2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a very useful and very informative book, which seeks to enlighten the general reader on the aspects of Roman religion that may seem familiar to us, but about which we really probably know very little.
The book is divided into five parts:
Part I talks about the methodology of investigating Roman religion, the definitions and concepts, and the importance of rituals and their formulas.
Part II talks of structures - divisions of time into calendars, rituals and regular festivals; and divisions of space into temples, sanctuaries and other sacred places.
Part III investigates the rituals undertaken - sacrifices, auspices, divinations and augurs.
In Part IV we look at the priestly figures - the colleges of priests, their numbers and roles; and the Roman gods (some of them).
Part V takes all this information previously considered and reviews how Roman religion can be interpreted - the importance of ritual rather than dogma in Roman religion, and how the religion of the Roman people could be exported, compared with religions of neighbouring countries, and carried into a civic role with the growth of cities.
Each chapter is broken up very helpfully into sections and subsections, allowing a reader to not be overwhelmed with so much information, and for each section to be read and digested at the reader's own pace. The terms, many of them unfamiliar or Latin, are explained and clarified. Tables of information, and a chronological timeframe are also included in the book.
I found this book extremely helpful as an introduction to studying Roman religion. Highly recommended.
on 25 November 2014
While the text is informative rather than didactic, it is difficult not to come away with a far greater respect for the Roman attitude to 'religion', and to see it as an attempt not unlike that of the 'secular' United States to focus on what was important for the people in their day to day lives (later interpreted as what was important for the Emperor). Against which Christianity presented a 3rd party 'superstition', and contrary to that dogma, a Roman in his 'secular' states was entitled to believe whatever he chose.
The process of religion was what mattered, very much like modern taxation: you can believe what you like, as long as you pay your taxes. In these terms, Romans kept the gods on good terms through 'communal meals' (a ritually killed beast subsequently eaten as part of the ceremony).
The author presents his material cleanly and very effectively, focusing only on the Roman aspect of things, but paradoxically that only makes it more intriguing to notice and reflect upon the ramifications for those of us brought up with a deeply ingrained Christian orthodoxy, even if we consider ourselves not-strictly-Christian, being atheists, spiritualists, scientists, whatever.