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Sōl Invictus

(270—275)


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(‘the invincible Sun’), a Syrian god. The first attempt to make the Sun the chief object of Roman worship was that of the emperor Elagabalus (ad 218–222), who introduced the god of Emesa on the Orontes, whose priest and, apparently, incarnation he was, El Gabal. Elagabalus' excesses and consequent unpopularity and assassination checked the cult, but Aurelian reintroduced a similar worship, also oriental; he was himself the son of a priestess of the Sun. This remained the chief imperial and official worship till Christianity displaced it, although the cult of the older gods, esp. Jupiter, did not cease, but rather the new one was somehow parallel to it, the Sun's clergy being called pontifices Solis (see pontifex), a significant name which was part of a policy of Romanizing the oriental god. Sol had a magnificent temple on the campus Agrippae. Its dedication day was 25 December.


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