could have perceptibly postponed the catastrophe. Meantime the only visible contribution of Stoicism to the problem of religion was the growth under her influence of the idea of a "double truth," one truth for the intellectual classes and one for the common people, reaching its climax in the phrase "It is expedient for the state to be deceived in matters of religion" (expedit igitur falli in religione civitatem). This was the attitude toward religion of the most intellectual men in the community at the beginning of what was in many ways the most terrible period in Rome's history.
The last century before Christ (more exactly B.C. 133--B.C. 27) is the story of how Rome became an empire because she was no longer able to be a republic; it is the history of the growth of one-man power because many-men power had become impossible. This growth was caused not only, nor at first even chiefly, by the grasping character of Rome's statesmen, but by the increase of the rabble and the consequent unmanageable character of her population, except under the firm hand of a single
master. And the reason why it took one hundred years of civil war to change the republic into the empire was not because the spirit of the republic was so slow in dying that its death struggles filled a century, but merely because the republic died too easily and the way to one-man power was so simple that there were too many candidates for the position, and hence the civil wars between them. These civil wars were bound to continue until the bitter lessons of experience had taught men not only how to gain the supreme control, which was relatively easy, but how to keep it and exclude rivals, which was much more difficult. The ambitious leaders of this century did not have to create a throne; that was ready to their hand. Their task was only to put defences around it. Even these defences of it were not directly against the people, for the people had no desire to overthrow the throne, but merely against the rival candidates. Step by step from Tiberius Gracchus to Gaius Gracchus, and on to Marius, to Sulla, to Pompey, to Julius Caesar, possession became more and more permanent; until from being a mere momentary position, it became nine points of the law, and Octavian made the tenure perfect by adding an almost religious reverence to his person in the title Augustus.
In the main the foreign wars of the second century before Christ gave place to the Civil War at home, but there was one exception to this, the war
with Mithradates, king of Pontus, which on various occasions during the early part of the century took large bodies of Romans to the Orient. And as though to supplement this knowledge of the East, in the closing half of the century the field of the civil struggle was enlarged so that it too included the East and South-East. We have already seen so many instances of the effects of political events on the course of Roman religion that it is a matter of no surprise to us to see that both of these struggles, the Civil War and the Oriental wars, left their marks on religion. It would be much more surprising if they had not done so. In the struggle of the rivals at home every possible weapon was employed, and it was soon discovered that the priests and the paraphernalia of religion were excellent means of political power and influence. The religion of the state therefore became enslaved to politics. On the other hand the campaigns in the East made the soldiers, and eventually on their return the whole populace, acquainted with various Oriental deities, which helped to satisfy their craving for the sensational and the superstitious. Thus while the state religion in its debauched condition was losing influence, the orgiastic element in worship was gaining power through these newly acquired Oriental cults. The story of the religion of the last century of the republic is accordingly the history of the control of state religion by politics and its consequent destruction,
and the growth of superstition because of the coming of new Oriental worships; and we may add to these two topics a third: the pathetic attempts of philosophy to breathe new life into the dead religion of the state.
When it comes to the question of the human characters whose names are writ large on this page of religious history, the Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla towers above all others. To his political insight is largely owing the harnessing of the state religion to the chariot of the politician, now and hereafter; and it was he who was the foremost leader of Roman armies to the Orient, and the man who, because of his peculiarly superstitious character, encouraged the worship of the strange deities which were found there. In both these directions he was ably seconded by Pompey, half a generation later. On the other hand the futile efforts of philosophy to improve the situation were inspired during the earlier period by the chief priest Scaevola, a contemporary of Sulla, and during Pompey's and Caesar's time by Varro, the greatest scholar that Rome ever produced.
