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The articulation of Roman religion in the Latin historians Livy, Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus

Davies, Jason P.; (1999) The articulation of Roman religion in the Latin historians Livy, Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines religion in the Latin historians Livy, Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus. It differs from the majority of its predecessors in that it is primarily focussed on distinguishing religion as a system of knowledge rather than an issue of simple 'belief' or 'rejection'. To this end, different sections examine the presentation of the religious material and endeavour to integrate the style and language of each historian into an understanding of religion as an interpretative knowledge-system. This examination provides insight into the details and proprieties of religious statements both within the texts of authors concerned and (to a lesser extent) into their societies. It is argued that each historian constructs paganism in such a way as to provide a meaningful model of religious practice specifically for the political and social climate to which he belonged: rather than attempting to present an 'objective' and 'accurate' representation of religion (with which the historian then either agrees or disagrees), he is designing and reifying a model which is more or less traditional: the religious systems in these authors are intended to instruct the reader. As such, issues of 'belief' or 'scepticism' prove to be rather redundant and anachronistic. Instead a more nuanced analysis of various levels of discrimination emerges: it is argued, for instance, that the existence of prodigies as harbingers of doom and the gods' ill-will is never questioned (as has often been asserted) but what is at stake is whether specific items belong in that category or not. It emerges that to make any statement about religious matters is to appropriate a high degree of authority: thus aspects of propriety and authorial persona must be considered in comparing the three very different accounts. Religion was a complex interpretative system and a central facet of historiography. Ironically the historians examined here, far from being strong dissenters, were possibly the strongest literary allies of the civic religion of Rome.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The articulation of Roman religion in the Latin historians Livy, Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Roman religion
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10107418
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