Abstract

This article investigates an important aspect of traditional religiosity, the veneration of statues, as a contribution to our understanding of the relationship between opinions (often philosophical) found in non-Christian texts and the actual religious practices of communities. These presented arguments for the religious use of statues on the basis that statues offered a symbolic presentation of divinity, served as an acceptable concession to limited human intellect, and represented something of the intelligible nature of the divine in material form. It appears that cult statues remained important until at least the fifth century, among intellectuals as well as among the general populace. As long as shrines existed, they continued to act as contact portals. With the destruction of shrines, the pagan community turned to other, humbler forms of worship. Rising in importance during this time is the intermediary role of the holy man and the recourse to hieratic magic. Theurgic methods of invoking and compelling divine immanence relied on this long tradition of statue worship. It is here argued that the ardent commitment to cult and statues among prominent pagans was a response to the new situation after Constantine and the result of the close connection between philosophy and ritual in late Platonists through the theurgic dimension of late Neoplatonism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1942-1273
Print ISSN
1939-6716
Pages
pp. 168-194
Launched on MUSE
2015-06-18
Open Access
No
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