need source: Germanicus

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need source: Germanicus

Postby Lucius Tyrrhenus Garrulus on Mon Jul 05, 2004 10:37 am

SALVETE OMNES, S.V.B.E.V.

Has anybody ever heard of a fellow named Germanicus. All I have is a name and a story that when he died the people of Rome went into every temple and removed every statue and stepped on them to show their disapproval.
Does anybody know which historian wrote about this, and which book?

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Postby Curio Agelastus on Mon Jul 05, 2004 11:44 pm

Salve Luci!

There have been many Germanicus's throughout Roman history - do you have anything more precise? Perhaps a date, or at least a century in which he lived?

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Postby Lucius Tyrrhenus Garrulus on Tue Jul 06, 2004 7:44 am

Salve Marce!
Nope, just a name and that incident.
I want to write a paper on idolatry in Roman and early Christian religion and I thought that might make an interesting note.
Actually, I'll take any references to idolatry you may have.
My definition of idolatry, by the way, is the belief that objects have religious power.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Jul 06, 2004 12:55 pm

Salvete

THE Germanicus in question was the apparent heir to Tiberius, by the will of Augustus, beloved by the army and people alike for his victories in Germania and because they thought that with him would return the benevelent rule of Augustus after Tiberius. His story is told by Tacitus in Annales 2.69-73. The assault on the temples given at 2.82.

As for your subject, Varro Antiquitates Rerum Divinarum fr. 2-22: no cult statues as they reduce respect for the Gods and introduce error. "Gods do not want sacrifice; their statues want it even less." "The Romans worshipped the Gods without images for a hundred and seventy years years. Had that custom been retained, the worship of the Gods would be more reverently performed." In contrast early portraits of Jesus show him with a magic wand when he raise Lazarus, cured the sick and so on. Christians employed all sorts of magical items, believed to hold powers. See Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith, "Ancient Christian Magic" or even Wallis Budge's "Amulets and Superstitions." Your definition of idolatry may be a little too broad. A better idea may come if you read from the Corpus Hermetic by Walter Scott, "Asclepius III.37 on Egyptian practice where "they invented the art of making gods out of some material substance suited for the purpose, and to this invention they added a supernatural force whereby the images might have power to work good or harm, and combined it with the material substance; that is to say, being able to make souls, they invoked the souls of daemones and implanted them in the statues by means of certain holy and sacred rites." The Romans and Christians alike believed that the Gods instilled powers into certain articles, rather than as the Egyptians or Greek magicians believed that men could command or capture supernatural powers. Thus Christians went about looking for religious articles like the cross, or the Shroud of Turin, because such articles were thought to hold magical powers in the same way as the Spear of Mars had been instilled with divine powers. Augustinus cited Varro in an argument against idolatry, but Varro was not the only Roman thinker who spoke on the subject. Mostly the discussion was over Vesta who was not represented by any man-made image but by a living fire. This was an ideal of the Stoics, Pythagoreans and Neoplatonists alike, who saw living fire as an emblem of the rational mind that governs the universe, and argued that only a fire should be used to represent the Gods. Augustinus borrowed such philosophical ideas, placing them into the Christian tradition, and the argument has gone back and forth since. But if you are speaking about early Christianity there was more idolotry and magical charms with them, than there was with the Religio Romana or the Greek philosophical schools in the first four centuries of the common era, and it is Christian reliance on magical charms that was used as one argument against them. To the Romans Jesus was a magician and his followers were no more than superstitious idolaters.
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Tue Jul 06, 2004 10:41 pm

Salvete Garrule et Piscine,

Depending on your definition of "Early" Christianity, I would recommend the Photian-Ignatian argument in the early Eastern Roman Empire. It was this which would be the beginning of the factions of the iconoclasts and iconodules which would fight over the primary ecclesiastical controversy of the next century. I believe the iconoclastic controversy had its roots in the 6th century, which would surely qualify as relatively early Christianity?

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Postby Lucius Tyrrhenus Garrulus on Wed Jul 07, 2004 8:08 am

Salvete Marce Marceque.
That is some good info. I have De Germania, now I have to get Annales. :)
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Idolatry

Postby Anonymous on Thu Jul 08, 2004 11:28 pm

Salvete Piscine

I am fascinated by your post. I'll reveal substantial ignorance here, I'm sure, so I might as well begin revealing.

