Gallo-Roman religion was a fusion of the traditional religious practices of the Gauls, who were Celtic speakers, the Roman and Hellenistic religions introduced to the region under Roman Imperial rule. It was the result of selective acculturation. In some cases, Gaulish deity names were used as epithets for Roman deities, vice versa, as with Lenus Mars or Jupiter Poeninus. In other cases, Roman gods were given Gaulish female partners – for example, Mercury was paired with Rosmerta and Sirona was partnered with Apollo. In at least one case – that of the equine goddess Epona – a native Celtic goddess was adopted by Romans; the Jupiter Column was a distinctive type of religious monument from Roman Gaul and Germania, combining an equestrian Jupiter overcoming a giant with panels depicting many other deities. Eastern mystery religions penetrated Gaul early on; these included the cults of Orpheus, Mithras and Isis. The imperial cult, centred on the numen of Augustus, came to play a prominent role in the public religion of Gaul, most at the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls at Lugdunum.
Roman religious practices such as offerings of incense and animal sacrifice, dedicatory inscriptions, naturalistic statuary depicting deities in anthropomorphic form were combined with specific Gaulish practices such as circumambulation around a temple. This gave rise to a characteristic Gallo-Roman fanum, identifiable in archaeology from its concentric shape. Roman Gaul Gallo-Roman culture Interpretatio romana Celtic mythology Burnand, Y.. "Notes sur le vocabulaire épigraphique de la représentation de la divinité en Gaule romaine" in Signa deorum: L'iconographie divine en Gaule romaine. Communications présentées au colloque organisé par le Centre Albert Grenier d'antiquité nationale de l'Université de Nancy II et la direction d'études d'antiquités de la Gaule romaine de la IVe section de l'École pratique des hautes études. Y. Burnand and H. Lavagne. Paris, De Boccard. Debal, J. "Vienne-en-Val, divinités et sanctuaires." Bulletin de la Société Archéologique et Historique de l'Orléanais, 42 Deyts, S..
À la rencontre des Dieux gaulois, un défi à César. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux. Faudet, I. Les temples de tradition celtique en Gaule Romaine. Paris, Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-074-8 Green, M. Gods of the Celts. Stroud: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-1581-1. Jufer, N.. Paris, Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-200-7 Weisgerber, G.. Das Pilgerheiligtum des Apollo und der Sirona von Hochscheid im Hunsruck. Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Press. Woolf, G.. Becoming Roman: the origins of provincial civilization in Gaul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Decline of Greco-Roman polytheism
Religion in the Greco-Roman world at the time of the Constantinian shift comprised three main currents: the traditional religions of ancient Greece and Rome. Early Christianity grew in Rome and the Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th centuries. In 313 it was tolerated and in 380 it became the state church of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica. Hellenistic polytheistic traditions survived in pockets of Greece throughout Late Antiquity until they diminished after the triumph of Christianity; the Romans tended towards syncretism, seeing the same gods under different names in different places of the Empire, accommodating other Europeans such as the Hellenes and Celts, Semitic and other groups in the Middle East. Under Roman authority, the various national myths most similar to Rome were adopted by analogue into the overall Roman mythos, further cementing Imperial control; the Romans were tolerant and accommodating towards new deities and the religious experiences of other peoples who formed part of their wider Empire.
The more philosophical outlook of the Hellenic parts of the Roman empire led to a renaissance of intellectual religious thought around the start of the 2nd century. Writings pseudepigraphically attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, discussing esoteric philosophy and alchemy, began to spread from Roman Egypt throughout the empire. Although such hermetica was written with the theological aim of spiritual improvement, each text had an anonymous and spontaneous origin, rather than being part of an organised movement. A more organised form of alatrist henotheistic panentheism emerged in parallel to Hermetism. In the 1st century BC Cicero's friend Nigidius Figulus made an attempt to revive Pythagorean doctrines, an effort, successful under Apollonius of Tyana in the 1st century. At least one major meeting place for followers of this neopythagoreanism was built in Rome itself, near Porta Maggiore, to a design similar to Christian churches, though subterranean. In the 2nd century, Numenius of Apamea sought to fuse additional elements of Platonism into Neopythagoreanism, a direction which Plotinus continued, forming neoplatonism, a religion of theistic monism.
