Abstract: This study will focus on the differences in the way that Roman Paganism and Christianity organize systems of beliefs. It rejects the theory that ““beliefs”” have no place in the Roman religion, but stresses the differences between Christian orthodoxy, in which mandatory dogmas define group identity, and the essentially polythetic nature of Roman religious organization, in which incompatible beliefs could exist simultaneously in the community without conflict. In explaining how such beliefs could coexist in Rome, the study emphasizes three main conceptual mechanisms: (1) polymorphism, the idea that gods could have multiple identities with incompatible attributes, (2) orthopraxy, the focus upon standardized ritual rather than standardized belief, and (3) pietas, the Roman ideal of reciprocal obligation, which was flexible enough to allow Romans to maintain relationships simultaneously with multiple gods at varying levels of personal commitment.
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