In ancient Rome, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being were regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, they cultivated the sacred fire, not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children and took a 30-year vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were forbidden to the colleges of male priests. Livy and Aulus Gellius attribute the creation of the Vestals as a state-supported priestesshood to king Numa Pompilius, who reigned circa 717–673 BC. According to Livy, Numa assigned them salaries from the public treasury. Livy says that the priestesshood of Vesta had its origins at Alba Longa; the 2nd century antiquarian Aulus Gellius writes that the first Vestal taken from her parents was led away in hand by Numa. Plutarch attributes the founding of the Temple of Vesta to Numa, who appointed at first two priestesses.
Ambrose alludes to a seventh in late antiquity. Numa appointed the pontifex maximus to watch over the Vestals; the first Vestals, according to Varro, were named Gegania, Veneneia and Tarpeia. Tarpeia, daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, was portrayed as traitorous in legend; the Vestals became a influential force in the Roman state. When Sulla included the young Julius Caesar in his proscriptions, the Vestals interceded on Caesar's behalf and gained him pardon. Augustus included the Vestals in all major ceremonies, they were held in awe, attributed certain magical powers. Pliny the Elder, for example, in Book 28 of his Natural History discussing the efficacy of magic, chooses not to refute, but rather tacitly accept as truth:At the present day, too, it is a general belief, that our Vestal virgins have the power, by uttering a certain prayer, to arrest the flight of runaway slaves, to rivet them to the spot, provided they have not gone beyond the precincts of the City. If these opinions be once received as truth, if it be admitted that the gods do listen to certain prayers, or are influenced by set forms of words, we are bound to conclude in the affirmative upon the whole question.
The urban prefect Symmachus, who sought to maintain traditional Roman religion during the rise of Christianity, wrote: The laws of our ancestors provided for the Vestal virgins and the ministers of the gods a moderate maintenance and just privileges. This gift was preserved inviolate till the time of the degenerate moneychangers, who diverted the maintenance of sacred chastity into a fund for the payment of base porters. A public famine ensued on this act, a bad harvest disappointed the hopes of all the provinces... it was sacrilege which rendered the year barren, for it was necessary that all should lose that which they had denied to religion. The College of the Vestals was disbanded and the sacred fire extinguished in 394, by order of the Christian emperor Theodosius. Zosimus records how the Christian noblewoman Serena, a niece of Theodosius, entered the temple and took from the statue of the goddess Rhea Silvia a necklace and placed it on her own neck. An old woman appeared, the last of the Vestals, who proceeded to rebuke Serena and called down upon her all just punishment for her act of impiety.
According to Zosimus, Serena was subject to dreadful dreams predicting her own untimely death. Augustine would be inspired to write The City of God in response to murmurings that the capture of Rome and the disintegration of its empire was due to the advent of the Christian era, its intolerance of the old gods who had defended the city for over a thousand years; the chief Vestal oversaw the efforts of the Vestals, was present in the College of Pontiffs. The Vestalis Maxima Occia presided over the Vestals according to Tacitus; the last known chief vestal was Coelia Concordia, who stepped down in 394 with the disbanding of the College of the Vestals. The Vestalium Maxima was the most important of Rome's high priestesses. Although the Flaminica Dialis and the regina sacrorum each held unique responsibility for certain religious rites, each came into her office as the spouse of another appointed priest, whereas the vestals all held office independently. According to Plutarch, there were only two Vestal Virgins when Numa began the College of the Vestals.
This number increased to four, to six. It has been suggested by some authorities that a seventh was added but this is doubtful; the Vestals were committed to the priestesshood before puberty and sworn to celibacy for a period of 30 years. These 30 years were divided in turn into decade-long periods during which Vestals were students and teachers. After her 30-year term of service, each Vestal was replaced by a new inductee. Once retired, a former Vestal was allowed to marry; the Pontifex Maximus, acting as the father of the bride, would arrange a marriage with a suitable Roman nobleman. A marriage to a former Vestal was honoured, – more in ancient Rome – thought to bring good luck, as well as a comfortable pension. To obtain entry into the order, a girl had to be free of physical and mental defects, have two living parents and be a daughter of a free-born resident of Rome. From at least the mid-Republican era, the pontifex maximus chose Vestals between their sixth and tenth year, by lot from a group of twenty high-born candidates at a gathering of their families and other Roman citizens.
