Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sol Invictus

Sol Invictus – Sun God of Later Roman Empire/Patron of Soldiers

Sol Invictus  1
Sol Invictus was considered as the official sun god of the later Roman Empire as well as a patron of the soldiers.

The Roman emperor Elagabalus who reigned during 218-222 had built a temple in his honour as Sol Invictus on the Palatine and made attempts to make his worship as the main religion in Rome. Later on the emperor Aurelian who reigned from 270-275 re-established the worship and constructed a magnificent temple to Sol in the Agrippa Campus. Towards 274, the Roman emperor Aurelian had made it an official cult together with the traditional Roman cults and scholars’ disapproval on the new deity became a re-foundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus.
Sol Invictus 2

The emperors favoured the god after Aurelian which also appeared on their coins until Constantine and the last inscriptions referred to Sol Invictus dates back to 387 AD.

There were many devotees during the fifth century which made Augustine necessary to preach against them. Sol was worshipped as the special protector of the emperors and of the empire and remained the chief imperial cult till it was replaced by Christianity.

Classical Roman Religion

Invictus was the result of many deities of classical Roman religion inclusive of the supreme deity Jupiter, the war god Apollo, Mars, Hercules and Silvanus and from the third century it had been in use.

Sol Invictus 3
The Roman cult to Sol as the exclusive state religion carried on right from the earliest history of the city till the institution of Christianity. Before Sol Invictus, the Romans had already a sun god Sol Indiges who had been worshipped during the period of the Roman Republic and the meaning of Indiges is debated among many where Sol Indiges could mean the indigenous sun.

A colossal statue associated with a sun god Sol had been built by the Emperor Nero. Sol Invictus could have been imported from the East and the Roman emperor Elagabalus worshipped a Syrian sun god while it was Emperor Aurelian who was particularly associated with the Invictus since he had attributed to the god his victory over the Palmyrenes

Sol Invictus - Temple in Campus Martius 

Sol Invictus 4
Emperor Aurelian who had set up a temple to Sol Invictus in the Campus Martius had also established priesthood for the god creating games in his honour and established Sol Invictus as the supreme god of the Romans especially among the military.

During the tetrarchy period, Jupiter and Hercules regained prominence in the Roman pantheon though with Constantine, Sol Invictus became the main worship till Rome was converted to Christianity. An inscription of 102 AD by a certain Gauius Julius Anicetus provided records of restoration of a portico of Sol and is now a Trastevere area of Rome.

Though he had an allusion of his own cognomen in mind, which is the Latinized version of the Greek equivalent of Invictus, the earliest extant dated inscription which used the invictus as an epithet of Sol was of 158 AD while another dated to the second century is inscribed on a Roman palera or an ornamental disk. Augustus was a regular epithet who linked deities to the Imperial cult

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