Is orthodoxy more important than orthopraxis

Mos Maiorum

As we have already stated in one or the other article, the Religio Romana is a "orthopractic“Religion. Since this term repeatedly raises questions, we would like to explain it in a two-part article.

part One This article deals with the background: where does the term come from and what does the specifically Roman interpretation look like?

Part II This article will deal with the importance of orthopraxis for Roman reconstructionism, i.e. its practical implementation in the practice of the Roman religion today, and deal with some typical questions and misunderstandings with which we are repeatedly confronted in this context.

Jupiter, Juno and Minerva - the Capitoline Triassic (Trier, State Museum)

The term comes from the Greek and is derived from "ὀρθός" (orthos) = "straight, upright, right" and "πρᾶξις (practice) or πρᾶγμα (prâgma)"=" Way of acting "and therefore translates as"right course of action„.

The counterpart (Not mandatory that opposite!) to this is the "orthodoxy", of "orthos"=" Right "and" δόξα "(doxa) =" opinion, view, conception, belief ", thus"right belief„.

The actual term “orthopraxia” is an artificial word that was coined only at the end of the 20th century in the theological context as part of the ecumenical movement to overcome the division of Christianity. Among other things, Cardinal Ratzinger contrasted the doctrine of the faith, orthodoxy, orthopraxy in the sense of lived Christianity in the form of charity.

In this sense, we do not use the term here, but detach it from the modern Christian environment of ecumenism and use it to describe two concepts pure sense of the word to.

orthodoxy, i.e. the right one Belief, plays no role in Religio Romana - in contrast to Christianity, Judaism or Islam. The Roman polytheistic religion (apart from the specifics of the mystery cults in which such ideas were already laid out) do not include any theological constructions, currents or schools, doctrines, religious regulations (such as the 10 commandments or dietary regulations), religiously motivated moral concepts, fixed concepts of God (for For example, whether one has to imagine a god physically or as a formless energy being, as part of a whole or as an individual individual etc.), ideas of salvation or the afterlife or the search for personal salvation.

It is not a salvation religion, not a revelation religion that transmits the teachings of a certain God, there is no written "creed" and no founder of religion. The legendary second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, is sometimes referred to as the founder, but on closer inspection his role does not correspond to this term in its extensive meaning - he was (if it existed) the founder of some important cults and established certain priesthoods, but in a polytheistic religion that many Cults united under their roof on an equal footing cannot, in this sense, be referred to as a founder of religion to whom the entire religion can be traced back.

Marcus Tullius Cicero left us a lot of detailed information about the Roman religion thanks to his writings (Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen)

Of course, all of these previously listed topics and questions also existed in Roman antiquity and they were discussed eagerly and sometimes bitterly there.

However, no priests or religious authorities were in charge of this, but most of these questions fell into the realm of the philosophy. The Stoics, for example, argued with the Epicureans about the nature of the divine (read, among other things, in Cicero's pamphlet "De natura deorum"," On the nature of the gods "). Here one must emphasize as an interesting point that philosophy was originally an import from Greece, which through Latin translations, discussions and systematizations of doctrinal statements then also established itself as part of Roman intellectual life, but it shows that such ideas are part of the Roman understanding were strangers once.

Similarly striking is the lack of elaborate mythology in the Roman religion, although many of the Greek gods were identified with the Roman ones and a range of mythological images and stories circulated in the Greek mind. The classical Roman religion remained largely free from an evaluative philosophical superstructure as well as from a mythological location of the deities revered in it and thus represented a pure, ritualized form of communication with the divine.

Widespread rules of conduct and morality, some of which were quite strict, did not come from religious, God-given rules, but were based on them Culture and tradition of the ruling social system. Justice and action based on it, as well as valid morality were taken for granted and were not regarded as "law given by the gods", but as a principle inherent in nature, which is reflected in the subjective conscience of the individual, but in his set claims ( which one may or may not obey) is independent of the gods.

There was no one-size-fits-all doctrine of what happened after death; there were different ones Ideas of the afterlife and debates about a soul or some other form of existence after death.

