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INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGION 221 



INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGION IN THE EARLY 
ROMAN EMPIRE "^ 

CLIFFORD HERSCHEL MOORE 

Hakvabd Unitebsitt 

Whoever reads the meditations of Marcus Aurelius must be 
impressed with the constant self-examination which the writer 
practised. Far on the northern boundaries of his empire, among 
the Quadi, on the banks of the Gran, he composed his first book, 
analyzing his own nature, gratefully recounting his obligations 
to his kin, his teachers, and his friends. All the succeeding books 
grow out of a similar self-examination, accompanied by self- 
directed exhortations to fidelity, constancy, and patience. The 
title which the work bears is indeed the only possible one — ^To 
Himself — for self is alike the subject and the object of the author's 
meditations. The emperor's simple humility, his high desire to 
fulfil in every way his duty, his patient humanity, shut out effec- 
tively all priggishness and offensive egotism from his pages. 
Marcus Aurelius was not alone in his concern for self. If we look 
into other ranks of life in the second century, we find the same 
interest. With all its peace, calm, and nobility, the age of the 
Antonines was an age of egoism, of valetudinarianism both of 
body and of soul. Aristides the rhetorician has left us an account 
of his long and impassioned search for health, which for him was 
a religious quest. Apuleius, in his anxiety for his soul, had 
himself initiated into all possible sacred mysteries, until 
he at last found rest in the holy brotherhood of the ser- 
vants of Isis. The emperor, the rhetorician, and the super- 
stitious mystic furnish three striking illustrations of the tendency 
of the time. 

Self-examination was no new thing for the philosopher under 
the empire. While Epictetus, so far as we know, did not incul- 

iThis article originally formed part of a lecture delivered before the Harvard 
Summer School of Theology in July, 1908. 



222 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

cate its practice directly, none the less his teaching implies it, 
for the individual, the self, was the centre of his universe; self- 
concern was for him the proper interest for the sapiens; in self 
he found the source and warrant of the soul's security and inde- 
pendence. Seneca in a familiar passage tells us how each evening 
in quiet he reviewed his words and acts of the day, concealing noth- 
ing from himself, omitting nothing. This practice he had learned 
from his teacher Sextius, for that exercise of the Pythagoreans, 
which their ancient interpreters at least regarded as mnemonic, in 
the course of time had become a moral discipline. Witness these 
verses of the Carmen Aureum: "Never let sleep come upon thy 
yielding eyelids until thou hast thrice reviewed each one of thy 
acts of the day. 'In what have I erred?' 'What have I done?' 
' What have I failed to do that I should have done ? ' Begin with 
thy first act and review in order. If thou hast done ill, be ashamed; 
if well, then rejoice." 

When one surveys the history of Roman thought from the last 
century of the republic to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, he finds 
that the earlier ideal of action was gradually replaced by that of 
contemplation; that the concept of the individual as an insepara- 
ble member of the state yielded to that of the individual, inde- 
pendent of external relations, but the centre of man's thought 
and interest. Evidence for these individualistic tendencies is by 
no means confined to the works of the philosophers, but is found 
in many other forms of literature as well. Among Roman his- 
torians Tacitus shows pre-eminently a psychological interest; 
turning from mere events, he endeavored to find in the human 
soul the motives of the individual's action. The comparison 
frequently made between him and Thucydides brings clearly 
into contrast the interests of the two. The latter is concerned 
chiefly with events — expeditions, battles, victories, defeats; in 
his entire account of twenty momentous years few personalities 
appear: the actors are Athenians, Lacedaemonians, Corinthians, 
Argives. In like fashion Cato the elder, writing in the middle of 
the second century before our era, did not even name the Roman 
leaders in his Origines. In Tacitus, however, the actors are not 
peoples, but individuals. The characters of Tiberius, Germanicus, 
the two Agrippinas, of Claudius and Nero, of Galba, Otho, and 



INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGION 223 

Vitellius — to mention only some of the chief personages — ^are 
dearly drawn. It is true that Tacitus's sense of the dignity re- 
quired of the historian kept him from sinking to the meaner 
external details which Suetonius employed, and that he also 
avoided the carefully balanced antitheses which Sallust used in 
his elaborate portraits; but none the less we see in every case 
the individual clearly defined as Tacitus conceived him. The 
anecdotal character of Suetonius's work, as of the biographies 
of the Scriptores Historiae Augustae after him, is due to the same 
interest in personality. In fact, the rise of Roman biography 
in the latter part of the second century B.C. Was coincident with 
the increase of individualism; likewise among the Greeks the 
development of this branch of literature, as of realistic portraiture, 
fell in the period after Alexander. The growth of Roman episto- 
lography was prompted by the same interest as biography; and 
satire in the sense of carmen . . . mededictum et ad carpenda hominum 
vitia . . . campositum developed with the spread of individualism 
until it reached the bitter invective of Juvenal. 

The causes which produced the extraordinary change of inter- 
est in the period from the Second Punic War to the age of the 
Antonines were manifold — ^political, economic, social, and philo- 
sophic. The great period of Roman conquest and struggle which 
continued to the close of the Second Punic War on the whole 
fostered a national spirit; the citizen's life was inseparably con- 
nected with the state; but, when the stimulus of common dangers 
from foreign foes and of common victories over them had ceased, 
new phenomena arose. On the one hand a cosmopolitan spirit 
appears, on the other we find men trying to realize their own indi- 
vidualities. The course of conquest had widened men's views; 
contact with other nations and with ancient civilizations had 
made it impossible to confine their thoughts and interest to the 
old narrow limit. Hellenism now poured the full stream of its 
influence into every channel of Roman life, but in Hellenistic 
thought that revolution has already been wrought which it was 
to pass on to Rome.* The increase of wealth gave men leisure for 

2 On the developmrait of individualism in the Hellenistic period, see Jevons 
"Hellenism and Christianity," in this Review for April, 1908. 



224 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

intellectual pursuits or the means of gaining political power, whUe 
the realization of selfish ambition was made the easier by the fact 
that the problem of the poor had become more pressing, so that 
the demagogue had a larger opportunity. As is well known, 
political history from the time of the Gracchi to the battle of 
Actium centres around prominent men, leaders in attempts made 
more or less openly to override the constitution. Unselfish though 
the Gracchi may have been, they hurried Rome on a new course; 
the day Tiberius Gracchus deposed his fellow tribune, he began 
a revolution which was to end a century later in the establishment 
of the empire. Political agencies were corrupted and weakened; 
the allegiance of the citizens was transferred from the state to Ma- 
rius, Cinna, Sulla; to Caesar, Pompey, Crassus; to Octavianus, 
Antony, and Lepidus. The ability, and to no small degree the de- 
sire, to govern was lost in the people. When the battle of Actium 
decided the leadership of the Roman world — the form of govern- 
ment which was to ensue had been determined long before that 
event — ^peace and security were finally obtained, but at the ex- 
pense of political power. The assemblies of the people ceased 
to perform any real functions before fifty years had passed. The 
Senate, even under Augustus, became hardly more than an advisory 
board, although the fiction that it was a co-ordinate and indepen- 
dent part of the government was kept up for two centuries. In 
fact, from the first that which was a dyarchy in theory tended to 
become a monarchy in reality. Political life, once the free field 
of action for the Romans of the higher class, was now largely 
closed; dignity, not power, was the highest possession of the 
Senate. The equestrian order likewise had little opportunity 
save in a few administrative and military offices; while the mass 
of the people was wholly without political activity and without 
interest in government; indeed so indifferent was the populace 
that the bloody struggles of the year 69 a.d. between the armed 
forces of Vitellius and Vespasian interested the masses chiefly 
as a superior kind of gladiatorial show, which concerned them as 
little as the murder of Galba had earlier in the same year. 