Let us follow first the fortunes of the religion of the state at the hands of the politicians. The upper and influential classes of Roman society were now thoroughly imbued with Stoic philosophy and accordingly with the doctrine of the "'double truth" in the field of religion--the real philosophical truth
which was their own peculiar property and which showed them clearly that all the forms of religion were vain, and its doctrines at best a clumsy statement in roundabout parables of a truth which they saw face to face; and that lower "truth" intended for the masses and dictated by the pressure of necessity, the concrete state religion in all its details, which must be preserved among the lower classes in the interest of the state and of society. The state religion was thus a matter of expediency and of usefulness. But once this idea of its usefulness was put into the foreground, it was natural that the question should immediately be asked: Was this state religion as useful after all as it might be? Could it not be put to greater uses? If religion existed in general for its political effects, why should it not be used by the individual like any other political apparatus, for his own individual advancement? The man to whom this idea seems to have come first in all its fullness was Sulla, and he proceeded immediately to act upon it. The control of religion could, of course, be obtained best through the priesthoods, and those priesthoods were naturally most worth gaining which possessed the greatest right of interference in affairs of state. These priesthoods were: first the Augurs, with their traditional right to break up assemblies and to declare legislative action null and void; then the Pontiffs, with their general control of all vexed
questions concerning the intersection of divine and human law; and lastly the XVviri, or the keepers of the Sibylline books, in charge also of the cults to which the oracles had given birth. Accordingly he increased the numbers of these three priesthoods, raising each to fifteen; and inasmuch as the old right of the colleges of the priests to fill vacancies in their own bodies themselves had been taken away from them in B.C. 103, and such vacancies were now filled by popular vote, it was an easy thing for him to fill the new positions with his own men.
The result of accentuating the political importance of these three colleges was that the whole body of the state religion became actuated with a political spirit, and the whole structure was remodelled along the lines of this new valuation. The immediate effect of this was that the priests themselves became entirely absorbed in politics. To be sure Sulla was not responsible for all of this, because the tendency had been in this direction ever since the time of the Punic wars. In the good old days of Roman religion the office of priest had been in the main its own reward, and though the priests formed by no means a separate class, and the individual priest had many secular interests and occasionally some political ones, he was not supposed to hold political office. In the time of the Punic wars, however, the tide began to turn. The earliest recorded instance of a priest holding a
high political office is in the year B.C. 242 when the Flamen Martialis or special priest of Mars was chosen Consul; but when the gentleman in question started to go to the war, he was forbidden by the Pontifex Maximus. In B.C. 200 the Flamen Dialis,
or special priest of Juppiter, was allowed to be made aedile, but his brother had to be especially authorised to take the oath of office in his stead,
since the priest of Juppiter, the god of oaths, was himself not allowed to take an oath. In the course of the next century such cases became more common, and where the thing was not allowed,
the priesthood became unpopular, and was sometimes left entirely vacant. This last thing happened, for instance, in the case of the Flaminium Diale, a position which was unfilled from B.C. 87 till B.C. 11.
But the evil effects of politics were not confined to the emptying of certain priesthoods, which after all were of no very great importance, except as their presence tended to sustain the morale of the old religious ritual. Its effects were much more disastrous in the very important priesthoods which had now become essentially political offices. The exclusively political interests of the incumbents, combined with the fact that each man was elected by general vote of the people and without any special fitness for the position, as had been the case in the old days, tended to break down all the traditions of the college, and thus to destroy much
of the knowledge which was being handed down largely by oral tradition. There arose therefore an ignorance of the ritual of the cult which was great just in proportion as the knowledge originally present had been accurate and intricate. But even this was not all; the arranging of the yearly calendar, with its complicated intercalation of days to bring into harmony the solar and the lunar years, was still in the hands of the priests, and here the results of their growing ignorance were most appalling. The calendar became terribly disordered; and this again had its reaction on religion, for the calendar month occasionally fell so out of gear with the natural seasons that it was impossible to celebrate some of the old Roman festivals, which had a distinct bearing on certain seasons of the year.
Thus the greatest enemies of the religion of the state were those of its own household, the priests, who turned the reverent formalism of the old days into a mockery, and made their priesthood merely a means of political influence.
Now that the old Roman gods had been changed into new-fangled Greek gods, and the old Roman priesthoods into modern political clubs, it is little wonder that the religion of the fathers ceased to satisfy their descendents. But while history shows that specific religious creeds have often proved mortal and subject to change and decay, the same history makes clear that the religious instinct is a
constant factor in humanity; and we must not suppose for a moment that the religious need of the Roman community had ceased to exist, simply because the religion of the state had ceased to satisfy it. From the day when the Sibyl gave her first oracles to Rome on down to the time of Sulla, the desire for the sensational and the extraordinary in religion had been steadily growing. It had its birth in the idea that there was such a thing as a direct communion with the deity, and that the oracles were an immediate command from him. It was nourished by the sense of foreignness in the Greek ceremonies gradually introduced into the cult. It fed on the more sensational aspects of certain of the gods brought in: on the enthusiastic rites of Bacchus, on the miracle-working of Aesculapius, on the Stygian mystery of Dis and Proserpina. But its fulfilment was to come from the East, that inexhaustible fountain of religious energy. In the Magna Mater it recognised its own. This was the first undiluted Orientalism which came to Rome. But the state itself had received it, and had managed in some unaccountable way to put upon this outlandish Eastern cult the stamp of Rome's nationality, that stamp which no nation ever successfully and permanently resisted; and thus the reception of the cult on the part of the state was not only a disgraceful thing, tending to degrade true religion and spread the contagion of Orientalism,
but it also made those whose appetite had been aroused eager for other deities, whose cult would have the great additional charm of being unlicensed b the state, and hence savouring of unlawfulness.