What the individual thought about the gods, or whether one thought at all dealt with such theoretical questions (even that was neither necessary nor generally widespread in the population) was Private matter.

The Roman religion wasn't about one either individual, personal, spiritual, emotional relationship with a god. It is true that one could be more devoted to one god than to another and count him to be one of his personal household gods, to whom one turned with his concerns, but this was not in the foreground of religious feeling, but the Roman approach was actually very much pragmatic and sober.

Gods as citizens

In the Roman religion, orthopraxis, i.e. the "right way of acting", is at the center, whereby in principle it does not matter what the individual believes or thinks. It is only important that the How to act in dealing with the gods is correct and follows established regulations.

This leads to the fact that the Roman rituals, but also other cultic acts, follow strict guidelines and leave little room for their own variations, there Form and function stand in the foreground.

The basis for this approach is Roman conceptthat the gods, as well as men, "Citizen“And thus part of theCivitas are that they belong to a community with people and support society. As cívitas (Citizenship) were designated certain administrative districts into which the Roman state territory was divided, in a broader sense it is to be understood as the community of citizens who were recorded in such an administrative unit.

According to Roman ideas, the gods are omnipresent, but not infallible, not omniscient and omnipotent, but nevertheless superior to humans. In doing so, however, they are not interested in constantly displaying their superior skills; in everyday life they do not behave like tyrants or rulers, but rather like "cartridge"Or wiser fellow citizens (Seneca, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, Dt: "Letters on Ethics to Lucilius").

The flag shrine of the XI. Legion, which travels to Villa Borg every year from Switzerland, is a good example of how important cult was in the army - without securing the favor of the gods, no one went into battle

Like all citizens, the gods also have it Rights and obligations and contribute to the common good to ensure the order of the world and its administration. The idea that the gods are not interested in people and stay out of their affairs are un-Roman and were criticized even in antiquity (Cicero, De natura deorumI, 3, German: Of the nature of the gods).

Here it is clearly noticeable that the idea of ​​the Roman gods in comparison to other cultures in many aspects more moderate was. For example, the Greeks Gods as capricious and unpredictable and liked to interfere in the fate of people for selfish or baser motives. Such an idea does not fit with the Roman concept of seeing a deity as a dutiful part of the community and taking responsibility for it.

Religio" in the roman sense therefore denotes the fundamental acceptance of the gods as benevolent and well-meaning partners of mortals in the care and administration of the world. According to Cicero, this also corresponds to the term "Cultus Deorum“, Which emphasizes the importance of the practical cultic execution, so the formally correct worship of the gods by observing a frame of reference that has been valid since ancient times, which is defined by certain objects, rituals, times and places as well as by the conscientious observance of rules.

A violation of these structures, such as a sacrifice that did not correspond to the valid sacred procedure, or errors in the intonation of the invocations and other things of this kind vitia " (Latin: vitium = Error, lack, infirmity, damage) and led to the invalidity of the rite, so that it had to be started from the beginning.

Washing of hands before performing the ritual (Haltern, 2014)

Opposite religion is, as a negative counterpart, the "superstitio", in the Roman understanding as a term after Varro and Cicero defined as exaggerated, submissive piety or religious excitement, religious extreme states and unhealthy spiritual focus, for example manifesting in the form of days of prayer and sacrifice, as a general fear of the gods or as a fear of a specifically punishing God. But also paralyzing superstition, as well as magic and divination, i.e. the attempt to acquire divine powers or knowledge of the future through magical means, as well as the idea that gods take control of a person's mind in order to control his thoughts check or give him some. The original meaning of the word is much more complex and far-reaching than the loan word in English that we still know today (superstitionwhich means pure superstition).

The term “atheism” has also undergone a similar change in meaning. The term is derived again from the Greek (ἄθεος = átheos "Without God") and is understood today as a simple rejection of the existence of gods, or as an offensive fight against such a religious idea, but in both cases as non-belief in gods. In Roman antiquity there were also people who were atheists in this sense, but it was the ritual non-recognition of the gods that made someone an atheist - it denoted someone who sacrificed the gods (including the emperor) and thus refused the respect due to them. Since this cultic respect denotes Pax Deorum (Peace between humans and gods), such a breach of duty on the part of humans made possible Ira Deorum (Wrath of the gods) and thus to the detriment of the whole community. If the sacrifice was carried out, it did not matter what the victim thought or believed, an atheism in our sense was meaningless for the understanding of religion of the Romans and Christians were not regarded as foreign believers who were not tolerated, but as atheists who the community endangered because they refused to participate in the victims.