The stifling of political life had its inevitable results; the upper 
classes turned, some to the empty employments of luxury or to 
sensuality, while others of a nobler cast devoted themselves to 



INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGION 225 

rhetoric, philosophy, and similar intellectual pursuits. The old 
ideal of devotion to the state which we find in Cicero, which lay 
behind Horace's earlier political verse at least, and formed the basis 
of Vergil's appeal to patriotism, gave way to the concept of a pater- 
nal government which was the ideal of Seneca, Pliny, and Dio 
Chrysostom, as well as the desire of the mob. The influence of 
Greece and the Orient had overcome the earlier Roman concepts 
of government. As a result, the national spirit was weakened 
or gone. Thinking men could no longer effectively make the wel- 
fare of the state the object of their thoughts or satisfy their own 
needs by action in its behalf, but were rather turned in upon them- 
selves. In short, the political changes all tended to give an indi- 
vidualistic direction to Roman thought which was often noble, 
but was capable of becoming utter selfishness. 

Yet the selfish satisfactions of great possessions were checked 
by the time the first century of the empire had passed. The 
enormous losses caused by the civil wars had been followed, it, 
is true, by a rapid increase of wealth which gave opportunity 
for an extravagance hitherto unknown in the Roman world; but, 
as Tacitus in a familiar passage points out, waste and imperial 
oppression had done their work before Nero's death, so that with 
Vespasian, under force of necessity and the imperial example, a 
simpler mode of life began to prevail. Yet the happy age of the 
Antonines after Domitian's reign of terror could not restore the 
wasted wealth. Agriculture had never been successfully revived; 
oppressed by a system of slave labor and many centuries of bad 
management, the economic condition of the West steadily grew 
worse. This fact goes far to explain the general pessimism of 
the second century of our era. Empty rhetoric was not able to 
lighten this gloom; scientific pursuits, which had been followed 
with no little interest during the first century of the empire, as 
is attested by Seneca and Pliny the elder, and which might have 
provided intellectual satisfaction to the educated class, had been 
largely abandoned from lack of good scientific method. Marcus 
Aurelius thanks heaven that he never wasted his time on natural 
philosophy. Furthermore, among the intellectual classes there 
had actually developed a certain ascetism, a scorn of the body, 
which stood at diameter with the older Hellenic satisfaction with 



226 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

life and with the former Roman physical vigor. The welfare of 
the soul, the safety of self, had become the chief interest of men. 
Nor was this interest confined to the upper classes; the humbler 
grades of society were moved by the same desires. 

While political changes tended to develop individualism, the 
social changes of the period under consideration seem at first 
sight to tend rather toward cosmopolitanism. Rome's popula- 
tion from an early period was composite; but during the closing 
century of the republic and the first of the empire it became in- 
ternational, as is shown by every grade of society. The literary 
class was hardly Italian after Cicero's day. Toward the close of 
the republic and in the Augustan age, we find Furius Bibaculus, 
Catullus, Vergil, Cornelius Gallus, Aemilius Macer, Nepos, and 
Livy from upper Italy; Varro Atacinus and Pompeius Trogus 
from Transalpine Gaul. In the next century Gaul had become 
the teacher of the Britons — "Gallia causidicos docuit facunda 
Britannos" — while Spain furnished the two Senecas, Columella, 
Pomponius Mela, Lucan, Quintilian, Martial, Herennius Senecio, 
and perhaps Valerius Flaccus; and Africa had become the nurse 
of advocates — "Africa nutricula causidicorum." 