Neoplatonism began to be adopted by prominent scholars such as the Christian theologian Origen and the anti-Christian Porphyry. During the rule of Gallienus, the imperial family themselves gave patronage to Plotinus, encouraged his philosophical activities. Neoplatonism was further developed by Iamblichus, who believed that physical invocations would be able to produce soteriological results, therefore added religious ritual to the philosophy. Emperor Julian tried to unify traditional Roman religion by mixing it with Iamblichus' form of neoplatonism. At some time around the first century, the members of the Roman military began to adopt the mystery cult of Mithraism; as the Roman legions moved around, so too Mithraism spread throughout the Roman Empire. Mithraism wasn't exclusive - it was possible and common to follow Mithraism and other cults simultaneously, it became popular within Rome itself gaining members among the more aristocratic classes, counting some of the Roman senators as adherents.
Although, for reasons unknown, Mithraism excluded women, by the third century it had gained a wide following. From the reign of Septimius Severus, less gender-specific, forms of sun-worship increased in popularity throughout the Roman Empire. Elagabalus used his authority to install El-Gabal as the chief deity of the Roman pantheon, merging the god with the Roman sun gods to form Deus Sol Invictus, meaning God - the Undefeated Sun, making him superior to Jupiter, assigning either Astarte, Urania, or some combination of the three, as El-Gabal's wife, he rode roughshod over other elements of traditional religion, marrying a Vestal Virgin, moved the most sacred relics of Roman religion to a new temple dedicated to El-Gabal. As much as the religiously conservative senators may have disapproved, the lavish annual public festivals held in El-Gabal's honour found favour among the popular masses on account of the festivals involving the wide distribution of food. Nearly half a century after Elagabalus, Aurelian came to power.
He was a reformer, strengthening the position of the sun-god as the main divinity of the Ro
Glossary of ancient Roman religion
The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion was specialized. Its study affords important information about the religion and beliefs of the ancient Romans; this legacy is conspicuous in European cultural history in its influence on juridical and religious vocabulary in Europe of the Western Church. This glossary provides explanations of concepts as they were expressed in Latin pertaining to religious practices and beliefs, with links to articles on major topics such as priesthoods, forms of divination, rituals. For theonyms, or the names and epithets of gods, see List of Roman deities. For public religious holidays, see Roman festivals. For temples see the List of Ancient Roman temples. Individual landmarks of religious topography in ancient Rome are not included in this list; the verb abominari was a term of augury for an action that rejects or averts an unfavourable omen indicated by a signum, "sign". The noun is abominatio. At the taking of formally solicited auspices, the observer was required to acknowledge any bad sign occurring within the templum he was observing, regardless of the interpretation.
He might, take certain actions in order to ignore the signa, including avoiding the sight of them, interpreting them as favourable. The latter tactic required promptness and skill based on discipline and learning, thus the omen had no validity apart from the observation of it. The aedes was the dwelling place of a god, it was thus a structure that housed the deity's image, distinguished from the templum or sacred district. Aedes is one of several Latin words that can be translated as "shrine" or "temple". For instance, the Temple of Vesta, as it is called in English, was in Latin an aedes. See the diminutive aedicula, a small shrine. In his work On Architecture, Vitruvius always uses the word templum in the technical sense of a space defined through augury, with aedes the usual word for the building itself; the design of a deity's aedes, should be appropriate to the characteristics of the deity. For a celestial deity such as Jupiter, Sol or Luna, the building should be open to the sky, thus in theory, though not always in practice, architectural aesthetics had a theological dimension.
The word aedilis, a public official, is related by etymology. The temple of Flora, for instance, was built in 241 BC by two aediles acting on Sibylline oracles; the plebeian aediles had their headquarters at the aedes of Ceres. In religious usage, ager was terrestrial space defined for the purposes of augury in relation to auspicia. There were five kinds of ager: Romanus, peregrinus and incertus; the ager Romanus included the urban space outside the pomerium and the surrounding countryside. According to Varro, the ager Gabinus pertained to the special circumstances of the oppidum of Gabii, the first to sign a sacred treaty with Rome; the ager peregrinus was other territory, brought under treaty. Ager hosticus meant foreign territory; the powers and actions of magistrates were based on and constrained by the nature of the ager on which they stood, ager in more general usage meant a territory as defined or politically. The ager Romanus could not be extended outside Italy; the focal point of sacrifice was the altar.
