‘Pontifex Maximus’ and the Soul of Ancient Rome

A distinctly religious office under the early Roman Republic, it gradually became politicized. Introduction The pontifex maximus (Latin, “greatest priest”[1][2][3]) was the chief high priest of the College of Pontiffs (Collegium Pontificum) in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian[…]

The College of Pontiffs: Priests in Ancient Rome

Membership in the various colleges of priests was usually an honor offered to members of politically powerful or wealthy families. Introduction The College of Pontiffs was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus and the other pontifices, the[…]

Globalization and Religion in Historical Perspective: A Paradoxical Relationship

Defining the concepts of globalization and religious actors and analyzing the history of the agent-opponent paradox. By Luke M. HerringtonPhD Candidate in Political ScienceThe University of Kansas Abstract Religion has long been a driving force in the process of globalization. This idea is not controversial or novel thinking, nor is it meant to be. However,[…]

The Phrygian and Thracian Cult of Sabazios in Ancient Greece

The Macedonians were also noted horsemen, horse-breeders, and horse-worshipers up to the time of Philip II. Introduction Sabazios (alternatively, Sabadios[3]) is the horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from dyeus, the common precursor of Latin deus (‘god’) and[…]

The Ancient Greek Cabeiri Cult

The name of the Cabeiri recalls Mount Kabeiros, a mountain in the region of Berekyntia in Asia Minor. Introduction In Greek mythology, the “Kabeiri” Cabeiri or Cabiri /kəbaɪraɪ/ (Ancient Greek: Κάβειροι, Kábeiroi), also transliterated Kabiri /kəˈbɪəriː/,[1] were a group of enigmatic chthonic deities. They were worshiped in a mystery cult closely associated with that of[…]

Early Judaism, 6000 BCE to the Fall of the Second Temple

The destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE challenged traditional notions about the inviolability of Jerusalem. Introduction During the period of early Judaism (6th century BCE – 70 CE), Judean religion began to develop ideas which diverged significantly from 10th-to-7th-centuries BCE Israelite and Judean religion. In particular, this period marks a significant[…]

The Bronze Age Origins and Iron Age Growth of Judaism

Later, during the Iron Age, the Israelite religion became distinct from the Canaanite polytheism out of which it evolved. Introduction The origins of Judaism according to the current historical view, lie in the Bronze Age amidst polytheistic ancient Semitic religions, specifically evolving out of Ancient Canaanite polytheism, then co-existing with Babylonian religion, and syncretizing elements[…]

The Missionary Expansion of Christianity in the Early Modern World

The history of how European Christians spread their message, using key texts from around the world. Introduction Christianity is not a western religion. It originated on the Western fringe of Asia – what we tend to call the ‘Middle East’. However, for many centuries the expansion of Christianity was directed from Europe and became entangled[…]

The Early Medieval Hiberno-Scottish Missions

Since the 8th and 9th centuries, these early missions were called ‘Celtic Christianity’. Introduction The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert.[1] There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic[…]

Missionaries and Manuscripts in the Early Latin West

Tangible evidence about Christianity’s spread from Rome to Canterbury and from Ireland to the Court of Charlemagne. Introduction As a religion of the book, Christianity established its roots and spread its message through texts. Manuscripts were as mobile as the missionaries who converted the pagan people in the name – and with the Word –[…]

The First Christian Missionaries in the Ancient World

It was initially a Jewish message and so the followers of Jesus took his teachings to the synagogues first. Introduction According to Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, the last thing Jesus did before he bodily ascended to heaven was to commission the disciples to ‘witness’ to his teachings. ‘Disciple’ meant ‘student’ and was derived from the various schools[…]

1620: Dreams of a ‘New’ Jerusalem and Impacts on Native Americans

The Puritans’ arrival at Plymouth would forever change the lives of the Natives who had lived in New England for millennia. Who Were the Puritans? Overview They sailed to the New World under appalling conditions: One hundred and two English men, women and children, crammed onto a cargo ship that was only about 30 meters[…]

The Fear of Outsiders and Social Minorities in Medieval Europe

Of the many groups under pressure and persecution in this period were Jews, lepers, and homosexuals. Western Europe experienced a significant increase in discrimination against social minorities in the period conventionally labeled the long twelfth century.[1] This period was one of scholastic sophistication, urbanization, and consolidation of central secular and church power.[2] The very developments[…]