The international character of the population, however, is 
naturally seen more clearly in the trading and lower classes. The 
numerous slaves and freedmen were made up of all nations, 
although chiefly Greeks and Orientals; so large were the addi- 
tions made by manumission to the ranks of the freedmen that 
Augustus felt it necessary to have a law passed restricting to one 
hundred the number of slaves to whom freedom could be given 
by will; this very number shows how serious the danger of swamp- 
ing the Italian elements was felt to be. Immigration from the 
East had been great. Under Augustus an embassy from King 
Herod was attended by eight thousand Jews resident at Rome; 
in 14 A.D., four thousand freedmen tainted with Jewish and other 
Oriental superstitions were banished to Sardinia; under the 
empire a large Oriental quarter developed in what is now Tras- 
tevere. Voices of protest against this invasion were not lacking. 
Lucan declared that the single city of Rome was receiving the 
whole world's dregs; and Juvenal vowed that he could not endure 
the capital, with its flood of Greek-speaking peoples from Asia 



INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGION 227 

Minor and Syria — "Long since the Syrian Orontes poured its 
flood into the Tiber." Furthermore, society was rapidly affected 
by the number of plebeians and freedmen who came to wealth 
and influence. The vulgar pretensions of the rich parvenu 
became one of the stock subjects for the satirist. Petronius has 
given us Trimalchio, who made a cool ten million by a single 
lucky venture; Juvenal depicts the rich upstart, whose pierced ears 
showed that he was bom on the banks of the Euphrates, but who 
none the less demands precedence over praetors and tribunes 
because of his four hundred thousand a year. In the imperial 
service, until Hadrian's day, freedmen were vridely employed in 
positions of power and authority. Many a knight or senator 
traced his ancestry back to a wealthy libertus; the upper classes 
were recruited and often revivified from below, while the lowest 
class was constantly looking forward to the possibility of wealth 
and social advancement. Such influences broke down the social 
narrowness of an earlier day, when the Roman noble prided him- 
self on being a noble of a city-state apart from the rest of the 
world, member of a class, not impregnable, it is true, but seldom 
invaded from below. Nor must we forget the effect of the decay 
of family life which is eloquently testified to by the vain marriage 
laws of Augustus and the efforts of his successors. The constant 
flux of society, the varied nationalities living at Rome representa- 
tive of the complexity of the vast empire, alike operated to substi- 
tute a cosmopolitan spirit for the earlier provincialism, and uniting 
with the influence of a common allegiance and a common law 
which bound the empire together, made men feel, before the age 
of the Antonines, that they were no longer citizens of a town or 
district, but of the world. Yet these same influences loosened the 
bonds that bind the individual in a coherent society, and left him 
in a certain isolation. 

But a most potent influence in the period we have been consid- 
ering was philosophy, and above all Stoicism. When introduced, 
this system appealed to the Romans because it fitted action, it 
worked in practical political life; when that life was gone, the 
resistent elements of Stoicism were brought to the front and be- 
came a source of moral strength and of spiritual consolation. 
Stoicism at its birth had been influenced by the new concept 



228 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

of a world-wide empire just realized by Alexander. In his treatise 
on the state Zeno first taught the doctrine of the common citizen- 
ship of man in a state identical with the world, and at once gave 
his philosophy that cosmopolitan stamp which in spite of all 
changes it retained to the end. The latest leaders among the 
Stoics — Seneca, Musonius, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius — 
dwell on citizenship in the cosmos, in which all reasoning men 
are brothers by virtue of their very reason. It is not wholly alien 
to our subject to note the extent to which the Stoic ideal of the 
brotherhood of man was realized under the empire. Though no 
attempt was made to illustrate the equality of the servus sapiens 
and the Caesar sapiens by replacing Caesar with the slave, the 
Stoic teachings, more than any other influence, led to the ameli- 
oration of the condition of the slave and to care for the children 
of the poor and for orphans, while the jurists Paulus, Ulpian, 
and Florentinus fixed permanently in written law the doctrine of 
the freedom and equality of men, secured to them by a law of 
nature superior to all human law. In short, the dominant phi- 
losophy of the second century of our era was at one with the cos- 
mopolitanism of every-day thought and practice. But cosmopoli- 
tanism is the very soil in which individualism grows best. When 
the close bonds of state, society, and religion are broken down, 
as they were in Greece during the Hellenistic period, or as they 
were, mutatis mutandis, in the Roman world after the Second 
Punic War, the individual is always turned in upon himself, and, 
unable to feel the demands of the larger world as his fathers felt 
the claims of their provincial state, finds in self the centre of his 
interest. Philosophy of every school had long made self the sub- 
ject of man's thought and measure of his world. The sophistic 
dictum, "man is the measure of all things," and the personality 
of Socrates had accomplished that. The Stoic doctrine of 
perception and concept, which is closely allied to the nominalism 
of the Cynics, and above all the ideal of the self-sufficient wise 
man, fostered egoism; and, further, the Stoic doctrine of aTraSeui 
led in this direction hardly more insistently than the Epicurean 
TO fMKopiioi l^v and the Sceptic drapaiM. 

