The religion of the Roman world, under the later republic, passed through an apparent state of stagnation or even of decay.  While the cults of the homestead retained their old-time vitality (of which the family altars in the houses at Pompeii and Delos offer visible proof), the worship of the state-gods was undergoing ossification.  No further deities of any importance were admitted into the official pantheon.  While the ius civile was being expanded in the light of wider experience, the ius divinum was becoming stereotyped.  But the fixity in the outer form of the state religion was of less consequence than the change in its inner spirit.  In the second century [BC], the pax deorum had become a conspiracy between the state-gods and the governing aristocracy for the maintenance of the latter’s ascendancy.  In the first century [BC], it was further perverted to the selfish uses of individual politicians, who misused the elaborate code of divination for their personal advancement or the discomfiture of personal enemies.  Under such conditions, the official worships lost much of their remaining hold on the Roman people.  From the point of view of the ordinary citizen, their chief function was to provide him with amusements at the public festivals.

From: A History of Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine by M. Cary; second edition (London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1954), p. 468.  First edition published in 1935.


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