Most altars throughout the city of Rome and in the countryside would have been simple, open-air structures. An altar that received food offerings might be called a mensa, "table."Perhaps the best-known Roman altar is the elaborate and Greek-influenced Ara Pacis, called "the most representative work of Augustan art." Other major public altars included the Ara Maxima. A tree was categorized as felix; the adjective felix here means not only "fruitful" but more broadly "auspicious". Macrobius lists arbores felices as the oak, the birch, the hazelnut, the sorbus, the white fig, the pear, the apple, the grape, the plum, the cornus and the lotus; the oak was sacred to Jupiter, twigs of oak were used by the Vestals to ignite the sacred fire in March every year. Among the felices were the olive tree, a twig of, affixed to the hat of the Flamen Dialis, the laurel and the poplar, which crowned the Salian priests. Arbores infelices were those under the protection of chthonic gods or those gods who had the power of turning away misfortune.
As listed by Tarquitius Priscus in his lost ostentarium on trees, these were buckthorn, red cornel, black fig, "those that bear a black berry and black fruit," holly, woodland pear, butcher's broom and brambles." The verb attrectare referred in specialized religious usage to touching sacred objects while performing cultic actions. Attrectare had a positive meaning only in reference to the action
Interpretatio graeca is a discourse in which ancient Greek religious concepts and practices and myths are used to interpret or attempt to understand the mythology and religion of other cultures. It is thus a comparative methodology that looks for shared characteristics; the phrase may describe Greek efforts to explain others' beliefs and myths, as when Herodotus describes Egyptian religion in terms of perceived Greek analogues, or when Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Plutarch document Roman cults and practices under the names of equivalent Greek deities. Interpretatio graeca may describe non-Greeks' interpretation of their own belief systems by comparison or assimilation with Greek models, as when Romans adapt Greek myths and iconography under the names of their own gods. Interpretatio romana is comparative discourse in reference to ancient Roman religion and myth, as in the formation of a distinctive Gallo-Roman religion. Both the Romans and the Gauls reinterpreted Gallic religious traditions in relation to Roman models Imperial cult.
Jan Assmann considers the polytheistic approach to internationalizing gods as a form of "intercultural translation": The great achievement of polytheism is the articulation of a common semantic universe.... The meaning of a deity is his or her specific character as it unfolded in myths, rites, so on; this character makes a deity comparable to other deities with similar traits. The similarity of gods makes their names mutually translatable. … The practice of translating the names of the gods created a concept of similarity and produced the idea or conviction that the gods are international. Pliny the Elder expressed the "translatability" of deities as "different names to different peoples"; this capacity made possible the religious syncretism of the Hellenistic era and the pre-Christian Roman Empire. Herodotus was one of the earliest authors to engage in this form of interpretation. In his observations regarding the Egyptians, he establishes Greco-Egyptian equivalents that endured into the Hellenistic era, including Amon/Zeus, Osiris/Dionysus, Ptah/Hephaestus.
In his observations regarding the Scythians, he equates their queen of the gods, Tabiti, to Hestia and Api to Zeus and Gaia and Argimpasa to Aphrodite Urania, whilst claiming that the Scythians worshipped equivalents to Herakles and Ares, but which he doesn't name. Some pairs of Greek and Roman gods, such as Zeus and Jupiter, are thought to derive from a common Indo-European archetype, thus exhibit shared functions by nature. Others required more expansive theological and poetic efforts: though both Ares and Mars are war gods, Ares was a minor figure in Greek religious practice and deprecated by the poets, while Mars was a father of the Roman people and a central figure of archaic Roman religion; some deities dating to Rome's oldest religious stratum, such as Janus and Terminus, had no Greek equivalent. Other Greek divine figures, most notably Apollo, were adopted directly into Roman culture, but underwent a distinctly Roman development, as when Augustus made Apollo one of his patron deities.
In the early period, Etruscan culture played an intermediary role in transmitting Greek myth and religion to the Romans, as evidenced in the linguistic transformation of Greek Heracles to Etruscan Hercle to Roman Hercules. The phrase interpretatio romana was first used by the Imperial-era historian Tacitus in the Germania. Tacitus reports that in a sacred grove of the Nahanarvali, "a priest adorned as a woman presides, but they commemorate gods who in Roman terms are Castor and Pollux." Elsewhere, he identifies the principal god of the Germans as Mercury referring to Wotan. Some information about the deities of the ancient Gauls, who left no written literature other than inscriptions, is preserved by Greco-Roman sources under the names of Greek and Latin equivalents. A large number of Gaulish theonyms or cult titles are preserved, for instance, in association with Mars; as with some Greek and Roman divine counterparts, the perceived similarities between a Gallic and a Roman or Greek deity may reflect a common Indo-European origin.
