“What we are told there is how wonderfully and how providentially the world is ordered by the gods, how they care for us human beings, and that we should not wait to express our respect and gratefulness to them until we have set our eyes on their actual shape and form, but worship and honour them anyway. The gods themselves suggest this. For the gods other than the god who orders and keeps the world together do not show themselves in providing us with their gifts, and the cosmic god who administers the world remains invisible to us. We are reminded that even the sun does not allow us to look at it.” – Michael Frede “The Case for Pagan Monotheism” in One God.
“Platonists, who employed the notion of a hierarchy of gods to reconcile their conviction about the unity of god, the first principle of everything, with polytheism as it was practiced, were obviously referring to demons or angels when they spoke of gods. Augustine was even prepared to accept calling them gods, provided the term was correctly understood: ‘When the Platonists prefer to call demons (or alternatively angels) gods rather than demons and are prepared to count as gods those who are created by the highest God, about which their originator and teacher Plato has written in the Timaeus, let them express themselves in this way, as they wish, since there is no reason to have a dispute with them about words. In fact, when they call them immortal, in the sense that they have all events been created by the highest God, and blessed, in the sense that they ware blessed not in virtue of their own internal qualities but for the reason that they depend on their creator, then they are saying the same thing as we are, whatever terminology they use to express themselves.’ In Augustine’s opinion, the terms used for describing the divine were irrelevant. What mattered was the underlying theological concept. The position of the one true God would be imperiled if immortality and blessedness were considered to be attribute of the so-called gods in the sense that could only be applied to the one true God. As long as this was not the case, it was immaterial what names were given to beings subordinate to the one true God.
On the pagan side, Augustine treated the Platonists as the only theological adversaries that needed to be taken seriously and as the most dangerous, because in his view they came very close to Christian concepts. However, this closeness, which Augustine developed in his idea of the concept of God in order to establish the genuine identity which lay beneath simple terminological differences, is not only factually observable, but also deliberately manufactured and—this is the decisive point—consciously exaggerated. Augustine portrayed the consensus at this point as so close, and at the same time raised the Platonists to such a high level, in order to be able to destroy them with all the more decisive and lasting effect. For, although they had achieved a true notion of God, of his Oneness and of his other qualities, they now committed the worst of errors that man could make in that they worshipped as God something that was unworthy of worship, because it was not the one God, but many gods.” -Alfonse Furst, “Monotheism between cult and politics” in One God.
“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.