The Cults of the Roman Empire

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Wiley, 1996 - History - 399 pages
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This book is about the multiplicity of gods and religions that characterized the Roman world before Constantine. It was not the noble gods such as Jove, Apollo and Diana, who were crucial to the lives of the common people in the empire, but gods of an altogether more earthly, earthy level, whose rituals and observances may now seem bizarre.

The book opens with an account of the nature of popular religion and the way in which the gods and myths of subject peoples were taken up by the Roman colonizers and spread throughout the empire. Successive chapters are devoted to the Great Mother, Isis, the cults of Syria, Mithras, The Horsemen, Dionysus, and to practices related to the performance of magic. It was above all with these popular religions that the early Christians fought for supremacy. In the concluding part of the book Professor Turcan describes this contest and its eventual outcome in the triumph of Christianity throughout the Roman world.

The author assumes little background or specialist knowledge. Each chapter is fully referenced and where appropriate illustrated with photographs and diagrams. The book includes a guide for further reading specifically for English-speaking students.

As well as being of wide general interest, this book will appeal to students of the Roman Empire and of the history of religion.

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Review: The Cults of the Roman Empire

User Review  - Bruce Morton - Goodreads

Turcan is careful and not prone to sensational conclusions. However, he also does a good job of characterizing the mass-appeal of the ancient mystery religions during the Roman Imperial Period. Read full review

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About the author (1996)

Robert Turcan is Professor of Roman History at the Sorbonne. He is a former student of the Ecole Normale Superieure, and a member of both the ╔cole Franšaise in Rome and the Institut Francais. He has published widely on Roman antiquity both in France and elsewhere.

Antonia Nevill is a committed European and lifelong Francophile. She spent over thirty years teaching in further education, and has a wide variety of interests. Retirement has at last enabled her to devote more time to her favorite occupation, translating.

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