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Well written, open-ended exploration of Roman religion,
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This review is from: Religion in the Roman Empire (Paperback)
This book is no ordinary introduction to the study of Roman religion. Instead James Rives takes the approach of presenting problems to the study of the topic, plus apparent differences to modern approaches to religion. Often he will present conflicting schools of thought as a way of setting the reader off on a quest to find the truth.
Additionally, chapter 2 in this book is quite valuable for the information it presents on outlines of various known religious traditions in various areas of the Roman Empire. This chapter makes it possible for people to begin to ascertain the Semitic influence on Anatolia, for example, or the overall theological structure of non-Jewish Semitic cultures within the Roman Empire. This itself provides a window into comparative religion that I haven't finished digesting yet.
The book is otherwise organized into chapters discussing various challenges, problems, or topics concerning Roman religion. Each chapter largely stands on it's own, and what cross-referencing does occur does not necessarily follow a linear form. This is refreshing because one is left with a sense that this is an incomplete study which seeks to help define some approaches rather than put the author's understanding forward was the single, correct viewpoint.
Finally I'd note that there were many times when the author suggested that specific practices might be seen as unusual or strange today and I could immediately think of close modern equivalents. I think the author's view here is that these equivalents are somehow less religious but I'm not quite so sure. At any rate, if one thing could be added, it would be a chapter on the the problem that such continuities pose to the study of the topic.
All in all, this is a very well done book and I'd highly recommend it.