Download The Religion of Senators in the Roman Empire: Power and the by Zsuzsanna Várhelyi PDF

By Zsuzsanna Várhelyi

This booklet examines the relationship among political and non secular strength within the pagan Roman Empire via a examine of senatorial faith. offering a brand new choice of ancient, epigraphic, prosopographic and fabric facts, it argues that as Augustus grew to become to faith to legitimize his powers, senators in flip additionally got here to barter their very own strength, in addition to that of the emperor, partially in spiritual phrases. In Rome, the physique of the senate and priesthoods helped to keep up the non secular energy of the senate; around the Empire senators outlined their magisterial powers by means of following the version of emperors and by means of counting on the piety of sacrifice and benefactions. the continued participation and ideas of senators make certain the deep skill of imperial faith to interact the normative, symbolic and inventive facets of non secular existence between senators.

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22 On the one hand, the fact and 18 20 21 22 Wiseman 1971: 20–24. 19 Syme 1999: 24–25. 15 on p. 200 used Hammond’s figures. 3–4; for the continuity of this connection to the homeland see Gasser 1999: 217–228. On the problem of this “double bind” of senators, see the insightful comments of Eck 1997b. 30 The new senate of the empire and religion experience of social advancement undoubtedly corresponded to a sense of change in the lives of these new senators. 23 To the new senators, now beyond their original civic contexts, such dual commitments could well have suggested a model for maintaining alternative religious identities as well, although we may wonder to what extent the “alternatives” were indeed novel in comparison with the religious preferences of Roman senators.

Some sociological considerations To discuss the religious aspects of senatorial identity in the Roman empire means to engage with a question not only within religious studies, but also within social history. In this latter field, where senators primarily tend to be studied, the problem whether the imperial senate had a strong or even a distinct identity is hotly debated: it is part of the larger issue of understanding the senatorial order at a time when the traditional rights of a hereditary aristocracy were challenged by newly established avenues for the promotion of outsiders into the order.

Here, the maintenance by senatorial priestly colleges of regular dinner parties at which special sacrifices were performed suggests that these seemingly formal gatherings were invested with religious meaning, as well as being occasions of social networking and community formation. We know that most priesthoods, though the emperor might belong to them, rarely saw him in attendance, thus showing that the social benefits came more from fellow senators’ participation than from that of the emperor. This communal sense of priesthoods can even be observed in the new senatorial sodalitates set up to honor divinized emperors – which developed after and in contrast with the flaminate, first planned for Julius Caesar by Mark Antony, and which were held by individuals.

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