, , ,

classic Greek temple

As E. R. Dodds recognized, religious life in the empire suffered from excessive pluralism, from “a bewildering mass of alternatives. There were too many cults, too many mysteries, too many philosophies of life to choose from: you could pile one religious insurance on another, yet not feel safe.”21 Moreover, since no god could effectively demand adherence (let alone exclusive commitment), individuals faced the need and the burden to assemble their own divine portfolio,22 seeking to balance potential services and to spread the risks, as Dodds noted in his reference to religious insurance. Thus, a rich benefactor in Numidia contributed to temples and shrines honoring “Jove Bazosenus…Mithra, Minerva, Mars Pater, Fortuna Redux, Hercules, Mercury, Aesculapius, and Salus.”23 Ramsay MacMullen reports a man who simultaneously served as a priest in four temples,24 while many temples served many gods simultaneously.

Stark, Rodney. Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome (p. 33). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.