“In AD 274 the emperor Aurelian dedicated a great temple to the Sun (Sol) which was famed in antiquity for the richness of the offerings and dedications it contained … The cult of the Sun can have clear associations with eastern religions: the full title of the God Elagabalus was, in fact, Sol Invictus Elagabalus – Invincible Sun Elagabalus; and here it is often assumed that the particular form of the cult derived from the cult of Ba’al at Palmyra in Syria, after Aurelian’s successful campaign there … At the same time, however, its significance had Roman roots too. So, for example, a regular sacrifice to Sol is marked on 9 August of several Augustan calendars; and there had been a longstanding identification in both the Greek and Roman worlds of the God Apollo with Sol (or Greek Helios) … Besides, the imagery of the God – at least on the few contemporary coins on which it is shown – is strongly Graeco-Roman, rather than oriental (contrast the explicit eastern imagery attached to Elagabalus’ cult) and the priesthood founded to serve the cult was given the very Roman title of ‘pontifices of the Sun’ [M Beard et al, Religions of Rome: Volume 1 at 259].”
“… in the years after [Emperor] Gallienus’ death in 267, a series of strong and efficient emperors managed to stabilise the Roman empire … Foremost among them was Aurelian. Much more than his predecessors he laid emphasis on the fact that a God had invested him as emperor. After his victory over Palmyra in the summer of 273 he established the cult of Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun) in Rome. The God received his own magnificent temple, the templum Solis, and the priesthoods were restructured in order to give the priestly college of Sol a special rank … This cult had an air of monotheism, insofar as there was a central God, but it did not exclude the veneration of other Gods. It was new, but remained within the framework of traditional religious practice and could happily co-exist with the older cults …
the worship of Sol was one of the key cults in the fourth century … The [polytheistic] emperor Julian (361-3 CE) ... was especially devoted to the Sun and viewed him as the supreme God … [J Rüpke, A Companion to Roman Religion at 102-114]”.
I discuss the rituals we might engage in for a solar oriented Christmas in more depth in my post A Pagan Christmas in High Summer.*** For myself, I have Christian relations staying with me and I confess that my Pagan invocations this festive season have never been so hurried or so hushed. However, they will to go to Church for a daytime service and I will engage in a ritual honouring Sol Invictus/Apollo then. In the meantime I have put together this visual tribute to the Invincible Sun – may he look favourably upon us.
|"Sol Invictus" by bukue.deviantart.com|