According to Cicero, religion => Cult according to fixed specifications and dutiful admiration the Gods.

A contractual matter

The dealings between humans and gods are practically contractually regulated - in the form of the elements that ensure compliance with the already mentioned "Pax Deorum“, Of peace with the gods, are necessary and who take care of one impeccable relationship with them ensure. This contractual relationship, in turn, obliges the gods to Civitas To grant protection, and the citizens "pay" for it by performing certain prescribed rites and sacrificial acts for the benefit of the gods, who demand this attention as respect.

That is why in the Roman religion neither personal devotion nor right belief is in the foreground or plays a role at all, but only the fulfillment of a common interest: it regulates that in a very elementary way Coexistence between humans and gods.

Pontifex Cn. Cornelius Lentulus performs a sacrifice ceremony on the occasion of the Floralia (photo courtesy of the Aquincum Museum Budapest and Cn. Lentulus

For the good of the Roman state as a whole was the State cult responsible who Sacra Publica. This secured the goodwill of the gods and guaranteed that protection of the Roman people and was for a long time the real reason for the successful expansion of the Roman Empire, which in turn was the self-image of the Romans as "chosen people“, Which was under the special protection and favor of the gods, served as the basis.

The State cult rituals were public. The state cult was led by priests (who were actually more likely than Cult officials to be addressed and less in line with today's understanding of a priest) and magistrates, whose duty it was, the respective rituals representative to carry out for the citizens. The welfare of the whole state depended on the correct implementation. For this reason, the rules that had to be observed in rites were much stricter in the state cult than in the private sphere, where gods were recognized by an excuse ("if I did anything wrong in the ritual, please forgive a mortal's error“) And was able to appease an incense offering relatively unproblematic.

Introduced in the state cult Mistakes in the ritual process (vitium) often to break it off, be it that the priest promised himself that an offering would be buried or the ritual musician gambled away. In this case, a ritual was started from scratch and there are reports of rites that were restarted several times, to the displeasure of the annoyed citizens present. Plutarch reports, for example, of a sacrificial ritual that was repeated thirty times, because each time it was believed that there had been a mistake or even an insult to the gods in the process (Plutarch, Coriol 25.3). We also know of a priest who lost his headgear during the rite and was therefore immediately removed from the college. Whether a ritual or prayer was judged to be valid and proper was even the subject of legal disputes and went to court, as Cicero tells us.

Also after the completion of the rites became attentive to character ("Prodigia") Keep an eye out, as Roman gods communicate with people through signs (less like the gods of other traditions, through personal appearances or through words). During the ritual, the aim was to block out any unwanted signs by covering one's head (capite velato) and thus did not perceive any signs from the corner of his eye and by a Tibicen, a ritual musician, not necessarily playing beautifully, but loudly in order to drown out possible acoustic signs and only let the words of the invocation be heard and thus effective.

Were in the state cult Augurs responsible for the interpretation of the signs and auspices (auspicia ") were part of every ritual, with pragmatic help in many places, for example by having promising birds fly over the square by a helper after the end of the ritual (of course, the will of the gods remained decisive here, because it was also in such a staged action in their power to shape the sign according to their will). There were also other ways to encourage positive signs. Cicero, who was himself an augur, describes in his work "De divinations”(“ Of the prophecy ”), among other things, the methods of auspices. Constant communication with the gods ensured that the signs were always received and that course corrections could be made quickly if something threatened to endanger the contract.

Juno Regina found acceptance into the state cult after an evocatio

Accordingly, in Pagan times, in the event of disasters or great defeats in battle, it was assumed that the Pax Deorum was no longer guaranteed. This led to large-scale acts of atonement and an atonement (piaculum "), Activities that bring peace with the gods restore should.