Byzantine Iconoclasm and the Triumph of Orthodoxy

Who were the players and what was this Controversy all about? Introduction The “Iconoclastic Controversy” over religious images was a defining moment in the history of the Eastern Roman “Byzantine” Empire. Centered in Byzantium’s capital of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) from the 700s–843, imperial and Church authorities debated whether religious images should be used in Christian[…]

Religious Liberty: Thomas Jefferson’s Other Legacy

His commitment to religious liberty helped to prevent violent sectarian conflict. January 16th marked National Religious Freedom Day in the United States, commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. These are trying times for Jefferson’s reputation and it’s understandable that Americans frustrated with ongoing racism focus on his slaveholding legacy. Some of his[…]

Benjamin Franklin: Not a Deist, but Not a Christian

He believed that religion promoted virtuous behavior and that Jesus was the greatest moral teacher who ever lived but was not God. Ezra Stiles (1727–1795), the Calvinist president of Yale College, was curious about Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) and his faith. In 1790, he asked the nation’s senior statesman if he would commit his religious beliefs[…]

John Wesley and Evangelicalism in the 18th Century

The single most important figure in the history of Evangelicalism was John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists. Evangelicalism was a movement in Protestantism during the 18th century in the English-speaking world.  There was a similar movement in German-speaking Protestantism called “Pietism.”  This movement has had tremendous intellectual, social and political consequences.  Although it was[…]

John Calvin and the Birth of Evangelicalism in the 16th Century

John Calvin was a leader of the Swiss protestant reformation and a pastor of the Evangelical Church of Geneva. Introduction John Calvin (July 10, 1509 – May 27, 1564) was a prominent Christian theologian during the Protestant Reformation and is the namesake of the system of Christian theology called Calvinism. Jean Chauvin (or Cauvin) was[…]

Centuries of Representing Muhammad in Words and Calligraphic Art

Islamic literature shows how Muslims used textual imagery to give a vivid picture of their prophet. Introduction Visual depiction of Muhammad is a sensitive issue for a number of reasons: Islam’s early stance against idolatry led to a general disapproval for images of living beings throughout Islamic history. Muslims seldom produced or circulated images of Muhammad or other notable[…]

The Legend of Arius’ Death: Imagination, Space and Filth in Ancient Historiography

The significance of Constantinople as the place of the imagined event of the death of Arius. Introduction In the last forty years, research in the history of early Christianity has broadened considerably in scope. Whereas an earlier generation of historians focused its attention on those figures deemed foundational, even ‘orthodox’, by later Christian tradition, in[…]

Puritan Persecution of Non-Protestants in Colonial America

Although they were victims of religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans supported and pursued it in the colonies against others. Introduction The Persecuted become the Persecutors Although they were victims of religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans supported the Old World theory that sanctioned it, the need for uniformity of religion in the state. Once[…]

The Rise and Fall of Puritan Theocracy in Early Colonial Massachusetts

Starting with the 1620 Plymouth covenant, religion colored Massachusetts law. One of the reasons New England towns were small was so families could walk to required church services. As was the case in Lenox, the meeting house was part of initial town development and was used for both religious and civic meetings. As of 1647,[…]

Why the Puritans Cracked Down on Celebrating Christmas

It was less about their asceticism and more about rejecting the world they had fled. Introduction When winter cold settles in across the U.S., the alleged “War on Christmas” heats up. In recent years, department store greeters and Starbucks cups have sparked furor by wishing customers “happy holidays.” This year, with state officials warning of[…]

The Virgin of Guadalupe: More Than a Religious Icon to Catholics in Mexico

A scholar explains the history of the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and its connection to Mexican people. Introduction Each year, as many as 10 million people travel to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, in what is believed to be the largest Catholic pilgrimage in the[…]

An Historical Overview of Catholic Saints and Veneration

Many saints are venerated for specific reasons, professions, or even nations. Introduction On Oct. 10, 2020, Carlo Acutis, a computer enthusiast, was beatified and given the title of “Blessed,” in the town of Assisi in Italy. Already, Catholics are calling this 15-year-old video gamer and computer programmer the “patron saint of the internet.” Acutis, a[…]

Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s 17th-Century American Subversions

Exploring the early colony’s brief existence and the alternate vision of America it represents. This article, Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s American Subversions, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ When we think of early New England, we tend to picture[…]