Greek vs. Roman on how they treat their gods and goddesses

Apr 2018
new york
“It was the Romans especially who introduced the practice of not merely supplicating the gods in time of need, and celebrating "lectisternia," but of also making solemn promises and vows to them. For help in difficulty they sent even into foreign countries, and imported foreign divinities and rites. The introduction of the gods and most of the Roman temples thus arose from necessity—from a vow of some kind, and an obligatory, not disinterested acknowledgment of favors. The Greeks on the contrary erected and instituted their beautiful temples, and statues, and rites, from love to beauty and divinity for their own sake.”

Excerpt From: Georg W. F. Hegel. “Philosophy of History.” Apple Books. Philosophy of History by Georg W. F. Hegel on Apple Books

I am trying to make an example to help myself better understanding this paragraph:

In Rome when the Romans decide to go to war, they open the doors of the temple of Janus, while they cease the war the door will be closed.
In the Greek world the Epidamnos surrendered to Corinth after the Oracle of Delphi told them to do so.

What do you guys think of that?


Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
The Romans didn't supplicate as such but treated their gods as higher level patrons. You went to a temple like you would to the atrium of a l;ocal patrician, asking for favours, though in the case of temples adding some sort of sacrifice (available for purchase on market stalls sometimes run by the temple priests themselves by imperial times). A man could rise to be a god (the idea is still retained in the creation of saints, since in christian rules there can only be one god thus a non-conflicting substitute was required), or in fact, be regarded as somehow more than mundane because of superior charisma, skills, or just plain good fortune. Of course the Romans weren't stupid thus they tended to create gods from ordinary mortals after they had died to avoid ego issues, which became an issue for some less well balanced Caesars who had ego problems anyway and the social power to demand attention.
The Romans seem to have viewed their relationship with the gods in transactional terms. You do x for the god and the god does y for you. X was very often sacrifice, which is why it was so disturbing for certain Romans (e.g. Diocletian and Galerius in 303) that Christians refused to do it. To fail to sacrifice was to put the empire in danger (The annoyance of emperors was exacerbated by the fact that sacrifices were often made in honour of emperors, and, in the case of the Tetrarchs, specific gods were closely associated with the emperors).

Incidentally, a Roman rite that I find fascinating is the euocatio, whereby the Romans would sacrifice in honour of the patron deity of an enemy with the intention of persuading that deity to switch sides. For example, during the siege of Carthage the Romans performed rites for Juno, who was associated with the Carthaginian patron deity Tanit.
Likes: bedb
Oct 2018
Adelaide south Australia
There is an exchange in the original film, Spartacus (19600, which I think summarises the Roman attitude towards their gods. (not verbatim, but the gist)

Young Julius Caesar to Grachhus "----with such a sum I could bribe Jupiter himself"

Grachhus . " With a lesser sum I have"

And, a Roman quote: Something like "to the wise man the gods are nonsense, to the common man, true, and to the ruler, useful" Possibly Epicurus, butI'm not sure.

Of course Roman religion was not homogenous. There was a highly formalised form of State sanctioned worship, with sacrifices, , reading of entrails, vestal virgins and all that. The beliefs of the ordinary person varied enormously, apart from those of citizens from other countries. Some seem to have believed in an afterlife in Elesium, whereas a great many others don't seem to have believed in an afterlife, trying to be remembered by reputation and legacy.

In Rome today there still remain some fascinating ancient Roman tombs and tombstones. (this is according to historian Mary Beard, in her documentary series "Meet The Romans", which I recommend)

The Roman view of religion reminds me a bit of Modern Japanese attitudes; a comfortable (for them) mixture of Buddhism and Shinto.

I remain convinced that all religions, without exception, reflect the cultures that invent invent them as well as the cultures which later adopt them.
Likes: bedb
Mar 2017
There's a lot of fluff in Amazon Prime's "Rome" ... but they paid attention to some very nice details.

The guy in the forum announcing news of the day ... financed by a bakery with "good Roman bread for good Romans" is an obvious example. They even researched the hand motions (allegedly).

One thing I liked were the household shrines. Even the main characters duck their heads & touch their lips as they walk by. People in the streets do the same thing by the outdoor shrines.
Julius Caesar was a member of the gens Julia, which claimed ancestry from Venus herself. Suetonius says:
'And in the eulogy of his aunt he spoke in the following terms of her paternal and maternal ancestry and that of his own father: "The family of my aunt Julia is descended by her mother from the kings, and on her father's side is akin to the immortal Gods; for the Marcii Reges (her mother's family name) go back to Ancus Marcius, and the Julii, the family of which ours is a branch, to Venus. Our stock therefore has at once the sanctity of kings, whose power is supreme among mortal men, and the claim to reverence which attaches to the Gods, who hold sway over kings themselves." '
Caesar built his own forum and a Temple to Venus. Inside the temple, were numerous statues of himself ... and one of Cleopatra, carved from life when she was in Rome and gilt (seen by Appian in 2nd century ACE). It was a statue of Cleopatra-as-Isis ... as-Venus. Something along this line:

Cleopatra, positively identified by triple uraeus. She's wearing a transparent sheath dress ... like in other similar statues and traditional Egyptian paintings.

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