To resume then briefly, political changes cut the Romans 
off from the great fields of activity in which the higher classes had 



INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGION 229 

once found their satisfaction, and forced them to turn to unsat- 
isfying pursuits. Economic decay, following on the period of 
extravagant luxury, deprived many of the satisfactions which the 
possession and expenditure of money give, and before the close 
of the second century of our era had produced a deep pessimism. 
Social changes had broken up the old class solidarity. Finally, 
philosophy had made men feel themselves citizens of the world, 
but of a world whose centre was the individual. Cosmopolitanism 
and individualism were therefore equally the results of the com- 
plex influences which I have sketched above. 

I now wish to consider some of the results of the development 
of individualism so far as religion was concerned. In spite of 
all shocks and catastrophes, there is no question that at the close 
of the republic a strong religious sentiment still persisted among 
the people. Its existence is well attested by the poem of Lucre- 
tius, by many passages in other writers, and by the fact that the 
religious reforms of Augustus were based upon it. The means 
of religious expression, however, were unsatisfactory; the approved 
Graeco-Roman religion inculcated scrupulosity in fulfilling one's 
duty towards the gods, in properly paying them one's obligations, 
and, no doubt, offered a certain aesthetic satisfaction ; but it made 
no moral demands on the worshipper beyond those of duty; 
it was objective and external, a community affair rather than the 
individual's dearest concern. But both national interest and the 
Hellenic confidence in the satisfactions of this life lost their hold. 
A new sense of moral guilt, stimulated in Italy no doubt by the 
horrors of the civil war, finds expression in Vergil, Horace, and 
in Livy's preface. Seneca recalled with new emphasis Plato's 
definition of the sum of righteousness — imitation of God: "The 
first point in the worship of the gods is to believe that the gods 
exist; second, to render unto them their own majesty, to render 
their own goodness without which there is no majesty; to know 
that the gods are they who preside over the world, who direct the 
universe by their power, who protect mankind, and sometimes 
have regard for individuals. These neither bring evil nor have 
it in themselves; but they chastise and check some men, they in- 
flict penalties, sometimes they punish under the guise of blessings. 
Wouldst thou propitiate the gods? Be thou good thyself. He 



230 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

has worshipped them rightly who has imitated them." Again, 
" The divine nature is not worshipped with the fat bodies of slain 
bulls, nor with gold or silver votive offerings, nor with money col- 
lected for the sacred treasury, but with a pious and upright will." 
Epictetus regarded the praise of God to be man's first duty: "I 
am a rational creature, and therefore I should praise God; this 
is my task; I will do it, nor will I leave my part, so long as I may 
keep it; and I urge you to join in this same song." Such passages 
show the change which had taken place in Roman religious thought. 
The time had indeed come before Seneca wrote when many an 
individual was possessed by a sense of moral unworthiness, when 
he demanded some spiritual satisfaction for himself, some assur- 
ance that he could personally enter into communion with divin- 
ity and find a warrant therein for his own security. 

