The Godless And The God-Fearing: Atheism And Superstition In The Early Roman Empire

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sarah Morgan Patrick (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Craig Caldwell

Abstract: The concept of religious deviance is fascinating and has already received attention from classicists, ancient historians, and religious studies scholars. Religious groups that existed in the early Roman Empire, including Jews, Christians, mystery cult initiates, and atheist philosophers, all fall under the broad category of religious deviance. However, little comparison has been made between the sub-categories of atheism and superstition. Inspired by a statement in Plutarch’s discourse on superstition, this paper seeks to compare the social and legal acceptability of these two sub-categories during the first two centuries C.E. in the Roman Empire. By examining a variety of sources from social and intellectual elites, as well as judicial and political authorities, two conclusions will be drawn: 1) viewed through a social lens, the unusual practices and rituals of superstitious religious groups were less acceptable than atheism; 2) viewed through a legal and political lens, the threat of political dissension made atheism less acceptable than superstition.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Patrick, S. (2017). "The Godless And The God-Fearing: Atheism And Superstition In The Early Roman Empire." Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2017
Roman Empire, Plutarch, Superstition, Atheism, Roman religion

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