cult of statues

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The veneration of images of deities was well ‐established by the 7th cent. bc, when monumental temples to house a cult's principal statue became common; in the manufacture of colossal cult‐statues in precious metals from the 5th cent. sculptors like Phidias may have sought to visualize the divine attributes of brightness and abnormal height. Prayer was offered to statues of deities, including cult‐statues, which probably were more accessible to worshippers than once thought.


Acc. to Varro the earliest Romans lacked cult‐images. While archaeological evidence such as figurines of the Di penates contradicts this, the amorphous quality of numen, a spiritual force common at all periods in Roman religion, lends the claim some support. Later, the gods were usually represented by cult‐images.


Worship of graven images was forbidden in Judaism (see religion, jewish). This bemused pagans. Christianity appropriated the Jewish view. Worship of statues became part of anti‐pagan polemic.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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