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Gaius Julius Caesar, known by his nomen and cognomen Julius Caesar, was a Roman politician, military general, historian who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He wrote Latin prose. In 60 BC, Caesar and Pompey formed the First Triumvirate, a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years, their attempts to amass power as Populares were opposed by the Optimates within the Roman Senate, among them Cato the Younger with the frequent support of Cicero. Caesar rose to become one of the most powerful politicians in the Roman Republic through a number of his accomplishments, notably his victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC. During this time, Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both the English Channel and the Rhine River, when he built a bridge across the Rhine and crossed the Channel to invade Britain. Caesar's wars extended Rome's territory to past Gaul; these achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC.
With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Leaving his command in Gaul meant losing his immunity from being charged as a criminal for waging unsanctioned wars; as a result, Caesar found himself with no other options but to cross the Rubicon with the 13th Legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms. This began Caesar's civil war, his victory in the war put him in an unrivaled position of power and influence. After assuming control of government, Caesar began a program of social and governmental reforms, including the creation of the Julian calendar, he gave citizenship to many residents of far regions of the Roman Empire. He initiated land support for veterans, he centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic and was proclaimed "dictator for life", giving him additional authority. His populist and authoritarian reforms angered the elites. On the Ides of March, 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Gaius Cassius Longinus, Marcus Junius Brutus and Decimus Junius Brutus, who stabbed him to death.
A new series of civil wars broke out and the constitutional government of the Republic was never restored. Caesar's adopted heir Octavian known as Augustus, rose to sole power after defeating his opponents in the civil war. Octavian set about solidifying his power, the era of the Roman Empire began. Much of Caesar's life is known from his own accounts of his military campaigns and from other contemporary sources the letters and speeches of Cicero and the historical writings of Sallust; the biographies of Caesar by Suetonius and Plutarch are major sources. Caesar is considered by many historians to be one of the greatest military commanders in history, his cognomen was subsequently adopted as a synonym for "Emperor". He has appeared in literary and artistic works, his political philosophy, known as Caesarism, inspired politicians into the modern era. Gaius Julius Caesar was born into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas the son of the goddess Venus.
The Julii were of Alban origin, mentioned as one of the leading Alban houses, which settled in Rome around the mid-7th century BC, after the destruction of Alba Longa. They were granted patrician status, along with other noble Alban families; the Julii existed at an early period at Bovillae, evidenced by a ancient inscription on an altar in the theatre of that town, which speaks of their offering sacrifices according to the lege Albana, or Alban rites. The cognomen "Caesar" originated, according to Pliny the Elder, with an ancestor, born by Caesarean section; the Historia Augusta suggests three alternative explanations: that the first Caesar had a thick head of hair. Caesar issued coins featuring images of elephants, suggesting that he favored this interpretation of his name. Despite their ancient pedigree, the Julii Caesares were not politically influential, although they had enjoyed some revival of their political fortunes in the early 1st century BC. Caesar's father called Gaius Julius Caesar, governed the province of Asia, his sister Julia, Caesar's aunt, married Gaius Marius, one of the most prominent figures in the Republic.
