Welcome all deities

Photo: Roman General, 1st century CE, figurine by Young Miniatures.

One unique element in the religion of ancient Rome was its ability to incorporate many different gods and goddesses from the peoples it conquered. One way in which this was done was a ceremony called evocatio, which means “summoning away.” It is described in Religions of Rome, Volume II, by Mary Beard, John North and Simon PriceBefore attacking a town, they write, “The Roman general would offer the enemy god a cult and temple in Rome —so depriving the enemy of their divine protection, while at the same time incorporating a new deity into the Roman pantheon.”

One example of this is found in Livy’s History of Rome, when the general (at this time, a dictator) Marcus Furius Camillus attacked Veii, a major Etruscan city near Rome, in 390 BCE. Livy writes, “After consulting the auspices, the dictator went out and ordered the soldiers to take up arms. ‘It is under your leadership,’ he said, ‘Pythian Apollo, and inspired by your majesty, that I proceed to destroy the city of Veii. And I vow to you a tenth part of the spoils. To you also, Juno Regina, who now lives in Veii, I pray that after our victory you will accompany us to our city —soon to be your city— to be received in a temple worthy of your greatness.'”