On the other hand, in times of success one was convinced that the great military victories and economic successes of the Roman Empire were directly and directly due to the support and benevolence of the gods, which is why it was confirmed that the path taken was the right one. "Through piety (pietas) and religion (religio) and through this only wisdom that made us realize that everything is governed, directed and controlled by the will of the gods, we have overcome all peoples and nations." (Cicero, De haruspicum responso 19)

This relationship is not to be understood in such a way that the gods could be "forced" to do something through sacrifices, vows, etc. - this would be a magical understanding of the rites and thus what the Romans called "superstitio”Took hold and refused. Due to the special understanding of the gods as citizens of the state existed for them through this Civitas the obligation (in the sense of the expectation of the people) to stand up for the protection of the state of which they were part - for this they deserved respect and attention, expressed through sacrifice and observance of the rites sanctified by tradition.
If this expectation was disappointed and gods were even seen as the origin of evils that threatened the empire, they could just as easily be banished from the community - for example by banning their cult or even destroying the temples, as was the case with the Bacchanalia scandal in Year 186 BC Was the case.

Because by observing these duties the gods of the Roman Civitas assured their protection, the disturbance of the Pax Deorum in the eyes of ancient pagans for Downfall of the Roman Empire, in that with the transition of the state religion to Christianity, people no longer fulfilled their part of the contract because they no longer performed the old, required rites. As a result, the gods no longer saw themselves obliged to protect the Roman state in return.

Do ut Des - I give so that you give

Dealing with the gods was also in Private area regulated like a contract. It was also important for the individual citizen to get on well with the gods and to treat them impeccably in order to secure their benevolence and thus also to contribute a part to the gods generally to man - and thus to the Civitas opposite - were in a positive mood. Therefore the preservation of the Pax Deorum also important for individuals in the private sphere and the goal of cultic acts (in addition to obtaining personal advantages and support in problems through the favor of the gods, which played the dominant role in popular and everyday piety).

Basis of the private house cult, the Sacra Privata or Cultus domesticus, was also here the approach of man to the gods due to the "Do ut Des"-Principle of the"I give so that you give". By doing so, you made a contract with a god whenever you got him in a private matter for help asked.

In our latitudes, sacrifices were made to the gods on the altars in front of the temple (so not in the temple!), As here at the reconstructed Mercury temple near Tawern

If you called him for help, for example with a family matter, a business question or a health question, you always asked a "pay"When the contract is redeemed, the prospect of bringing the promised ("vote").

One favored the goodwill of the deity with one Pre-sacrifice ("praefatio "), with which one presented one's concerns at the lararium or sacellum at home, the house shrines, or in a temple. Then, while the matter was precisely formulated, payment was made in the form of a another victim in prospect, if the request was granted, for example a votive offering or a consecration stone with an inscription. The size of the victim was based on the concerns and financial circumstances of the victim.

In the case of wealthy private individuals, this could even go as far as the foundation of a temple, as an inscription in the Caiva temple near Gerolstein shows: "Marcus Victorius Pollentinus gave a temple to the goddess Caiva at his own expense and donated 100,000 sesterces for the permanent maintenance of this temple. With the inauguration on the third day before the end of October under the consulate of Glabrio and Torquatus, he honored his vows with pleasure and merit.

In the private cult, too, people listened to and paid attention to signs with which the gods communicated, and private auspices were carried out.

If a deity called upon did not fulfill the wish, which of course was always free to him or her, the human was also not adhering to of the contract or the redemption of the promised offering because it was thereby void. Although one assumes the general goodwill of the gods, there is of course no obligation to comply with a request just because one offers a sacrifice. The offering therefore only had to be made when it was fulfilled, in that case, however, this was binding and could not be neglected or neglected under any circumstances, otherwise one ran the risk of losing the favor of the gods and of not being heard with the next request. The pact was and always applies in both directions.

This part of man's fulfillment of duty to the gods and the gods to man is referred to as the "Pietas"Summarized, the next to the"Religio“Represents the second pillar of the Religio Romana. With Pietas is the trustful fulfillment of duty of man in relation to the gods, which arises from an inner drive and is to be practiced.