His mother, Aurelia Cotta, came from an influential family. Little is recorded of Caesar's childhood. In 85 BC, Caesar's father died so Caesar was the head of the family at 16, his coming of age coincided with a civil war between his uncle Gaius Marius and his rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Both sides carried out bloody purges of their political opponents whenever they were in the ascendancy. Marius and his ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna were in control of the city when Caesar was nominated as the new Flamen Dialis, he was married to Cinna's daughter Cornelia. Following Sulla's final victory, Caesar's connections to the old regime made him a target for the new one, he was stripped of his inheritance, his wife's dowry, his priesthood, but he refused to divorce Cornelia and was forced to go into hiding. The threat against hi
Ancient Greek religion
Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs and mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or "cults" in the plural, though most of them shared similarities. Most ancient Greeks recognized the twelve major Olympian gods and goddesses:, although philosophies such as Stoicism and some forms of Platonism used language that seems to assume a single transcendent deity; the worship of these deities, several others, was found across the Greek world, though they have different epithets that distinguished aspects of the deity, reflect the absorption of other local deities into the pan-Hellenic scheme. The religious practices of the Greeks extended beyond mainland Greece, to the islands and coasts of Ionia in Asia Minor, to Magna Graecia, to scattered Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean, such as Massalia. Early Italian religions such as the Etruscan were influenced by Greek religion in forming much of the ancient Roman religion.
While there were few concepts universal to all the Greek peoples, there were common beliefs shared by many. Ancient Greek theology was polytheistic, based on the assumption that there were many gods and goddesses, as well as a range of lesser supernatural beings of various types. There was a hierarchy of deities, with Zeus, the king of the gods, having a level of control over all the others, although he was not almighty; some deities had dominion over certain aspects of nature. For instance, Zeus was the sky-god, sending thunder and lightning, Poseidon ruled over the sea and earthquakes, Hades projected his remarkable power throughout the realms of death and the Underworld, Helios controlled the sun. Other deities ruled over abstract concepts. All significant deities were visualized as "human" in form, although able to transform themselves into animals or natural phenomena. While being immortal, the gods were not all-good or all-powerful, they had to obey fate, known to Greek mythology as the Moirai, which overrode any of their divine powers or wills.
For instance, in mythology, it was Odysseus' fate to return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, the gods could only lengthen his journey and make it harder for him, but they could not stop him. The gods had human vices, they would interact with humans, sometimes spawning children with them. At times certain gods would be opposed to others, they would try to outdo each other. In the Iliad, Aphrodite and Apollo support the Trojan side in the Trojan War, while Hera and Poseidon support the Greeks; some gods were associated with a certain city. Athena was associated with the city of Athens, Apollo with Delphi and Delos, Zeus with Olympia and Aphrodite with Corinth, but other gods were worshipped in these cities. Other deities were associated with nations outside of Greece. Identity of names was not a guarantee of a similar cultus. Though the worship of the major deities spread from one locality to another, though most larger cities boasted temples to several major gods, the identification of different gods with different places remained strong to the end.
The Greeks believed in an underworld. One of the most widespread areas of this underworld was ruled over by Hades, a brother of Zeus, was known as Hades. Other well known realms are Tartarus, a place of torment for the damned, Elysium, a place of pleasures for the virtuous. In the early Mycenean religion all the dead went to Hades, but the rise of mystery cults in the Archaic age led to the development of places such as Tartarus and Elysium. A few Greeks, like Achilles, Amphiaraus Ganymede, Melicertes, Peleus, a great number of those who fought in the Trojan and Theban wars, were considered to have been physically immortalized and brought to live forever in either Elysium, the Islands of the Blessed, the ocean, or beneath the ground; such beliefs are found in the most ancient such as Homer and Hesiod. This belief remained strong into the Christian era. For most people at the moment of death there was, however, no hope of anything but continued existence as a disembodied soul; some Greeks, such as the philosophers Pythagoras and Plato embraced the idea of reincarnation, though this was only accepted by a few.
