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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XIII - Faith and Manners


The Original Greek New Testament

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 18

Home and Foreign Superstition

Thus the old national religion was visibly on the decline; and, as the great trees of the primeval forest were uprooted the soil became covered with a rank growth of thorns and of weeds that had never been seen before. Native superstitions and foreign impostures of the most various hues mingled, competed, and conflicted with each other. No Italian stock remained exempt from this transmuting of old faith into new superstition. As the lore of entrails and of lightning was cultivated among the Etruscans, so the liberal art of observing birds and conjuring serpent? flourished luxuriantly among the Sabellians and more particularly the Marsians.

Even among the Latin nation, and in fact in Rome itself, we meet with similar phenomena, although they are, comparatively speaking, less conspicuous. Such for instance were the lots of Praeneste, and the remarkable discovery at Rome in 573 of the tomb and posthumous writings of the king Numa, which are alleged to have prescribed religious rites altogether strange and unheard of. But the credulous were to their regret not permitted to learn more than this, coupled with the fact that the books looked very new; for the senate laid hands on the treasure and ordered the rolls to be summarily thrown into the fire.

The home manufacture was thus quite sufficient to meet such demands of folly as might fairly be expected; but the Romans were far from being content with it. The Hellenism of that epoch, already denationalized and pervaded by Oriental mysticism, introduced not only unbelief but also superstition in its most offensive and dangerous forms to Italy; and these vagaries moreover had quite a special charm, precisely because they were foreign.

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