I did not know the distinction between Roman and Greek beliefs in divine properties (the Romans that the gods imbued objects and material with powerful qualities, the Greeks that men could command such powers). Nor had I given much thought to statues depicting divinities. Now I take it from your post (and Varro) that in Rome there was divided feeling about "idols," along the lines of, say, Tudor England when Henry VIII closed the monasteries? Pagan idolatry seems like a non sequitor, although it needn't. An idol would be a false god, wouldn't it, as in the story of the "Golden Calf," or in your reference to Roman perceptions of early christians as idolators ... worshippers of false gods?

Vale!

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Jul 10, 2004 1:07 pm

Salve Marce Rufe

I am not sure I understand what you are saying, and I do not wish to read into it anything you did not mean. First, I do not know about the matter of idols involved with Henry VIII and the monasteries. Non sequitor? It does not follow that pagans are idolators? Well, if you are talking about Henry VII and monasteries, no, I don't know how it would follow. What do you mean by pagans here?

The Roman view of Christians was that they were atheists because they denied the existence of the Gods. Jesus appeared to Romans and others in that time as just another eastern magician of which there were many. Celsus said, "Good Gods, is it not a silly sort of argument to reckon by the same works that one man is a god while his rivals are mere sorcerers?" A comparison was easily made between Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana, except that where the followers of Jesus claimed his works were miracles produced by a god, Apollonius accredited his miraculous healing of the sick due to Greek science. Celsus objected to all the mystery religions, and saw nothing unique to Christian claims. "Are these distinctive happenings unique to the Christians - and if so, how are they unique? Or are ours to be accounted as myths and theirs believed? What reasons do the Christians give for the distinctiveness of their beliefs? In truth there is nothing at all universal about what the Christians believe, except that they believe it to the exclusion of more comprehensive truth about God." There is an exclusiveness in the various forms of Christianity, even among themselves Christians have a habit of denying all other forms of Christianity other than their own particular form to be false. That was unsettling to Romans then, as it still is today. It seems to me that if you believe in a god then you would be open to the idea of a spiritual world with many spiritual entities. Why then the denial of all other gods? Even the texts used by Christians do not really teach that. The laws of Moses states that there are other gods and only says that Jews should put their national god first among them. Then in Psalms it speaks of a council of gods, and in Genesis there is mention of both a god and a goddess, which was the tradition in Judaism of the first century. How that was reinterpretted to exclude the existence all other gods is puzzling.

But onto the matter of idolatry and "false gods". Could you better explain what you mean by this? I have been called an idol worshipper by a Muslim, but it didn't mean much to me.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Jul 10, 2004 1:14 pm

Salvete

Curio offers that Early Christianity refers to all the diverse forms of Christianity that existed through the sixth century. That is as good a cut-off as any. If you wish to use the term Early Christianity then you cannot be selective about who were or were not Christians when characterizing the nature of Early Christianity. Valentinians, Nestorians, Arians are all major schools of Early Christianity, while there is a host of other strains of Christianity as well. Within each strain of Christianity there is a multiplicity of practices to consider, and subtle difference between different strains to consider.

Likewise with the Religio Romana you cannot really be selective about what practices or what individual Roman authors represented the myriad of beliefs, notions and practices that are encompassed by that term. To only look at the superstitious folly of some Romans and neglect the more philosophical perspective of a Varro does not paint a full picture of what was inclusive in the Religio Romana. At the same time, most of our sources represent the views of a literate elite that distinguished their own beliefs and practices from the vulgar masses. Within the tradition of the Religio Romana there are subtle differences that need to be noted at times. Mucius Scaevola spoke of there being three theologies in the Religio Romana; that of the mythological theology used by poets, the natural used by philosophers, and the civil form of theology used in the practice of the cultus civile and culti geniale. This third form of the Religio Romana would also have to consider the plebeian practices that were celebrated at Rome but not always recognized in the official cultus civile.

Then there is the separate matter of how the various other traditions that existed in the Empire can be distinguished from the Religio Romana and from Christianity. In the period we are talking about, Greek religion was Hellenistic religion, not Classical Greek religion. The Religio Romana in this period following the Augustan Restoration was different in some respects from what it had been during the Republic. Imperial Rome is a Hellenistic society. Romans partook in Hellenistic notions, beliefs and practices right alongside their more traditional Roman practices, and they also distinguished their own traditions from Hellenistic traditions. Indeed there were distinct differences between eastern and western religious traditions.

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