Online Encyclopedia

ROMAN RELIGION

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 577 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROMAN RELIGION. In tracing the history of the religion of the Roman people we are not, as in the case of Greece, dealing with separate, though interacting, developments in a number of independent communities, but with a single community which won its way to the headship first of Latium, then of Italy and finally of a European empire. But this very fact of its ever-extending influence, coupled with an absence of dogmatism in belief, which made it at all times ready and even anxious to adopt foreign customs and ideas, gave its religion a constantly shifting and broadening character, so that it is difficult to determine the original essentials. By the time when Latin literature begins, the genuine Roman religion had already been overlaid by foreign cults and modes of thought, by the classical period it was—except in formal observance—practically buried and to a large extent fossilized. But the comparative study of religions has suggested the lines of reconstitution and the careful analysis of survivals embedded in literature and the evidence of monumental remains, and in particular
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