CREDOS : Religion — IV

Greece and Rome: The ancient Greeks lived in a world inhabited by gods who were depicted in human terms, but were immortal. Communication with them was frequent, by means of prayer, divination, omens and sacrifice. The gods often spoke to humans through the medium of an oracle or soothsayer. Special temples were built for these oracles, most famously the one at Delphi. The religion of the ancient Romans was a complex mixture, centred on family cults, with the worship of ancestors and household gods often concerned with agriculture and reproduction. When their burgeoning empire absorbed that of Greece, they accepted also the Greek gods, adapting them to suit their own culture and beliefs. The Roman cult of Mithras arose around CE 90. The main theme of the cult was the slaying of a bull and in the many Mithraic sites which have been excavated can be found depictions of this event, with other motifs capable of astrological interpretation — perhaps a star char for the soul’s journey to salvation.

Old European: Christianity was slow to penetrate Northern Europe; the Celtic and the Germanic peoples, related in race and the structure of their religions, clung to their old ways.

Everything we know of their religions comes from a few scanty sources: early Roman writers’ archaeological finds. The fragments must be pieced together to form fragile generalisations.

From the prevalence of carefully prepared and furnished graves it would appear that the Celts believed in the afterlife. The Other world was always close by, with points of access at many sacred places — later to be appropriated by Christians as sites for their churches. — Religions of the World, concluded.