Lugus was identified with Nodens with Mars as healer and protector, Sulis with Minerva. In some cases, however, a Gallic deity is given an interpretatio romana by means of more than one god, varying among literary texts or inscriptions. Since the religions of the Greco-Roman world were not dogmatic, polytheism lent itself to multiplicity, the concept of "deity" was expansive, permitting multiple and contradictory functions within a single divinity, overlapping powers and functions among the diverse figures of each pantheon; these tendencies extended to cross-cultural identifications. In the Eastern empire, the Anatolian storm god with his double-headed axe became Jupiter Dolichenus, a favorite cult figure among soldiers. Roman scholars such as Varro interpreted the monotheistic god of the Jews into Roman terms as Caelus or Jupiter Optimus Maximus; some Greco-Roman authors seem to have understood the Jewish invocation of Yahweh Sabaoth as Sabazius. Interpretatio germanica is the practice by the Germanic peoples of identifying Roman gods with the names of Germanic deities.
According to Rudolf Simek, this occurred around the 1st century AD, when both cultures came into closer contact. Some evidence for interpretatio germanica exists in the Germanic translations of the Roman names for the days of the week: Sunday, the day of Sunnǭ, the sun, was earlier the day of Sol Invictus, th
Jupiter known as Jove, was the god of the sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire. In Roman mythology, he negotiates with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as offering, or sacrifice. Jupiter is thought to have originated as an aerial god, his identifying implement is the thunderbolt and his primary sacred animal is the eagle, which held precedence over other birds in the taking of auspices and became one of the most common symbols of the Roman army. The two emblems were combined to represent the god in the form of an eagle holding in its claws a thunderbolt seen on Greek and Roman coins; as the sky-god, he was a divine witness to oaths, the sacred trust on which justice and good government depend. Many of his functions were focused on the Capitoline Hill.
In the Capitoline Triad, he was the central guardian of the state with Minerva. His sacred tree was the oak; the Romans regarded Jupiter as the equivalent of the Greek Zeus, in Latin literature and Roman art, the myths and iconography of Zeus are adapted under the name Iuppiter. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Jupiter was the brother of Neptune and Pluto, the Roman equivalents of Poseidon and Hades respectively; each presided over one of the three realms of the universe: sky, the waters, the underworld. The Italic Diespiter was a sky god who manifested himself in the daylight identified with Jupiter. Tinia is regarded as his Etruscan counterpart; the Romans believed that Jupiter granted them supremacy because they had honoured him more than any other people had. Jupiter was "the fount of the auspices upon which the relationship of the city with the gods rested." He personified the divine authority of Rome's highest offices, internal organization, external relations. His image in the Republican and Imperial Capitol bore regalia associated with Rome's ancient kings and the highest consular and Imperial honours.
The consuls swore their oath of office in Jupiter's name, honoured him on the annual feriae of the Capitol in September. To thank him for his help, they offered him a white ox with gilded horns. A similar offering was made by triumphal generals, who surrendered the tokens of their victory at the feet of Jupiter's statue in the Capitol; some scholars have viewed the triumphator as embodying Jupiter in the triumphal procession. Jupiter's association with kingship and sovereignty was reinterpreted as Rome's form of government changed. Rome was ruled by kings. Nostalgia for the kingship was considered treasonous; those suspected of harbouring monarchical ambitions were punished, regardless of their service to the state. In the 5th century BC, the triumphator Camillus was sent into exile after he drove a chariot with a team of four white horses —an honour reserved for Jupiter himself; when Marcus Manlius, whose defense of the Capitol against the invading Gauls had earned him the name Capitolinus, was accused of regal pretensions, he was executed as a traitor by being cast from the Tarpeian Rock.
His house on the Capitoline Hill was razed, it was decreed that no patrician should be allowed to live there. Capitoline Jupiter found himself in a delicate position: he represented a continuity of royal power from the Regal period, conferred power on the magistrates who paid their respects to him. During the Conflict of the Orders, Rome's plebeians demanded the right to hold political and religious office. During their first secessio, they threatened to found their own; when they agreed to come back to Rome they vowed the hill where they had retreated to Jupiter as symbol and guarantor of the unity of the Roman res publica. Plebeians became eligible for all the magistracies and most priesthoods, but the high priest of Jupiter remained the preserve of patricians. Jupiter was served by the patrician Flamen Dialis, the highest-ranking member of the flamines, a college of fifteen priests in the official public cult of Rome, each of whom was devoted to a particular deity, his wife, the Flaminica Dialis, had her own duties, presided over the sacrifice of a ram to Jupiter on each of the nundinae, the "market" days of a calendar cycle, comparable to a week.
