An Empire of Opression : Roman Use of Conquered Religions
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Religious syncretism was as common as war and imperialist expansion in the classical period. Greece started, providing an example of syncretism as part of political maneuvers, especially in Egypt. They would make other gods Greek in appearance and bring them into the accepted Greek pantheon. The Romans followed this example when entering Egypt, and took on the Egyptian deities, though they used the Hellenized versions of them most often. The Romans already were adopting foreign deities and turning their cults into Roman cults, as seen with Mithras. A very large question that this raises is why they chose these specific deities to worship and give importance to and not others. There were many gods in the pre-Zoroastrian Persian pantheon, yet the Romans only took Mithra. There were many gods in Egypt that had been Hellenized and used by the Greeks, yet the Romans only made the cult of Isis and Serapis so important. The question is: why these gods specifically? Why not others? What made these specific gods so special to the Romans that they were given this honor, to become Roman gods? The rejection of the Israelite god is not so much of a mystery, coming from a monotheistic religion. There was only one to accept or reject, not a group to choose from. However, there still are more subtle details that led to the treatment of each god that must be explored to fully understand the Roman reactions. There are no direct answers to exactly why each god was treated in the way that they were, because every decision is full of intricate and delicate human desires. With no black-and-white definitions in early religions, there was a lot of room for gray areas to take over and allow human decisions to shape history. So now, why exactly did Mithra become Mithras, Isis become one of the most beloved deities in the Empire and the Israelite God become a reason for the deaths of thousands? What shaped these interactions in such a way that the outcomes varied so vastly?