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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - Religio Romana et Ethos

Religio Romana et Ethos

This message board is dedicated to the ancient Roman Religion, the Cultus Deorum Romanorum. Here both historical practices and the living modern tradition is to be celebrated and discussed. The members of the Collegium Pontiificum and Collegium Augurum host this board as moderators and are happy to answer questions.

Religio Romana et Ethos

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:47 pm

Salvete amici!

Although I personally think that ethical teachings should have no place in the sacra publica of the Religio, I have to admit that the Romans of the late Republic and the Empire had a concept of judgement in the afterlife, which was adopted from the Hellenic religion.

The common understanding was that the souls of the dead would continue to exist in the underworld (Orcus). In general this would be a shadow existence in the Asphodel Meadows. However particularly evil people could be punished in the Tartarus for a time appropriate to the severity of their crimes. On the other hand heroes who had excelled in battle could be granted entrance into the Elysium, where they would dwell with the gods.
The three judges who decided which soul would be punished or rewarded were Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus.

How to interpret this mythology is up to every Roman himself. He can take this literally like the Christians who believe in a real existing hell and heaven and a day of judgement or he could take it metaphorical (A hero will be immortal in the memory of his people and hereby become similar to the gods, i.e. enter the Elysium.).

I would like to know what is the official view of the Cultus Deorum on this subject. Is this concept of an underworld and an afterlife trial encouraged and formally supported (part of the sacra publica)? What are the criteria for the verdict of the three judges? What are the virtues for being granted entry into Elysium? What are the crimes punishable in Tartarus?
Or is this all a Greek deviation of the true Religio, which is to be rejected as superstitio?

Di vos ament! Optime valete!
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Re: Religio Romana et Ethos

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:08 pm

Salve Lupe,

Religio is Action. Sacra Publica is Action. What you speak of is a matter of Theology, an entirely seperate thing.

The Roman views (Plural) on the Afterlife are a private matter. In regards to Beliefs the Roman Religion existed in a Multithetic System, which means that despite there existing a common chord of beliefs, they were not an integral qualifier of being part of the religion. In other words, it was a personal matter.

What was the MOST COMMON ROMAN UNDERSTANDING of the Afterlife: There are at least TWO "Seats" where the Dead can live in. One where the Pious live and another where the Impious suffer. There is absolutely NO evidence that this is a Greek import. It is one of the very foundations of traditional Roman Morals as it relates to the idea of Pietas. Many terms might be taken from Greek Mythology, but the concept is almost certainly native to the Romans from the beginning of the City (which itself was of mixed Greek, Latin, Etruscan and Trojan origin).

Further reading on the subject (as well as a very good indepth explanation of the Roman concept of "Belief") can be found on Charles William King's fantastic book on the Afterlife. I recommend it vehemently to anyone interested.

PERSONALLY I believe in three afterlives. Tartarus, Elysium and Caelum. Tartarus is the land of the impious. Where those that did not mind their responsibilities to their fellow men would go for a time. Elysium is the land of the Pious. Those who have done right in their lives to one another. And Caelum is the home of the Gods, where only the Gods and the most incredible and outstanding of humans (Hercules, Evander, Carmenta, the Dioscuri, Romulus) would go to live as Gods.
"Ignis aurum probat" - Seneca
C. Curtius L. f. Vot. Philo Aurelianus
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Re: Religio Romana et Ethos

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:51 am

Gratias tibi ago, amice. I did not know that. All the names regarding the underworld are Greek (Elysion, Tartaros, Styx, Acheron, Midas, Rhadamanthos, Aiacos). I thought the whole concept was of Greek origin.
What were the criteria of judgement in the common opinion? The Roman virtues?
What crime would demand a punishment in Tartarus? Any murder, only severe kinds of murder (e.g. patricide) or only crimes against the gods?
Well, these are probably pointless questions, since the common opinion about afterlife judgement and ethics changed over time.
Vale!
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Re: Religio Romana et Ethos

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:09 pm

"Ignis aurum probat" - Seneca
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Re: Religio Romana et Ethos

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Apr 15, 2017 10:48 am

This is quite interesting. It promotes a common sense approach to the concept of good and evil in the Religio and includes an afterlife judgement. In this way it is not much different from the later Christian understanding (with fewer superstitious extremes than the latter one).
The switch of the Roman state religion from the Cultus Deorum to Christianity must have been less radical for the common people than I thought. The general idea of afterlife punishment for ethical wrongdoings remained the same.. There is still some Romanitas in Christianity.
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Re: Religio Romana et Ethos

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Sat Apr 15, 2017 4:35 pm

"Ignis aurum probat" - Seneca
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Re: Religio Romana et Ethos

Postby Lucius Metilius Niger » Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:57 pm

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