Such a cult, long half-consciously desired, was at length found, when in B.C. 92 the Roman soldiery commanded by Sulla penetrated into the valley of Comana in Cappadocia. There was a whole community, a miniature state, devoted to the service of a goddess not unlike the Great Mother of Pessinus, but whose cult was more ecstatic, more orgiastic, than that of the Magna Mater, at least as Rome knew her. The king was the chief priest, and the citizens were priests and priestesses. The war with Mithradates brought the Roman army there again and also to another Comana in Pontus, where there was a branch of the Cappadocian cult. It was not the ignorant soldiery alone who were impressed by what they saw; their leader, Sulla, was fully as much affected, and on his return to Italy when the great crisis in his career, his march on Rome and his storming of the Eternal City, lay before him, it was the goddess of Comana who appeared to him in a dream and gave him courage. Thus her cult entered Rome, and the capture of the city by Sulla has its parallel in the capture of the hearts of the people by his companion, the goddess of Comana. The original name of this goddess seems to have been Mâ, but the Greeks, who also
knew her, had likened her to Enyo, their goddess of strife and warfare; hence in these days of facile identification the Romans' course was clear, and she became straightway Bellona, called by the name of their old goddess of war. Of all the chapters of the history of such identifications none is more curious than this. The old Bellona had borne to Mars the same relation that Fides, the goddess of good faith, had borne to Juppiter. She was the result of the separate deification of one of the qualities of Mars, the breaking off of an adjective and the turning of it into a noun; but from now on, though the old goddess still existed and had her own temple and her own worship, the name was also applied to this strange Oriental goddess who came in the train of the debauched Roman army on its return from the East. But though men might call this new-comer by the name of a sacred old national goddess and worship her in private as they pleased, the religion of the state, even in its sunken condition, refused to admit her among its deities, and the priests, the Fanatici, with their wild dances, to the music of cymbals and trumpets, slashing themselves with their double axes until their arms streamed with blood, were not, at least as yet, the official representatives of the state, the companions of the reverend old Salii with their dignified "three-step." Even the sanctuaries of the private cult must be kept outside the city, and the violation of this law in B.C. 48 resulted
in the raiding and destruction of one of these private chapels. Her cult does not seem to have become a state affair until the beginning of the third century A.D., when Caracalla, who had extended Roman citizenship to all the inhabitants of the provinces, gave a similar citizenship to all the foreign deities resident in Rome. It is a curious coincidence that this action of Caracalla's occurred just about the same year A.D. in which the breakdown of the pomerium for state cults had occurred B.C. For the present, however, that is to say in the first century B.C., the state retained her dignity, though the resultant unorthodox character of the cult increased its power and influence, and made it more subversive to morals than the Magna Mater was.
An even more interesting instance, both of the popularity of sensational foreign cults and of the struggle of the state religion against them, is found in the case of the Egyptian goddess Isis. The spread of Isis worship into the Greek, and consequently also into the Roman world, began relatively early. In the third century Isis and her companion Serapis were well established on the island of Delos; and in the second century we find traces of their worship in Campania, especially at Pompeii and Puteoli. This last-named place, the seaport Puteoli, the modern Pozzuoli, outside of Naples, was probably the door through which Isis and her train came into Italy. Puteoli was the chief port
for Oriental ships, including Egypt, and it also had commercial relations with Delos. At this later date it supplied Rome with gods in somewhat the same way that Cumae, in the same neighbourhood, had done centuries before. So far as the city of Rome itself is concerned, an apparently trustworthy tradition traces the private cult back to the time of Sulla; and it certainly cannot have been introduced much later than this time, because in B.C. 58 it had became so prominent and so offensive to the authorities of the state that they destroyed an altar of Isis on the Capitoline. Apparently Isis was no exception to the general law of growth by persecution, because in the course of the next decade the state found it necessary to interfere no less than three times, i.e. in B.C. 53, 50, and 48. Finally the policy of suppression proved so ineffectual that it was decided to try the opposite extreme, and to see what could be done by state acknowledgment and state control, and so the Triumvirs, Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus, in B. C. 43 decreed the building of a state temple for Isis. But although they had decreed the erection of a temple, they were too much engaged in their own affairs to build it immediately, and until the temple was built Isis could not properly be considered among the state gods. As events turned out this temple was never built, for in the course of the next few years the trouble with Antony and Cleopatra began, and thus the gods
of Egypt became the gods of Rome's enemies, and so far as the state was concerned an acknowledgment of these gods was impossible. Instead Augustus forbade even private chapels inside the pomerium. The subsequent history of Isis does not directly concern us; suffice it to say that after various vicissitudes she was admitted to the state cult by Caracella along with all the other foreign deities.
