Roma (mythology)

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In traditional Roman religion, Roma was a female deity who personifed the city of Rome and more broadly, the Roman state.[1] Her image appears on the base of the column of Antoninus Pius.

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Problems in earliest attestation

A helmeted figure on Roman coins of 280-276 and 265-242 BCE is sometimes interpreted as Roma but the identification is contestable.[2] Other early Roman coinage shows a warlike "Amazon" type, possibly Roma but more likely genius than dea. Ennius personified the "Roman fatherland" as Roma: for Cicero, she was the "Roman state", but neither of these are dea Roma.[3] Though her Roman ancestry is possible - perhaps merely her name and the ideas it evoked - she emerges as a Greek deity.

Roma in the Greek world

The earliest certain cult to dea Roma was established at Smyrna in 195 BCE, probably to mark Rome's successful alliance against Antiochus III.[4] Mellor has proposed her cult as a form of religio-political diplomacy which adjusted traditional Graeco-Eastern monarchic honours to Republican mores: honours addressed to the divine personification of the Roman state acknowledged the authority of its offices, Republic and city as divine and eternal.[5] Democratic city-states such as Athens and Rhodes accepted Roma as analogous to their traditional cult personifications of Demos. In 189 BCE, Delphi and Lycia instituted festivals in her honour. Roma as "divine sponsor" of athletics and pan-Hellenic culture seems to have dovetailed neatly into a well-established and enthusiastic festival circuit, and temples to her were outnumbered by her civic statues and dedications,[6] In 133 BCE Attalus III bequeathed the people and territories of Pergamon to Rome, as to a trusted ally and protector. The Pergamene bequest became the new Roman province of Asia, and Roma's cult spread rapidly within it.[7]

In Hellenist religious tradition, gods were served by priests and goddesses by priestesses but Roma's priesthood was male, perhaps in acknowledgment of the virility of Rome's military power. Priesthood of the Roma cult was competed among the highest ranking local elites.[8]

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