The couple were required to marry by the exclusive patrician ritual confarreatio, which included a sacrifice of spelt bread to Jupiter Farreus. The office of Flamen Dialis was circumscribed by several unique ritual prohibitions, some of which shed light on the sovereign nature of the god himself. For instance, the flamen may remove his clothes or apex only when under a roof, in order to avoid showing himself naked to the sky—that is, "as if under the eyes of Jupiter" as god of the heavens; every time the Flaminica saw a lightning bolt or heard a clap of thunder, she was prohibited from carrying on with her normal routine until she placated the god. Some privileges of the flamen of Jupiter may reflect the regal nature of Jupiter: he had the use of the curule chair, was the
Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history; the reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession. Augustus was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus into an old and wealthy equestrian branch of the plebeian gens Octavia, his maternal great-uncle Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Octavius was named in Caesar's will as his adopted son and heir. Along with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus, he formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat the assassins of Caesar. Following their victory at the Battle of Philippi, the Triumvirate divided the Roman Republic among themselves and ruled as military dictators.
The Triumvirate was torn apart by the competing ambitions of its members. Lepidus was driven into exile and stripped of his position, Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by Octavian in 31 BC. After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Augustus restored the outward façade of the free Republic, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate, the executive magistrates, the legislative assemblies. In reality, however, he retained his autocratic power over the Republic as a military dictator. By law, Augustus held a collection of powers granted to him for life by the Senate, including supreme military command, those of tribune and censor, it took several years for Augustus to develop the framework within which a formally republican state could be led under his sole rule. He rejected monarchical titles, instead called himself Princeps Civitatis; the resulting constitutional framework became known as the Principate, the first phase of the Roman Empire. Augustus enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Pannonia and Raetia, expanding possessions in Africa, completing the conquest of Hispania, but suffered a major setback in Germania.
Beyond the frontiers, he secured the Empire with a buffer region of client states and made peace with the Parthian Empire through diplomacy. He reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads with an official courier system, established a standing army, established the Praetorian Guard, created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome, rebuilt much of the city during his reign. Augustus died in AD 14 at the age of 75 from natural causes. However, there were unconfirmed rumors, he was succeeded as emperor by his adopted son Tiberius. As a consequence of Roman customs and personal preference, Augustus was known by many names throughout his life: Gaius Octavius Thurinus: He received his birth name, after his biological father, in 63 BC. "Gaius" was his praenomen, "Octavius" was his nomen, "Thurinus" was his cognomen. His rival Mark Antony used the name "Thurinus" as an insult, to which Augustus replied, surprised that "using his old name was thought to be an insult".
Gaius Julius Caesar: After he was adopted by Julius Caesar, he adopted Caesar's name in accordance with Roman naming conventions. While he dropped all references to the gens Octavia, people colloquially added the epithet Octavianus to his legal name, either to differentiate him from his adoptive father or to highlight his more modest origins. Modern historians refer to him using the anglicized form "Octavian" between 44 BC and 27 BC. Gaius Julius Caesar Divi Filius: Two years after his adoption, he founded the Temple of Caesar additionally adding the title Divi Filius to his name in attempt to strengthen his political ties to Caesar's former soldiers, following the deification of Caesar. Imperator Caesar Divi Filius: From 38 BC, Octavian opted to use Imperator, the title by which troops hailed their leader after military success, his name is translated as "Commander Caesar, Son of the Divine". Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus: Following his 31 BC defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra on his own insistence, the Roman Senate granted him the additional name, "Augustus", which he added to his previous names thereafter.
