“But trying to arrange the Roman gods in any kind of authoritative overall sequence belongs to the efforts of modern scholarship, not to any ancient ritual order to which we can appeal.”

“Utopian religions on the other hand, and especially Christianity and Manichaeism, bring with them the new conception, of seeing the everyday world as fallen and distorted by evil forces, so that the role of religion begins to create the option of defying or rebelling against the established order. So the past becomes the place where the hope of salvation was revealed and the future as the location of a redeemed and ideal order, whether for the individual or for society as a whole. There cannot be much doubt that this is the message that was preached in at least some Christian texts from the beginning of the religion; how great its impact was in the early centuries is a matter of judgement.

We can make a distinction between, on the one hand, the major gods, such as Mars, Apollo, Diana, Ceres, Hercules, Mercury, and, on the other, many ‘lesser’ gods who appear only in one location, or have a shrine with altars, but no temple…But trying to arrange the Roman gods in any kind of authoritative overall sequence belongs to the efforts of modern scholarship, not to any ancient ritual order to which we can appeal.

At the same time, it is clear that the list of deities was never finally determined. They might be invoked in groups, or the members of a group might be distinguished or differentiated…In older work on Roman religion, they were fitted into a scheme of primitive or even of pre-deistic powers, which were conceived as developing out of an animistic phase preceding the development of true anthropomorphic deities of the Graeco-Roman type. More recent work has shown quite clearly that this was a mistake, which led to belief in a period when religion became fossilized and unchanging and to a failure to identify the creativity of later cultic activity, based on the great wealth of knowledge about the divine inhabitants of the city held by priests, their assistants and the records they kept.” – John North, “Pagan Ritual and Monotheism” from One God. 

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