This warrant and satisfaction were given by the cults imported 
from the East. The hold these cults had at Rome and in much 
of the West can only be understood, I believe, in connection with 
the changes which we have been hastily reviewing. Their intro- 
duction began early, for the Great Mother of the Gods was im- 
ported by state action in 204 b.c. ; but her orgiastic worship was 
so abhorrent to the Romans that at least three centuries seem to 
have passed before the state allowed Roman citizens to become 
members of her priesthood. On the other hand, the Dionysiac 
mysteries, coming by way of southern Italy, spread rapidly after 
the Second Punic War; although their excesses had to be checked 
in 186 B.C., their hold was so great that the authorities did not 
try to forbid but only to regulate initiation into them. The famous 
Pythagorean books, which a timid senate burned in 181 B.C., 
should be reckoned with the religious rather than with the philo- 
sophic movements of the period, if we may presume to separate 
the two. A century later Sulla's campaigns in the East brought 
in the Cappadocian Ma, and gave the legions their first acquaint- 
ance with the Persian Mithras. Soon after, Isis with her asso- 
ciates had established herself on the capitol, whence she defied 
all efforts to dislodge her. It may be claimed that these divinities 
under the republic were worshipped only by foreigners and the 
lower classes, but this is certainly not true of the first century of 
the empire. It must be remembered that these cults offered, in 



INDIVIDUALLSM AND KELIGION 231 

crasser form perhaps, the same satisfactions and assurances that 
were given by the Eleusinian mysteries, which had always en- 
joyed high social favor; and the fact that Nero was at one time 
devoted to the Dea Syria, that Otho, Vespasian, and Domitian 
favored the Egyptian divinities, secured these Orientals some 
following among the official, if not among the intellectual classes. 
As a matter of fact, there is little doubt that all grades of society, 
with the possible exception of the most intellectual circles, in which 
ancient traditions or rationalistic views were strong, were pro- 
foundly affected by the tide of orientalism which rose rapidly in 
the latter part of the first and throughout the second century of 
our era. Mithras became prominent in Trajan's day; soon 
after, the taurobolium — the rite of blood — ^was introduced into the 
worship of the Great Mother, whose festivals were greatly extended 
before the close of the second century. It is unnecessary to name 
all the Oriental gods whose devotees were to be found in Italy 
and the West; many of them, it is true, appealed chiefly to the 
people of the land from which they sprang, but many were wor- 
shipped by Roman citzens. All required penances and purifica- 
tion, all offered through their mysteries a communion with the 
divine, and gave a warrant of safety in the present life and the 
life to come. Upon the neophyte who was to be admitted to the 
sacred band of the Ismd were imposed continence and abstinence 
from animal food and wine; he began the day of his initiation 
with sacred ablutions and prayers, and was baptized with holy 
water from the Nile; then, clad in a linen robe, he was led into 
the holy of holies where the secret ceremonies were performed. 
Although we are naturally ignorant of what was actually done in 
these mystic rites, there can be no doubt of the effect on the ini- 
tiate. Apuleius's hero Lucius exclaims in ecstasy, "I have ap- 
proached the threshold of Proserpina, and after being carried 
through all the elements I have returned into the upper world; 
at midnight I have seen the sun flashing with a brilliant light; 
the gods of heaven and hell I have approached in very person 
and done them obeisance face to face." Many other moving cer- 
emonies were performed, closing with a sacred meal, all calculated 
to impress the novice and to satisfy his religious desires. The 
rites of admission to each of the three grades in the mysteries of 



