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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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(p.137) 5 Ludi
Foreign Cults in Rome

Eric M. Orlin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the development of ludi as the quintessential form of Roman celebration, again as a response to Roman expansion that left the boundaries of Romanness unclear. The third century saw an explosion in the number of annual games in Rome, with five sets added in a twenty-year period at the end of the century and another added soon after. The chapter explores how the Romans “invented a tradition” by taking a practice that dated from their early history and investing it with significance to shape their identity. The significance in this development lies less in whatever actual distinctions existed between Roman and Greek practices than in the Romans’ insistence that there was such a difference; this discourse is crucial to the maintenance of identity. Significantly, the cults given this new form of celebration had considerable foreign connections in origin or practice, so that the addition of ludi served two functions. In addition to establishing ludi as Roman rites, it served as a way to add a “Roman” element to a foreign cult.

Keywords:   ludi, invented tradition, Greek practice, Roman rites

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