The mechanics of Roman religion: the functionality and aspectualization of the gods
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This dissertation examines the practical functioning of Roman religion and the nature of the Roman gods. Roman religion operated as a thaumaturgical polytheistic orthopraxy, a religion that worshipped many gods, emphasized the importance of performing ritual correctly, and was concerned exclusively with this-worldly benefits. As a result, the Romans attempted to maximize their chances of receiving a favorable divine response to any given request by assigning specific divine agency to individual functions and processes. Such a narrowly defined divine identification allowed a more precise targeting of ritual and function, thus increasing the chances of receiving the desired response. This specific narrowing of divine identity occurred in multiple ways. The most common method was aspectualization, the fragmentation of a larger divine identity into smaller aspects, which were often labeled with epithets, for example, Jupiter Optimus Maximus or Jupiter Tonans as aspects of Jupiter. Other methods of narrowing identity included the creation of new, often specific, deities, or the adaptation of existing deities or aspects to a new function. The ultimate result of this process was an extremely flexible religious system, responsive and easily able to adapt to the constantly shifting needs of its practitioners.
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