The Diffusion of Cults and Philosophies in the Pagan Roman Empire


in Mission and Conversion

Published in print December 1995 | ISBN: 9780198263876
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191682674 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

The Diffusion of Cults and Philosophies in the Pagan Roman Empire

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This chapter examines whether any pagan at any time felt a sense of mission to encourage others to share his beliefs, whether such mission was educational, apologetic, informative, or proselytizing, and whether it was universalistic or directed to specific groups. The investigation looks first at the diffusion of pagan cults. In the second half of the chapter, it considers the spread of philosophical ideas. The attitudes to mission vary greatly in ancient polytheism. When it occurred, mission was usually apologetic and propagandistic. The inscriptions found in shrines proclaiming the power and benevolence of the divinity may be included in these categories. Such attitudes simply praise the god, on the assumption that the gods, like men, love to be honoured. There was no evidence that their ambitions were universalist in scope.

Keywords: pagan cults; diffusion; ancient polytheism; apologetic mission; propaganda; shrines

Chapter.  6825 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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