1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

Sol Invictus

By

Sol Invictus. The Unconquered Sun. From Corbridge.

Sol Invictus. The Unconquered Sun. From Corbridge.

CC Flickr User Alun Salt.
Definition:

Sol invictus "the Unconquered Sun" is the name of a Roman sun (sol) god popular from at least the 3rd century.

Before Sol invictus came to prominence, the Romans already had a sun god, Sol indiges, who had been worshiped since the period of the Roman Republic. (The meaning of "indiges" is debated. Sol indiges could mean the indigenous sun.) The Emperor Nero had built a colossal statue associated with a sun god Sol.

Sol invictus may have been an import from the East. The Roman emperor Elagabalus worshiped a Syrian sun god, but it is Emperor Aurelian who is particularly associated with the invictus because he, having attributed to the god his victory over the Palmyrenes [see Table of Roman Battles], set up a temple to Sol invictus in the Campus Martius, established a priesthood for the god, and created games in his honor (ludi solis), in 274. Aurelian tried to establish Sol invictus as supreme god of the Romans, particularly among the military.

During the period of the tetrarchy, Jupiter and Hercules regained prominence in the Roman pantheon, but then, with the accession of Constantine, Sol invictus became top god until Rome's conversion to Christianity.

References:

  • "New Evidence for the Dating of the Calendar at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome"
    M. R. Salzman
    Transactions of the American Philological Association (1981), pp. 215-227
  • "'Good Emperors' and Emperors of the Third Century"
    Sviatoslav Dmitriev
    Hermes 2004), pp. 211-224
  • Official Policy towards Oriental Cults in the Roman Army
    Allan S. Hoey
    Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association (1939), pp. 456-481
  • "The Gods of the Months in Ancient Art"
    Charlotte R. Long
    American Journal of Archaeology (Oct., 1989), pp. 589-595
  • "Framing the Sun: The Arch of Constantine and the Roman Cityscape
    Elizabeth Marlowe
    The Art Bulletin (Jun., 2006), pp. 223-242
Also Known As: Helios Aniketos, Helius Anicetus
  • "The Topography and Social History of Rome's Trastevere (Southern Sector)"
    Robert E. A. Palmer
    Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1981
Examples:
The Calendar of Philocalus puts the birthday of Sol Invictus on December 25.

The Egyptian Re is another sun god with various aspects.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.