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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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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


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

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 XII - Religion, Culture, Literature, and Art


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 5

Worship of Isis

But the brighter and gentler celestial forms of the Persian religion did not so rapidly gain a footing in Rome as the wearisome mystical host of the grotesque divinities of Egypt--Isis the mother of nature with her whole train, the constantly dying and constantly reviving Osiris, the gloomy Sarapis, the taciturn and grave Harpocrates, the dog-headed Anubis. In the year when Clodius emancipated the clubs and conventicles (696), and doubtless in consequence of this very emancipation of the populace, that host even prepared to make its entry into the old stronghold of the Roman Jupiter in the Capitol, and it was with difficulty that the invasion was prevented and the inevitable temples were banished at least to the suburbs of Rome.

No worship was equally popular among the lower orders of the population in the capital: when the senate ordered the temples of Isis constructed within the ring-wall to be pulled down, no labourer ventured to lay the first hand on them, and the consul Lucius Paullus was himself obliged to apply the first stroke of the axe(704); a wager might be laid, that the more loose any woman was, the more piously she worshipped Isis. That the casting of lots, the interpretation of dreams, and similar liberal arts supported their professors, was a matter of course. The casting of horoscopes was already a scientific pursuit; Lucius Tarutius of Firmum, a respectable and in his own way learned man, a friend of Varro and Cicero, with all gravity cast the nativity of kings Romulus and Numa and of the city of Rome itself, and for the edification of the credulous on either side confirmed by means of his Chaldaean and Egyptian wisdom the accounts of the Roman annals.

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