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Orientalising Roman Gods

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Chapter Summary

The purpose of this chapter is both historiographical and theoretically explorative. It evaluates what role the concept of Orientalism has played in discussions on the nature and functioning of the so-called "religions orientales" in the Hellenistic and Roman world. The chapter shows that the direct influence of Edward Said has been small, but that indirectly the discussion about his Orientalism and its implications have played a major role in the deconstruction of the Cumontian category. To explore the usefulness of Orientalism concepts, the chapter presents recent interpretations of the Roman cult of Mithras and then discusses the Hellenistic and Roman cults of Isis. Analysing these discussions it leads to the conclusion that concepts of Orientalism cannot but play an important role in one's understanding of the meaning of the cult of Mithras, the cults of Isis, of the Magna Mater, etc. in the Hellenistic and Roman world.

Keywords: cult of Mithras; Cumontian category; Hellenistic world; Magna Mater; religions orientales; Roman cults of Isis; Roman God; Said's orientalism



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