Cosmism in Ancient Rome

While some individuals might try to tie cosmism to the theory of cosmic evolution that was interpreted by John Fiske, ancient civilizations were equally interested in this vital next step of human development. Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330–after 391) was a 4th century Roman historian who had a deep interest in both classical and Christian philosophy.

Ammianus was obsessed with the deification of astronomical objects. Even those without much of an interest in archaeology are probably familiar with the story of Amenophis IV, who is remembered as a heretical Egyptian Pharaoh. He eliminated the regular cults of Ancient Egyptian piety and replaced them with strict worship of the solar disc.

What interested Ammianus most about this story was the fact that solar worship didn’t vanish after that individual passed away, but instead flourished in a new form. Worship of another solar deity, Amon-Ra, became almost monotheistic. Some archaeologists might argue that people will simply be amazed with those things they can’t understand.

However, Ammianus understood that everyone has an innate desire to travel to the heavens. These ancient myths were expressing a philosophy that would later be termed cosmism. Modern scholars might depict people of the past as superstitious, but they were actually forward thinkers with a unique knowledge of astronomy and the human condition.

Image Credit: Gary Tonge, Urantia Foundation

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