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Foreign Cults in RomeCreating a Roman Empire$
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Eric Orlin

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199731558

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731558.001.0001

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Cult Introductions of the Third Century

Cult Introductions of the Third Century

(p.58) 2 Cult Introductions of the Third Century
Foreign Cults in Rome

Eric M. Orlin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the cults introduced to Rome between 338 and 201 b.c.e. Roman expansion in the third century b.c.e. led to the first direct sustained encounter with Hellenic culture. The incorporation of foreign divinities continued to help the Romans build connections between themselves and other peoples as they expanded their territorial control. The Greek cult of Aesculapius provided a means of reaching out to southern Italy, as did the ludi Tarentini, later known as the ludi saeculares. At the close of the century, the importation of the Magna Mater strengthened Roman links to the East at a critical moment and suggested continued Roman openness to foreigners, especially as her temple was located on the Palatine hill, traditionally the oldest part of the city. The willingness to find a place for foreign practices within the Roman religious system is symptomatic of the willingness to find places for foreign people within Roman society, and this readiness to incorporate foreigners, rather than simply subjugate them, is a key element in understanding the Roman success in building their hegemony.

Keywords:   foreign cults, Aesculapius, ludi saeculares, Magna Mater, incorporation, third century B.C.E

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