232 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

Isis were essentially similar. In the mysteries of Mithras there 
were no less than seven grades in all, the first three of which were 
preliminary to full communion; lustral ablutions, self-restraint 
and abstinence, an oath, and tests of courage and constancy were 
required. A holy communion was regularly celebrated by the 
devotees, who thus recalled the final act of Mithras upon earth, 
and strengthened themselves for their warfare with the powers 
of evil, in which struggle Mithras was the ally of the faithful, 
protecting them in this world and assuring them immortality here- 
after. In the worship of Mithras, Isis, and indeed in most if 
not all similar cults, matins and vespers, recurring festivals and 
fasts, sacred processions and reunions of the sacrati, satisfied 
religious desires and stimulated religious emotion. The ecstatic 
joy which the devout soul felt may be well illustrated by the open- 
ing of the hymn of praise to Isis which Apuleius puts into Lucius' 
mouth: "Thou holy and eternal preserver of mankind, thou dost 
ever cherish mortals by thy kindness, thou dost show the sweet 
affection of a mother toward the wretched in their aflBictions. 
Neither day, nor night, nor briefest moment passes without thy 
bounty; thou protectest man on land and sea, and driving away 
the storms of life thou dost extend thy saving hand," etc. Of 
the reality of the religious satisfaction which these Oriental cults 
brought there can be no question; and the joyful anticipation of 
the future which the sacrati possessed was not less than that 
of an Eleusinian initiate of the third century whose tomb- 
stone declares, "Death is not only no evil, but is a blessing to 
mankind." It was then through such mysteries that the 
individual found assurance of his own security. Not by rea- 
son or philosophy, but by penance, purification and mystic 
communion he secured his peace. In fact, before the close of 
the second century of our era the world had passed from 
rationalism to mysticism. 

It has, however, been maintained that these Eastern worships 
did not exert so powerful an influence as the above implies, that 
the number of their devotees was not large, and that they did 
not swamp the older gods. It is very true that dedications to 
the old Roman and Graeco-Roman gods continued to be set up 
into the fourth century, but the phenomenon of a state or tra- 



INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGION 233 

ditional worship supported and carried on by men whose beliefs 
are quite at variance with the doctrines of that worship is no strange 
thing in modern times; still less remarkable was it in antiquity, 
when men were not bound by the exclusiveness of monotheism, 
but were ready to see the divine anywhere; the priest of Mithras 
could set up a dedication to Jupiter without hesitation or any 
sense of incongruity, although his concept of Jupiter was prob- 
ably profoundly modified by the ideas he derived from the East. 
As to the number of dedications to the Oriental gods, they form 
a large proportion of the total number preserved to us, and come 
from almost every portion of the western part of the empire, so 
that there is no reason to doubt that the total number of devotees 
was very considerable. Furthermore, no one can study the relig- 
ious history of the first three centuries without seeing how com- 
pletely men's thought was permeated with ideas derived from 
the pagan East. 

The victory of mysticism carried with it the doom of Stoic phi- 
losophy; in spite of all the modifications which that system had 
undergone, even the intellectual world demanded something 
more satisfactory than the virtue of the self-sufficient sapiens; 
men felt the need of help from a divine source, and this assistance 
the Oriental mysteries secured them. Marcus Aurelius was the 
last of the Stoics, because the Roman world had absorbed what 
Stoicism had to give; but Stoicism had helped to prepare the way 
for the Neo-Pythagoreanism and Neo-Platonism of the third and 
fourth century. Side by side, or rather in connection with these 
pantheistic religious philosophies, we see the Oriental gods reach 
their highest influence. 

The same individualistic tendencies which fostered the spread 
of Oriental paganism contributed to the expansion of Christian- 
ity. This offered similar rewards and imposed similar obliga- 
tions. It was, however, free from those crude and repulsive 
legends which were connected with every one of the pagan cults, 
and which could only be explained away for the cultivated devotee 
by some rationalistic effort or by a violent exercise of faith. Not 
only did it have a nobler character in its origin, but it offered a 
loftier satisfaction and warrant to those who accepted it. The 
world into which it came was bound together in an empire whose 



234 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

roads were to be the highways for its missionaries to remotest lands. 
But this is not the place to trace the history of early Christianity. 
In Marcus Aurelius' day it was comparatively weak in the West, 
but before a century had passed it had spread enormously; in 
fact the battle between paganism and the religion of the cross had 
been already won.