But it was not only Asia Minor and Egypt which gave their cults to Rome; the deities of Syria came too. Prominent among them was Atargatis, whose cult seems to have touched the Italian mainland first at Puteoli. In B.C. 54 the army of Crassus on its Eastern expedition, which was destined to come to such a tragic end in the terrible defeat at Carrhae, visited and plundered the sanctuary of the goddess in Syria. Thus she became known at Rome, where she was called simply the "Syrian goddess" (dea Syria) and was worshipped in a way very similar to the Magna Mater and Bellona.
Lastly when Pompey swept the Mediterranean clean of Cilician pirates, the sailors became acquainted with a Persian deity, Mithras, whose cult in Rome began during our period and subsequently crowded all the other orgiastic cults into insignificance.
We have now seen how the politicians were turning the state religion into a tool for the accomplishment of their own selfish ends, and how the masses
of the people were seeking satisfaction for their religious needs in sensational foreign worships, introduced from Asia Minor, Egypt, Syria, and Persia. We must now see whether any efforts were being made by any members of the community in behalf of the old religion, and whether there were still in existence any traces of the pure old Roman worship.
The latter-day philosophies of Greece had dealt a severe blow at Roman religion by convincing the intellectual classes in the community that in the nature of things there could be no such knowledge as that upon which religion was based, and hence that religion was an idle thing unworthy of a true man's interest. Yet all the philosophy in the world could not take away from a Roman his sense of duty to the state. Now the state in its experience had found religion so necessary that she had built up a formal system of it and made it a part of herself. As it was the duty of the citizen to support the state in every part of her activity, it was clearly his duty to support the state religion. Hence there arose that crass contradiction, which existed in Rome to a large degree as long as these particular systems of philosophy prevailed, between the duty which a man, as a thinking man, owed to himself, and the duty which he, as a good citizen, owed to the state. We have seen how during the second century before Christ no attempt was made to reconcile these two
views and how they existed side by side in such a man, for example, as Ennius, who wrote certain treatises embodying the most extraordinary sceptical doctrines, and certain patriotic poems in which the whole apparatus of the Roman gods is prominently exhibited and most reverently treated. We have also seen how this "double truth" could not but have disastrous results on the state religion in spite of all efforts to the contrary. The first effort which was made to improve the situation was not so much an attempt at reconciliation as a frank statement of the difficulties of the case. The problem had advanced considerably toward solution when once it had been clearly stated. The man who had the courage to make the statement was Quintus Mucius Scaevola, a famous lawyer as well as the head of the college of Pontiffs (Pontifex Maximus). He was a contemporary of Sulla, and was admirably fitted for his task because he not only represented religion in his position as Pontifex Maximus, but could speak also in behalf of the state both theoretically as a lawyer, and practically because he had filled almost all the important political offices (consul, B.C. 95). The treatise in which he made his statements has been lost to us, but we may obtain a fair idea of what he said from a quotation by the Christian writer Augustine in his wonderful book The City of God (iv. 27). For Scaevola the double truth of Ennius has grown into a triple truth, and there
are no less than three distinct religions: the religion of poets, of philosophers, and of statesmen. The religion of the poets, by which he means the mythological treatment of the gods, he condemns as worthless because it tells a great many things about the gods which are not true and which are entirely unworthy of them. The religion of philosophers he does not consider suitable to the state, because it contains many things which are superfluous, and some which are injurious. The superfluous things may be allowed to pass, but the injurious things, by which he evidently means the doctrines of Euhemeros, are a very serious matter, not because they are untrue but because the knowledge of them is inexpedient for the masses. The religion of the statesman can have no part in these things, even if they are true; and a man as a citizen of the state must believe in many things, or profess belief in them, which the same man, as an individual and a philosopher, knows are false. Scaevola's honest well-intentioned effort to support the religion of the state was naturally a failure. The very "masses" in whose behalf Scaevola was calling on his fellow-citizens to undergo these casuistical gymnastics soon cared more for Bellona and Isis than for all the gods of Numa together. But we cannot help admiring Scaevola for his patriotism, though we may not envy him his ethics. The state religion could never be supported on the arguments of expediency;
every one granted its expediency, and still it fell; its worst enemies, the politicians, granted it most of all, and they were the only ones who put the doctrine to any practical use. It was precisely this discovery of its expediency and its great practical value which caused its downfall. From the practical standpoint the problem was settled once and for all, but as a matter of theory it remained for the next generation, in the person of Varro, to provide a more satisfactory solution, and to effect something of a compromise between the truth of philosophy and the truth of religion.
