Tag Archives: Roman religion

Good and bad polytheists (part 14): Roman Emperors

Among the Roman emperors that were polytheists, ruling from 27 BCE until about 325 BCE (with one exception afterwards), the good were few and all the rest were more or less bad. Since it was the ambition of Julius Caesar that had laid a foundation for the empire, after he had waged bloody wars against the Gauls and his adversaries in the Senate, it is no wonder that it should be so difficult to judge the good leaders of such a deformed and ugly entity. The legacy of Alexander, a proud and bad polytheist indeed, had already established a precedent for extreme conquest in Europe, and the Romans took up the task soon after defeating the Carthaginians. The Romans, though generally a religious and traditional people, were corrupted by this lust for growth and wealth, which gradually wore out their original piety; their love for their own ways and Gods often proved at the expense of foreign cultures and Gods. The truth is, the period following Alexander was a time of decline for polytheism in general, or at the very least, a time of failed experiments. Empire was now a common thing in the world, one that seemed more honorable to raise and more secure to keep than any other form of government. Even the best Roman emperors inherited a heavy dilemma that they could not escape from: either to preserve and make the most of what they have, or lose all to ambition and war. The disease of empire was pandemic, although nobody could truly see it, because nobody could comprehend it. However we judge of details, it is necessary to understand that the Roman empire, and certain actions by Roman emperors, gave rise to many evils, including the one which put an end to polytheism altogether, i.e. Christianity.  Below is a list of the most notable emperors with notes on their respective reigns and deeds.

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Good and bad polytheists (part 10): Hispala Faecenia and Paculla Annia


Dancing maenadIn the late 3rd and early 2nd century BCE, the Roman Republic had been already in effect an empire, reigning over Greeks in the South of Italy, Carthaginians in Africa, and Iberians in Spain. Of all these peoples, the Greeks were the most notable and famous; the extreme renown of Alexander’s military victories were backed by the cultural influence of Athens, Pergamon and Alexandria. Alexander’s empire had indeed brought about a Hellenistic age in which Greek culture was preeminent throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. The traditional Romans were naturally jealous of the Greeks , but they were also alarmed at the looseness that began to creep into their lands. The Greeks, by that time, unfortunately suffered often from a decline of tradition; many corrupt philosophies, all rejecting tradition, were in competition and growth, taking advantage of Hellenistic multiculturalism. The Greeks in South Italy and beyond thus had a bad reputation among the Romans, and not without reason; hedonism and cultural innovation, at the expense of tradition, were marks of the Hellenistic age that the Greeks were promoting. The generally traditional structure of Roman law and culture was therefore in some danger, but never did the alarm go so far as in 186 BCE.

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