Foreign Gods and Goddesses

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As the Roman Empire spread to embrace territories outside of Italy, the Romans came into increasing contact with foreign ideas, philosophies, and especially religions. Indeed, later Roman religion is saturated with foreign influences, from the Greek gods of Olympus, to the following deities. Included are examples from the mysterious and intriguing east, as well as from Egypt (which had evolved a venerable and sophisticated religious system). The rate at which new deities and cults were adopted by Romans is a testament to the cosmopolitanism of the sprawling Roman Empire.

Attis | Male partner of the goddess Cybele; although human, he is included here because his myth forms a significant part of the cult of Cybele.

Cybele | “Great mother” goddess; originally from Phrygia.

Isis | Egyptian goddess whose cult became popular in the Roman Empire.

Mithras | God of soldiers and armies, who was originally from Persia; known to his followers as the “lord of light”.

Serapis | God associated with the cult of Isis; his cult features Greek and Egyptian elements.

Sol Invictus | “The unconquered sun”; eastern god introduced to Rome by the emperor Elagabalus.

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