Marcus Terentius Varro came to the work equipped with all the learning of his time and possessed of a greater knowledge of facts than any other Roman of his or any other day. So far as the problem of religion was concerned, he embodied this learning in the sixteen books of Divine Antiquities, which he very appropriately dedicated to Julius Caesar in his capacity as Pontifex Maximus. If Ennius's Sacra Historia be left out of account, his book was the first treatise on systematic theology which Rome ever had. In this work he desired to accomplish three things: first, by a review of the history of Rome to show how essential the state religion was; second, by an examination of Greek mythology to purify the state religion from its immoral influences; third, to show that the state religion so purified was fully in accord with Stoic
philosophy. In regard to the "three religions," therefore, he agreed with Scaevola in casting out entirely the religion of the poets, and in accepting both the others, but he differed from Scaevola in that he denied the contradiction between them and asserted that they were not two truths but two forms of the same truth. We are not able to go into the details of his attempt, because unfortunately the books in which he wrote it have been lost to us, and we have again merely the quotation in Augustine's City of God. But we know that in general he tried to show that the formal doctrines of the state religion were merely a popular presentation of the truths of the Stoic philosophy, and that the whole system of Roman gods could be reduced in theory to the great philosophical contrast between the sky and the earth, the procreative and the conceptive elements. A man might therefore hold fast to both religions as to a simpler creed and a more abstruse one. Hence a man's belief as a good citizen and his belief as an intelligent individual were not in contrast so far as the truth was concerned, but merely in the matter of form, in the manner of presentation. Varro's heroic effort, supported as it was by all the learning of his day and all the influence that his fame lent to his words, was nevertheless a failure. The religion of the state was dead; politics had killed it. It was a political power alone which could restore life to it, but that was
the work of an emperor, Augustus, and not of a scholar, Varro.
While Varro, with the weapon of philosophy, was attempting to defend the religion of the state against its enemies, the poets and the philosophers, a poet, also armed with philosophy, was trying to defend the Roman people against its worst enemy, superstition. It may not seem as though Lucretius belonged among the friends of old Roman religion, and as though the De Rerum Natura were exactly a religious poem, and yet his work was in so far helpful to old Roman religion in that it attacked the excesses of a latter-day superstition which had alienated the hearts of the people from their old beliefs. Superstition is a parasite which lives on scepticism, and with the killing of the parasite scepticism sometimes dies as well; and it is open to question whether Lucretius's book was not of considerable service in the cause of religion. For religion still lived at Rome, though it is the fashion of the writers on the ethics of the close of the republic to emphasise almost entirely the scepticism of the day, dwelling on the attitude of a Cicero or a Caesar, and forgetting the infinite number of "little people," especially outside of Rome in the country, who still believed in the old religion of the fathers, and who still performed the old festivals of Numa, people who knew no more about Isis than they did about Stoic philosophy. Their presence is disclosed
to us in a few republican inscriptions, but better yet in the continuance of the rites of family worship down into the latest days of Rome, rites which did not form a part of the restoration of Augustus, and which therefore, had they died now, would never have come to life again. It is by just so much more our duty to remember these people, as they have been forgotten by history, if we ever expect to obtain a picture of Roman religion in its true proportions. They were besides the people upon whom Augustus built in the restoration, to which we now turn.