Historians use this name to refer to him from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. While his paternal family was from the town of Velletri 40 kilometres from Rome, Augustus was born in the city of Rome on 23 September 63 BC, he was born at Ox Head, a small property on the Palatine Hill close to the Roman Forum. He was given the name Gaius Octavius Thurinus, his cognomen commemorating his father's victory at Thurii over a rebellious band of slaves. Suetonius wrote: "There are many indications that the Octavian family was in days of old a distinguished one at Velitrae; this man was leader in a war with a neighbouring town..." Due to the crowded nature of Rome at the time, Octavius was taken to his father's home village at Velletri to be raised. Octavius mentions his father's equestrian family only in his memoirs, his paternal great-grandfather Gaius Octavius was a military tribune in Sicily during the Second Punic War. His grandfather had served in several lo
Mystery religions, sacred mysteries or mysteries were religious schools of the Greco-Roman world for which participation was reserved to initiates. The main characterization of this religion is the secrecy associated with the particulars of the initiation and the ritual practice, which may not be revealed to outsiders; the most famous mysteries of Greco-Roman antiquity were the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were of considerable antiquity and predated the Greek Dark Ages. The mystery schools flourished in Late Antiquity. Due to the secret nature of the school, because the mystery religions of Late Antiquity were persecuted by the Christian Roman Empire from the 4th century, the details of these religious practices are derived from descriptions and cross-cultural studies. "Because of this element of secrecy, we are ill-informed as to the beliefs and practices of the various mystery faiths. We know that they had a general likeness to one another". Much information on the Mysteries come from Marcus Terentius Varro.
Justin Martyr in the 2nd century explicitly noted and identified them as "demonic imitations" of the true faith, that "the devils, in imitation of what was said by Moses, asserted that Proserpine was the daughter of Jupiter, instigated the people to set up an image of her under the name of Kore". Through the 1st to 4th century, Christianity stood in direct competition for adherents with the mystery schools, insofar as the "mystery schools too were an intrinsic element of the non-Jewish horizon of the reception of the Christian message". Beginning in the third century, after Constantine became emperor, components of mystery religions began to be incorporated into mainstream Christian thinking, such as is reflected by the disciplina arcani; the English word'mystery' appeared as the plural Greek Mystêria, developed into the Latin mysterium where the English term originates. The etymology of the Greek mystêrion is not clear though scholars have traditionally thought it to have derived from the Greek myo, meaning "to close or shut".
More a number of Hittite scholars have suggested that the Greek term derives from the Hittite verb munnae, "to conceal, to hide, to shut out of sight". Mystery religions formed one of three types of Hellenistic religion, the others being the imperial cult, or the ethnic religion particular to a nation or state, the philosophic religions such as Neoplatonism; this is reflected in the tripartite division of "theology"—by Varro—into civil theology, natural theology, mythical theology. Mysteries thus supplement rather than compete with civil religion. An individual could observe the rites of the state religion, be an initiate in one or more mysteries, at the same time adhere to a certain philosophical school. Many of the aspects of public religion such as sacrifices, ritual meals, ritual purification were repeated within the mystery, but with the additional requirement that they take place in secrecy and be confined to a closed set of initiates; the mystery schools offered a niche for the preservation of ancient religious ritual.
Though historians have given up trying to outline a rigid definition to categorize all mystery cults, a number of characteristics that the mystery cults shared can be outlined. All the mystery cults placed emphasis on the secrecy of their practices and an emotional initiation ritual for a new member to join the group; the members were voluntary participants, had nocturnal settings and preliminary purifications for their gatherings, there was an obligation to pay in order to participate, promised rewards for this life and the next, the older mysteries were located at a variable distance from the nearest city. Furthermore, they were all, with the exception of the Mithraic cult, open to all people, including men and women and freeman, the young and old, etc. However, the expenses required to participate in all the rituals precluded many from joining, and though the mysteries were secret, they were not mysterious. For this reason, what glimpses we do have of the older Greek mysteries have been understood as reflecting certain archaic aspects of common Indo-European religion, with parallels in Indo-Iranian religion.
The mystery schools of Greco-Roman antiquity include the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries, the Orphic Mysteries. Some of the many divinities that the Romans nominally adopted from other cultures came to be worshipped in Mysteries, for instance, Egyptian Isis, Persian Mithras from the Mithraic Mysteries, Thracian/Phrygian Sabazius, Phrygian Cybele; the Eleusinian Mysteries were the earliest and most famous of the mystery cults and lasted for over a millennium. Whenever they first originated, by the end of the 5th century BC, they had been influenced by Orphism, in Late Antiquity, they had become allegorized; these mysteries were more concerned with prosperity than eschatalogy and hope in the afterlife, so belief in an afterlife had always belonged to a minority and no person initiated into the mysteries made reference to it on their tombstones until the 2nd century BC. In the 15th of the month of Boedromion in the Attic calendar, as many as 3,000 potential initiates would have gathered in the agora of Athens, the gathering limited to those that spoke Greek and had never killed (as the emphasis on purity grew, this ban