By Franz Altheim
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Additional resources for A History of Roman Religion
The Declining Polis? 33 Second, theories regarding widespread social-religious decline share the problems of the parallel notion of the decline of the polis (which is assumed rather than substantiated), including, for example, the tendency to neglect the possibility that innovations are not always negative, nor signs of degeneration, but simply changes (North 1976, 10–12). Third, it seems that some scholars impose on the ancient evidence concepts and models of historical development (cultural and intellectual) borrowed from the modern era, which are not appropriate for the study of the Greco-Roman world.
Take, for example, the imposition of many such details on the ancient world in the article about “Individualism” by Lawrence Hazelrigg in the Encyclopedia of Sociology (1992), and compare this description with what scholars such as Festugière like to find in the GrecoRoman world. Hazelrigg rightly emphasizes the contrast between pre-modern societies, in which social relations are largely organic, corporate, and groupbased, and the individualism of the modern era. Furthermore, as Peter Brown observes: “many modern accounts of religious evolution of the Roman world place great emphasis on the malaise of life in great cities in Hellenistic and Roman times.
Civic religion by categorizing it as a sign not of continued vitality but of an historical interest from a romantic and sentimental background characteristic of an age “weary of its culture” (1964, 295). S. Ferguson 1928, 4; cf. Nilsson 1964, 282–83, 287; Farnell 1912, 137, 140–41, 147–50, who speaks of the rise of a spirit of individualism and a corresponding waning in the old religion; Guthrie 1950, 256, 334). Tarn and Griffith state: “Man as a political animal, a fraction of the polis or self-governing city state, had ended with Aristotle; with Alexander begins man as an individual” (1952, 79).