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Religion In Pompeii and Herculaneum: Household Gods and Foreign Cults
Transcript of Religion In Pompeii and Herculaneum: Household Gods and Foreign Cults
Household Gods and Foreign Cults
The Pompeii and Herculaneum sites it has been shown that they worshiped Lares (a.k.a household gods) The lares were guardian spirits of the house, they were worshiped for their protection of the house and fields and their promotion of fertility in the family of that house.
It depicts dancing Lares, twin sons of the nymph Lara. The man in the middle is the genius (divine spirit) of the clan, and the serpent is a symbol of the hearth, of good fortune and prosperity. It is a particularly lavish display of reverence towards household gods.
House of the Vetti, Lararium.
"In a corner at the entrance to the house was a huge cupboard with a small built-in shrine. Inside the shrine were the silver statuettes of the household gods, a Venus in marble and a golden casket."
The Satyricon, stated to be written by Titus Petronious but may also have been written by Gaius Petronious, 60 AD. The Satryricon is a work of fiction, a mixture of prose and poetry. Although this is a work of fiction, it demonstrates how the role of gods was assumed in the average citizens’ life, or in the life of the wealthy, of whom this is describing. Venus is a Roman adaptation of the Greek goddess of beauty Aphrodite.
“The Romans believed in many different gods, many of whom they had taken over from Greek religion.”
Pompeii and Herculaneum (1999), John Seely & Elizabeth Seely. Reinforces that many of the household gods the people of Pompeii believed in had been adapted from Greek religion eg. Apollo to Mercury, Aphrodite to Venus, Zeus to Jupiter, etc.
A fresco in a thermopoilium (establishment where hot food and drink were sold) depicting the Genius, the Lares (house protectors), Mercury on the far left (Roman messenger god, protector of merchants, adaptation of Apollo), Bacchus standing on the far right (god of food and wine), offering libations (drinks) in favour of the gods. It demonstrates the roles of the gods in commercial establishment, and the gods which were favoured over others.
“For the wellbeing, return, and victory of Gaius Iulius Philippus. Publius Cornelius Felix and Vitalis, slave of Cuspius, made a vow here to the household gods.”
House of Gaius Iulius Polybius, an inscription stating how slaves were not excluded from the worship of household gods.
The workshop of Verecundus, along Via dell’Abbondanza. Mercury, as a protector of merchants, has been featured in this painting, has come out of a temple with a bag of money and Venus, patroness of the city, is riding along elephants. Demonstrates the belief that worship of the gods would result in higher profits for the business.
The Cult of Dionysus
Fresco depicts the various stages of female initiation into the cult. Women were the priestesses in a variety of the cults.Worship of the wine god which was sometimes referred to as Bacchus, the Roman god.Involved fasting, then drinking, feasting and feverish dancing until followers were in a state of ecstasy, believing they were released from death.Their rites were associated with fertility, death and rebirth.
A fresco depicting the cult of Dionysus in the Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii.
The Cult of Apollo
A bronze statue of Apollo pulling back his bow found in the Temple of Apollo.
Temple of Apollo constructed in the early 5th century BCE.Very popular in Campania; indicated by the size of the temple.Apollo was one of the patron saints of Pompeii.Apollo is the Greek god of music, healing and prophecy. Popular cult seen in the repeated restorations to the temple, and the proximity to the forum.Apollo was also commemorated in household shrines.
Bath House Fresco at Herculaneum. It depicts Hercules with the keepers of the official cult of Augustus.
The Cult of Hercules
This source is a primary source depicting how religion was interwoven with the Roman politics.
Hercules was believed to be the founder of Herculaneum.
Hercules is supposed to have given Pompeii its name as he passed through Italy, returning from one of his twelve labours.
They would offer sacrifices at an altar and then hold a meal to consume the sacrifice and what was left was offered to Hercules at the altar.
There was a temple within the triangular forum, believed to be dedicated to Hercules.
Was believed to be a god who offered protection and was worshipped as a hero and a god.
The Cult of Isis
‘The cult of Isis was one of the fastest growing religions in the Roman Empire and had reached a high level of popularity in Pompeii, which held two annual festivals dedicated to the goddess of ten thousand names, offered her followers initiation into the mysteries of Egypt, where she had resurrected her husband Osiris. Her power was such that she could deliver the same to those who worshipped her’ - The Lost World of Pompeii
By Colin Amery, Brian Curran
+ Secondary Source stating the popularity of the cult in Pompeii and some of the rituals and practices.
+ Cult brought about through the connection with Egypt via trade.+ It was a cult for all social classes.
+ There were garden and home shrines dedicated to her in Pompeii and Herculaneum.
+ Had two important annual festivals; the navigium Isidius, 5th of May, commemorating Isis as the patroness of sailors. The 13th – 16th of November commemorated the discovery of Osiris’ body and included singing and dancing.
+ Had daily rituals before sunrise and in the afternoon.
+ They used water from the Nile in the ceremony of the lustral waters. This ceremony involves a priest holding a vessel filled with the water surrounded by two other priests with rattle-like instruments called sistras. A third priest tends a fire on the altar.+ Most priests are depicted bald wearing white.+ Initiation ceremonies may have involved secret ceremonies through the night.
Cult of Sabazius
Sabazius was originally a Thracian and Phrygian god of fertility and vegetation.Probably brought to Pompeii by Gladiators from Thrace.He was associated with Dionysus.The Hand of Sabazius were used in the rituals of divination or soothsaying.Sabazius is depicted in shrines with serpents, cymbal, pine cone and frog which were religious symbols.Followers believed Sabazius would keep them safe and give them a joyful afterlife.
Bronze ‘Hand of Sabazius in the House of Magic Rites in Pompeii. Depicts Sabazius surrounded by regeneration symbols while the hand forms a symbol of blessing.
Possible that Jews were present in Pompeii due to Judaism being present in areas close to Pompeii and Herculaneum.
There was also Jewish Graffiti found in Pompeii which depicts Jewish names.
This fresco is a primary source and shows a biblical judgment of Solomon. However the Jews are depicted as pygmies, which may be in accordance to a style which attempted to parody the Jews.
Fresco depicting the Judgment of Solomon, found in the House of the Surgeon.
Presence of Judaism
By Joh, Kunshie & Gabbie :)
Excavations of the site at Pompeii and Herculaneum revealed a society tolerant of the worship of foreign gods and the practices of imported cults.
Two foreign cults in particular were popular on the sites, the Cults of Isis and Serapis. These were popular because they offered the possibility of an afterlife.