Establishing Boundaries in the Second Century

Eric M. Orlin

in Foreign Cults in Rome

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199731558
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866342 | DOI:
Establishing Boundaries in the Second Century

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Chapter 6 explores several religious incidents of the second century that demonstrate the Roman attempt to grapple with their relationship to both Greece and Italy following the Second Punic War. These incidents include the increased use of the term Graecus ritus to designate a different style of ritual practice, the notorious Bacchanalian affair, the burning of the books of Numa, and several incidents involving expulsions from Rome. The chapter argues that a common strand in these incidents is the symbolic value of declaring particular forms of worship as non-Roman. The artificiality of the distinctions the Romans drew in these cases is particularly significant; by creating distinctions, the Romans fostered a sense of their own identity, and by drawing it against “the Greeks,” the Romans could foster a sense of themselves as a larger corporate group. The chapter concludes by noting that while the Social War was a key moment in the evolution of the Roman legal relationship with Italy, religious actions played a vital role in developing the broader sense of community.

Keywords: Graecus ritus; Bacchanalia; books of Numa; second century; Italy; social war

Chapter.  14008 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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