Epicurus taught that the soul was atoms which dissolved at death, so there was no existence after death. Greek religion had an extensive mythology, it consisted of stories of the gods and how they interacted with humans. Myths revolved around heroes and their actions, such as Heracles and his twelve labors and his voyage home and the quest for the Golden Fleece and Theseus and the Minotaur. Many species existed in Greek mythology. Chief among these were the gods and humans, though the Titans frequently appeared in Greek myths. Lesser species included the half-man-half-horse centaurs, the nature based nymphs and the half man, half goat satyrs; some creatures in Greek mythology were monstrous, such as the one-eyed giant Cyclop
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
Ancient Roman temples were among the most important buildings in Roman culture, some of the richest buildings in Roman architecture, though only a few survive in any sort of complete state. Today they remain "the most obvious symbol of Roman architecture", their construction and maintenance was a major part of ancient Roman religion, all towns of any importance had at least one main temple, as well as smaller shrines. The main room housed the cult image of the deity to whom the temple was dedicated, a small altar for incense or libations. Behind the cella was a room or rooms used by temple attendants for storage of equipment and offerings; the ordinary worshipper entered the cella, most public ceremonies were performed outside, on the portico, with a crowd gathered in the temple precinct. The most common architectural plan had a rectangular temple raised on a high podium, with a clear front with a portico at the top of steps, a triangular pediment above columns; the sides and rear of the building had much less architectural emphasis, no entrances.
There were circular plans with columns all round, outside Italy there were many compromises with traditional local styles. The Roman form of temple developed from Etruscan temples, themselves influenced by the Greeks, with subsequent heavy direct influence from Greece. Public religious ceremonies of the official Roman religion took place outdoors, not within the temple building; some ceremonies were processions that started at, visited, or ended with a temple or shrine, where a ritual object might be stored and brought out for use, or where an offering would be deposited. Sacrifices, chiefly of animals, would take place at an open-air altar within the templum. Under the Empire, exotic foreign cults gained followers in Rome, were the local religions in large parts of the expanded Empire; these had different practices, some preferring underground places of worship, while others, like Early Christians, worshipped in houses. Some remains of many Roman temples survive, above all in Rome itself, but the few near-complete examples were nearly all converted to Christian churches a considerable time after the initial triumph of Christianity under Constantine.
The decline of Roman religion was slow, the temples themselves were not appropriated by the government until a decree of the Emperor Honorius in 415. Santi Cosma e Damiano, in the Roman Forum the Temple of Romulus, was not dedicated as a church until 527; the best known is the Pantheon, however untypical, being a large circular temple with a magnificent concrete roof, behind a conventional portico front. The English word "temple" derives from the Latin templum, not the building itself, but a sacred space surveyed and plotted ritually; the Roman architect Vitruvius always uses the word templum to refer to the sacred precinct, not to the building. The more common Latin words for a temple or shrine were sacellum, aedes and fanum; the form of the Roman temple was derived from the Etruscan model, but in the late Republic there was a switch to using Greek classical and Hellenistic styles, without much change in the key features of the form. The Etruscans were a people of northern Italy, whose civilization was at its peak in the seventh century BC.
The Etruscans were influenced by early Greek architecture, so Roman temples were distinctive but with both Etruscan and Greek features. Surviving temples lack the extensive painted statuary that decorated the rooflines, the elaborate revetments and antefixes, in colourful terracotta in earlier examples, that enlivened the entablature. Etruscan and Roman temples emphasised the front of the building, which followed Greek temple models and consisted of wide steps leading to a portico with columns, a pronaos, a triangular pediment above, filled with statuary in the most grand examples. In the earlier periods, further statuary might be placed on the roof, the entablature decorated with antefixes and other elements, all of this being brightly painted. However, unlike the Greek models, which gave equal treatment to all sides of the temple, which could be viewed and approached from all directions, the side and rear walls of Roman temples might be undecorated, inaccessible by steps, back on to other buildings.
As in the Maison Carrée, columns at the side might be half-columns. The platform on which the temple sat was raised higher in Etruscan and Roman examples than Greek, with up to ten, twelve or more steps rather than the three typical in Greek temples; these steps were only at the front, not the whole width of that. It might or might not be possible to walk around the temple exterior inside or outside the colonnade, or at least down the sides; the description of the Greek models used here is a generalization of classical Greek ideals, Hellenistic buildings do not reflect them. For example, the "Temple of Dionysus" on the terrace by the theatre at Pergamon, had many steps i
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