I’m writing about the Roman world of the Late Republic, and of course one cannot do that without visiting Rome itself. A wonderful city.
In ancient times it was a lot smaller, and in fact very little survives of the Republican era as most of the city was built of wood. Only in the Age of Emperoros, when people wanted to leave their mark, did the great edifices, such as the Colisseum or Trajan’s Column, start appearing.
As my wife is a good Catholic lady, we had to go to St Peters, of course. The Vatican was a field with a few huts in the period that I’m interested in, and now it’s a whole independent country.
One of the things that caught my eye were the Latin references to the Pope as ‘Pontifex Maximus’. This loosely translates to ‘High Priest’ and was a post that existed in Rome long before the Christian era. Julius Caesar, among others, held the position. I annoyed my wife by suggesting that he was in fact an early Pope, but as I recovered from my tongue-lashing I considered the continuity of religion.
After all, people all over the world get dressed up in their Sunday best to go to Church every week. They participate in a ritual, and then come home again and get on with their lives. And given that all religions make compromises to their predecessors to avoid trouble (Christmas just happens to fall on the same day as a Pagan midwinter celebration – I forget which. Help me out here!) were people’s attitudes and habits so different in Roman times?