The Cults of the Roman Empire
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 EmpireUser 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