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Religio Versus Religion

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Chapter Summary

It is our firm conviction, formed in years of philological-historical investigation, that the categorization of religion is not only Christian, not only Western and not at all recent. This chapter focuses on the Roman world and the Latin language. Unlike other ancient Mediterranean peoples like the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians or the Greeks, who had a rich speculation about the divine and a clear consciousness of the existence of a religious sphere but no single word corresponding to religion in its contemporary meanings, the ancient Romans had in their vocabulary a very specific and common word to define that concept. This word is religio, a word with a remarkable history in its own Latin speech, attested in many literary and epigraphic documents. In Latin literature down to Christian times, religio is used in a great variety of senses, and often in apparently curious and unexpected ones.

Keywords: Latin literature; religio; religion; Roman world



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