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The Roman Manes: The Dead As Gods

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Chapter Summary

In ancient Rome, the words manes or di manes referred to the deified dead. The manes were deities that the Romans invoked to address major issues in their lives. They were not just hostile spirits, but gods who held an important place in the domestic religion of Rome, in a few contexts, in the state religion as well. The criteria determining who worshipped which dead persons also linked the individual dead to individual worshippers by reason of the specific connections that they shared. The ties between manes and inheritance were only one category of connection that could motivate rituals for the dead. The idea that the manes could control the occurrence of death could also take a more direct form, by appealing to the manes to kill others. The worship of manes and the expectation of becoming manes at death was the main focus of Roman conceptions of the afterlife.

Keywords: deified dead; deity; God; Roman Manes



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