The Pietas The reverse is also true - if people keep their part of the agreement, the gods also keep their duties.

Genius loci from Bad Wimpfen / Heilbronn district. The city wall is depicted as a head covering and shows that he was responsible for protecting the city (Landesmuseum Trier, special exhibition "The Dream of Rome - The Romans in the Southwest")

Besides, not only gods were in the foreground in the Roman cult; the (originally Roman) Lara cult one, an ancestral and spirit cult that emerged from - to put it in a highly simplified way - animistic concepts, which is remotely comparable to Shintoism. The idea of ​​a certain forces ("Numbers") animated nature, animated places, also animated objects and a differentiated world of spirits, for whose handling there are also rites and rules, can be found in both religions.

Ancestor cults and ideas of spirits not only made up an important part of the private religious practice of the citizens, they were also part of the Sacra Publica organized by the state, for example in the form of their own colleges. These took care of certain beings or places (e.g. the cult for the Lares Compitalesthat can be found at the crossroads), and performed specific cultic services on specified public holidays, e.g. for the di Manes, the spirits of the dead and the spirits of the underworld, as well as to appease and expel the Larvae or Lemurs, evil spirits that could harm people. This also served to maintain public peace and order, since wandering and malicious spirits of the dead endangered this orderly condition.

The Lara cult is therefore just as fundamental to religious practice in Religio Romana as the interaction with the “great” gods.

Rituals according to regulations

The concept of Religio and the Pietas, as well as the preservation of the Pax Deorum, are the reason that the Religio Romana primarily values ​​the correct implementation of the traditional rituals lays. This is based on the assumption that rituals and interactions must take place in a well-defined, traditionally long-established manner, because this is the case has always been established in this way, has proven itself and experience teaches that by doing this one can Benevolence the gods wins.

Since religion is very much shaped by fixed rituals, there is also one for every deity important function to. It is important to know about it what god one with which issue and which specific cult acts must be carried out, which offerings are suitable, which formulas must be spoken, what the ritual looks like in order to secure one's benevolence in the matter.

Also in private cult made sure several times to to ensurethat one did not make a mistake in the rite. On the one hand, the already quoted apology phrase was incorporated at the end of a ritual, with which one apologized for mistakes made out of ignorance and those that one might not have noticed. Second, it was not uncommon to include the "unknown god whose name is unknown", To be included, as well as to use a formulation such as"are you god or goddess“So as not to alienate anyone.

This attitude towards the gods and the idea that the Pax Deorum must be observed by each individual, leads to the fact that the correct, i.e. right execution of actions, priority has before any philosophical or theological considerations. These are allowed, but they are certainly also an enrichment for the discourse necessary they are not - on the contrary, for the Religio Romana they are irrelevant and a correctly performed rite is also valid without ever dealing with philosophy, ideas of God or the hereafter.

In one of our next articles we will show how this approach and view of religion affects the practiced reconstructionist Roman paganism today.

Sources and literature used for this article:

  • Article © Q. Albia Corvina, 01/2017

    Pina Polo, Francisco: Rome, that's me: Marcus Tullius Cicero, a life

  • Cicero: De natura deorum
  • Seneca: Letters to Lucilius
  • Rosenberger, Veit: Tamed Gods: The Prodigies of the Roman Republic
  • Noelke, Peter: "Weihaltär with representations and references to victims in the Germania Inferior and the other northwestern provinces of the Imperium Romanum"
  • Sleeves, Karin: Temple Slavery in Asia Minor: A Contribution to Temple Service in Hellenistic and Roman Times
  • Klinghardt, Matthias: Prayer Forms for Public Recitation. Their use and function in ancient religion

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Tags:Antiquity, Cicero, Cultus Deorum Romanorum, Sacrifice, Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy, Pax Deorum, Reconstructionism, Religio Romana, Religion, Rome, Sacra Privata, Sacra Publica, State Cult

By Q.Albia Corvinain Cultus Deorum, Paganism, Religio Romana am.