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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR. Living on Religion: Professionals and Personnel

Marietta Hörster

Subject Religion
Classics » Ancient Religion
Ancient History » Roman History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405129435.2007.00026.x


The priests of the official pagan cults in Rome, and in Italian and provincial cities organized similarly to Rome, were well-off men, senators, knights, or other citizens with income from landed property, trade and commerce, or handicraft. In some cities of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman empire, priesthoods were sold. These priests sometimes received a personal income out of the purchase of the hides of the sacrificed animals or as part of the fees for sacrifices ( Dignas 2002 : 251–71). However, even these priests and priestesses did not depend on that priestly income as sustenance. They did not make their living from religion. This income was only a surplus, a welcome addition to the priests' existing wealth and income. It was meant as a recompense for their taking over these sometimes costly duties and the purchase price. As a rule, in Roman as in Greek cults incoming money, as for example penalties ( multae ) and votives, belonged to the sanctuaries and their gods or heroes and not to the priests. To give “the tenth” ( dekate, decuma ) to a god or goddess (of course not to a priest) was a sign of respect and thankfulness for all kinds of situations in life, like the harvest every year or booty in times of war. In Jewish religion the tenth or tithe was a kind of tax depending on income which had to be paid once a year. In contrast to Roman and Greek cults, the priests and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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