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As a result of their religious beliefs, even though not routinely practiced, the Romans, by contemporary standards, were highly superstitious. Tri-malchio routinely took extreme precautions to attempt to ward away bad luck. On the other hand, Encolpius appears less superstitious, in fact, sarcastic in regard to the posting of a slave to ensure no one trips over the dining room threshold (sec. 30) (Ruden, 2000, p. 169). Animal sacrifice, another religious practice in/or Roman religion, reportedly helped secure divine favor in exchange of a gift. The animal sacrifice was generally an inedible piece of the animal. Sometimes the religious person would withhold his gift until he was assured he had his gift or that it was on the way. Encolpius, for example, does not automatically make a sacrifice, but names animals he will sacrifice to Priapus "once he gets his virility back (sec. 133)" (Ruden, 2000, p. 169). When he regains his manhood, Encolpius, proclaims: "The great gods of higher heaven it is have made me a man again!." When one received what he had petitioned the gods for, he as Encolpius, would readily attribute credit to them.
During particular set aside times of the year, those who were religious, developed general benevolence on the part of particular deities. Basically, however, although ancient ritual initially evolved strong emotions and deeply held convictions, the religion portrayed in this account revealed the religion to depict the act of doing, not personally believing. A number of Ro-mans were not, as presented in The Satyricon, were not devout in their belief in the gods, yet they con-tinued ritual observance as others apparently did; failing to recognize any con-flict existed.
Religion Not Regularly Practiced
From historical accounts, along with the demonstrations in The Satyricon. Romans and early Christians were on different wave-lengths in regard to religion. Christianity, then as now, favored belief over performances/practices without belief. During the story, from abundance of rude, crude behaviors, it appeared that most people portrayed in the story did not take the concept of religion, particularly the afterlife, heaven and hell seriously. The comment is made that "… nobody keeps fast, nobody cares one straw for Jupiter, but all men shut their eyes and count up their own belongings" (p. 122). This indicates a society of self-centeredness.
The practice of acknowledging different gods is apparent from the previous reference to Jupiter. The statement that "…the gods come stealthy-footed…Dii pedes lanatos habent, - 'the gods have their feet wool-bound', that is to say, their vengeance comes noiselessly. Others[,] [however] interpret, 'the gods have gout'!," signifying the supposition that the gods the people may have acknowledged were sick and/or powerless at times.
The traditional Roman religion did not provide an-swers to life questions for the ancients, while the philosophical religions, reportedly did provide some answers. During Petronius' time, Stoicism and Epicureanism rivaled each other for the hearts and minds of men. Sto-icism would win. Stoicism, founded in Athens about 300 B.C.E. By Zeno of Citium, constituted the practice of being enduring, Those who were stoic mastered suffering, as well as their emotions for what they perceived as higher cause.
This practical prescription of the ancient belief system included the following logic: "To be virtuous is to live according to the will of God (a monotheistic lan-guage was used), which is manifested in nature. If one observes nature, it is plain that God decrees constant change" (Ruden, 2000, p. 185). The Romans perceived that to harmonize with na-ture, one became compliant with change, yet did not seek positive change. This religious practice, in turn fostered numbness; permitting a myriad of things to be sought, including "health, material well-being, human relationships, honor) and avoided (illness, poverty, loneliness, shame) but purists insisted that the only really important attainment was controlling one's attachments (Ibid, p. 186).
Controlling ones attachments contributed to the "perfect" Stoic. Their detachment reportedly mimicked the detachment some perceived God to possess. In the afterlife, they claimed one who had become the perfect Stoic sage could achieve unity with God. Suicide to stoics served as a religious act, in which the person signified the human will's ultimate transcendence over circumstance. In general, due to various be-liefs about the person's soul and the value placed on honor, Ro-mans were somewhat tolerant of suicide. They considered it a great evil to defend themselves. In doing[continue]
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