The role of the cultus deorum in ancient Rome's pagan society

The Cultus Deorum in Ancient Rome

The term "cultus deorum" applies to all of the rituals and cults practiced by Romans. Roman religion was organized and obviously related to the State, unlike the religions of other countries at the time. The Romans were pagans and worshiped many deities. They practiced various types of worship, including human sacrifice. Although brutal and barbaric, the people thought that these sacrifices satisfied the gods and gave prosperity to the community. Their supreme beings' norms were used to guide behavior. At the period, there were no modern Christian beliefs regarding the afterlife. The belief was that the gods would protect the Empire once they were pleased with worship. On its part, the state ensured that the gods were taken care of. With belief in many gods, some philosophers argue that there was at least one higher-ranking god, Jupiter. The other gods included Poseidon, Hera, Aphrodite and Artemis among others (McGill 89). Each god was believed to serve a specific purpose. There were gods for fertility, rain and even love.

Emperor Augustus and the Roman Cult Doctrines

Emperor Augustus formulated the Roman cult doctrines during his reign. He believed in the role of religion in the unification of the empire. Apparently, the Emperor sought to create a monarchy of sorts, and this cult idea was a means to an end. Notably, he exploited the people's beliefs to legitimize and cement his rule. Ancient Romans were set to believe that the state was a function and representation of their gods. The Emperor would promote adherence to the cult through leading by example (Celada 51). Such form of religion was so essential to Rome that those in contravention of its practice were deemed to have broken the law, angered the gods and brought havoc on not only their selves but also to the whole society. The punishment was severe as it attracted widespread condemnation from incoming Christianity proponents. Some practices would eventually be indoctrinated into Christianity.

Significance of Religious Cult in Ancient Rome

Accordingly, the significance of religious cult to the ancient roman cannot be underestimated. As the ancestors were treated with some sacred respect, the cult served to strengthen family bonds. The ancestors were believed to be protective of their clans and kinsmen and were gods in the afterlife. Seemingly, death would elevate one's spiritual status. Good fortunes and calamities were equally attributed to the gods. People depended on the gods. Additionally, ancient Romans worshipped the gods for protection, survival, and Providence (Stephens 34).

Horace's Concerns on Moral Decadence

Horace is concerned about the moral decadence of the ancient Romans. As is mentioned earlier in the paper, failure to adhere to the cult traditions invited horrible consequences. Some things that Horace attributes to the society, shunning their gods include defeat in wars. Although unwilling to fully buy into Horace's translation of the turn of events, it is essential to address the issue of morality and ethics. From the poem, ancient Romans erred in the absconding maintenance of their temples and houses of the gods. Having previously enjoyed calmness and victory in battles, perhaps, they should consider where the rain started beating them, literally (Lennon 234).

Issues of Poor Marriages and Sexual Misbehavior

Issues of poor marriages and sexual misbehavior cannot be supported. In believing in the power of the gods and their expected decorum, it is prudent for the people to live accordingly. Belief is a very powerful tool. Further, Horace points out to the young generation failing to live up to the standards set by their grandparents. Precisely, parents have failed in raising responsible children, cognizant of their gods and moral code. He refers to the current generation as worthless beings who invite the gods' wrath upon Rome (Hunt 116).

Atonement and Responsibility

I fail to contend with Horace on the point of him requesting ancient Romans to atone for their ancestors' sins. Notably, it is prudent for people to be judged for their deeds. Why should someone pay for their ancestor's wrongs? The question is pertinent to this discussion. One would argue that the gods should deal with perpetrators of the heinous acts directly, instead of punishing innocent progeny. However, on the wholesome, I agree with Horace's advocacy for the change in the way of life. Even without religion, there should be high ethical standards among people (Latham 87). Thus, it is valid for him to blame parenthood over a failing generation. The notion that parents born of great successful grandparents fail with their children is ironical. The atonement of an ancestor's sins is not a solution; people should be responsible for their actions. In any case, how does one tell precisely what to atone for, the ancestors being long dead? Finally, it is imprudent to blame unseen forces/fate/gods for losing in wars and the sufferings of the day. Rather, acceptance of our role in mitigation is surely a solution to the quagmire.

Emperor Augustus' Religious Reforms

Emperor Augustus' idea of religious reform, closely intertwined with governance, is to some degree sensible. To him, a return to the traditional cultic-cum-religious way of life would unify the empire (Gee 63). People of the same religious identity are more likely to stay united. The unification and vast control is the desire of politicians. More importantly, the reforms are in line with every leader's dream, assuming the gods are as powerful as Horace depicts them. He would achieve their goodwill and strength in wars to come, having lost to Monaeses and Pacorus in the previous encounters. The Ethiopians have not spared them either. In this regard, it is only sensible for the emperor to cling to the straws, however crazy. Nevertheless, my issue with the emperor would be on his assumption of the divine role; given that it is preposterous to worship a fellow man for their power is fathomable and they are immortal.

The Role of Culture and Embracing Christianity

Culture is an essential aspect of humanity. The norms and values cannot be washed away so easily; hence, they provide people with a sense of identity. Horace laments the sexual permissiveness of the ancient Romans; sharing of sex partners as shown by the virgin and abandonment of the traditional form of worship amplified by neglect of temples and other sacred places. Moreover, the essence of hard-work and warrior spirit seems to have died with the ancestors. While recognizing the obsoleteness of some traditions, I am of the opinion that the good ones should be cherished.

Transition from Polytheism to Catholicism

While the ancient Romans practiced polytheism, the modern day Rome has embraced Christianity. Along with Constantine, came the worship of one Almighty God, through His son Jesus Christ. Catholic became the official religion, and the unacceptable traditional gods and their forms of worship were shunned. In fact, the church is commonly referred to as Roman Catholic. Like in the ancient Rome where the state was directly connected to religion, Roman Catholic's leader, the Pope, sits on the political throne of Vatican (Burns 129).

Work Cited

Burns, Joshua Ezra. "The relocation of heresy in a late ancient Midrash, or: when in Rome, do as the Romans do." Jewish Studies Quarterly. 19.2 (2012): 129-147. Print.

Celada, José Manuel Aldea. "Crisis and decline of the Roman religion in the late republic." Studia Historica: Historia Antigua, 30.0 (2013): 51-70. Print.

Gee, R. "CULT AND CIRCUS "IN VATICANUM." Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome (2011): 63-83. Print.

Hunt, Ailsa. Reviving Roman Religion: Sacred Trees in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Print.

Latham, J. "Fabulous Clap-Trap": Roman Masculinity, the Cult of Magna Mater, and Literary Constructions of the Galli at Rome from the Late Republic to Late Antiquity." The Journal of Religion, 92.1 (2012): 84-122. Print.

Lennon, Jack J. Pollution, and Religion in Ancient Rome. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.

McGill, Sara Ann. Ancient Roman Religion. New York: Ancient Roman Religion, 2017. Print.

Stephens, John. Ancient Mediterranean Religions: Myth, Ritual, and Religious Experience. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. Print.

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