Roman Religion in Valerius Maximus

Roman Religion in Valerius Maximus

Roman Religion in Valerius Maximus

Roman Religion in Valerius Maximus

Synopsis

Valerius Maximus was an indefatigable collector of historical anecdotes illustrating vice and virtue. His Memorable Deeds and Sayings are unparalleled as a source for the opinions of Romans in the early empire on a vast range of subjects.Mueller focuses on what Valerius can tell us about contemporary Roman attitudes to religion, attacking several orthodoxies along the way. He argues that Roman religion could be deeply emotional. That it was possible to believe passionately in the divinity of the emperor - even when, like Tiberius, he was still alive - and that Rome's gods and religious rituals had an important role in fostering conventional morality.

Excerpt

The present essay represents the intermittent efforts of some eight years. What survives the editorial knife (likely still too much) represents a fraction of what I wrote - in its turn, only a beginning of what might have been said. For my own part, I have found this inquiry into Roman religion in Valerius Maximus sometimes arresting, at times deeply repulsive, but always absorbing, and for these reasons I offer my results in the hope that others may find something of interest as well. I hope too that my essay's defects will find readers willing to correct and improve whatever I have only darkly begun to comprehend.

A word about format is in order. The main text should be accessible to anyone with a command of English. Although much Latin and some Greek will appear throughout, I have provided translations for all of the original sources as well as for any quotations from German, French, Italian, or Spanish scholarship (unattributed translations are my own). I have also aimed to gloss technical terms. The notes, on the other hand, make no effort to appeal to anyone except those interested in the range of my scholarly debts (which are large), technical details, and further references to the sources and secondary literature. The chapters themselves shift in focus as familiarity with Valerian religion in its various contexts accrues. The first chapter is the most technical, the fifth the most general. The first three chapters attempt to place the work of Valerius Maximus in its literary and historical contexts as well as in the scholarly context of the study of Roman religion. The number of anecdotes from Valerius' text discussed is rather smaller in the first three chapters than in chapters four and five. By way of compensation, comparative materials and notes are thicker. The final two chapters (especially chapter five), which offer general surveys, seek to explore the religious voice of Valerius Maximus on its own terms with as little diversion into subsidiary issues as possible. These chapters consequently offer more generous doses of Valerius Maximus. My hope is to have thereby struck a balance that will help illuminate Valerius' religion in as many contexts as possible. . .

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