Catharine Edwards

By Jupiter

Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion

By

Princeton University Press 551pp £30 order from our bookshop

In 59 BC, the Roman consul Bibulus pronounced that adverse omens invalidated the radical legislation proposed by his consular colleague Julius Caesar regarding the distribution of agricultural land. Such incidents, which appear to have been relatively rare, were seized on by 19th-century scholars, who characterised Roman religion as a complex, legalistic system, cynically manipulated by elite individuals for their own ends and serving as a means to bolster their political authority over the gullible, superstitious plebs.

The part played by Rome’s official magistrates and priests receives due consideration in Jörg Rüpke’s hugely ambitious study. The power of magistrates to invoke adverse omens to block one another’s legislation, he suggests, indicates the importance of religion in the negotiation of consensus among Rome’s political elite. But he is also concerned with highlighting the individual religious agency of inhabitants of the Roman world more generally.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It is one of those nice linguistic ironies that English should have attempted to make sex respectable by clothing… ,
    • 'He was to my mind the father of the idea that journalism – yes, even journalism – can have a moral dimension to it… ,
    • RT : Feeling old, as exhumes a piece I wrote 37 years ago. But a joy to see Kathy O’S there too. Here’s why:… ,
    • 'Enough of his character remains just out of reach for Barnes to relish the challenge of imagining him.' Patrick M… ,
    • RT : I did a thing about the new Penguin Book Of Oulipo for this month’s Literary Review: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,
    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,