Strange thought that I may do some more work upon:
If you’ve spent pretty much *any time at all* around the field of comparative mythography …. then you’ll almost certainly have run into the phrase “Interpretatio Romana”.
And despite it getting a lot of criticism these days for being .. blatantly not quite accurate, at least partially because it’s a stellar example of “instead of attempting look at and understand another culture’s .. culture on its own terms, let’s attempt to force it into our own more familiar paradigm”, I’ve previously defended it to a degree because it nevertheless manages to *preserve* and *illuminate* some otherwise obscurated elements. But that is another story for another time.
Yet for all their saliency within *our* collective imaginations when the phrases “world-spanning empire” and “how did they get all the way over *there*?!” are brought up, the cultural contacts of the Greeks and then Romans with an array of the further-afield [yet more important, especially in the modern day] Indo-European peoples were actually pretty limited. And therefore, so too, are the Interpretatio Romana / Interpretatio Graeca conclusions which might be looked at.
Which, in one sense, isn’t too much of a problem. The field of Indo-European mythoreligion and (comparative) theology has long since caught up and overtaken them in just about every way possible except actually being able to physically march across the ancient world and directly encounter the peoples, the customs, the religion(s) in question as living faiths, with the exception of Hinduism.
Yet we still find ourselves seemingly inevitably bound by and weighed down with, the pseudo-theological cognitive effort of some luminaries of the Great Civilizations of the Mediterranean.
Which is a bit of a shame, not only because it leads to insistent and insistently distortionary thought-patterns when people attempt to think of what an(other) Indo-European pantheon or mythoreligious setup might look like at the outset … but also because this *neglects* an array of *other* and rather more ‘at the coalface’ “Interpretatio” style interactions and “interpretation” rubrics that flourished elsewhere in the Indo-European world.
What I’m getting at, is that in the “convection zone” about the area of modern Afghanistan, western Pakistan, eastern Iran, etc, and the Steppes, , the archaeological evidence is quite clear that the notion of “this God of the religion over *there* is equivalent to this God of the religion over *here*” was not just some sort of idle semi-academic curio for some back home in the Imperial Centres, nor simply an easy tool for diplomatic and administrative facilitation of neighbouring and newly-subjected peoples.
It was an *actual* way of viewing the world, and acutely relevant to how these people saw themselves, and saw the world thence around them.
Not least due to vastly enhanced experience with and more in-depth knowledge of, the other Indo-European mythoreligious cultures in question, this also appears to have produced rather more significant deductions, inductions, and “reconstructive” deific efforts on the parts of these peoples – whether Indo-Greeks, or Scythians in the area, or others still more exotic besides.
Outside of rather specialized circles, we don’t tend to know nor perhaps *care* to know very much of these; and yet there’s so much that is interesting, vibrant, indeed *vital* to how they did things in these areas.
My “strange thought”, then, with which I began this piece, is that if we were to look into the equivalent “interpretatio” approaches of these places, we might find something no less relevant, and likely considerably more useful, than the more frequently commented upon Greek speculations around “Indian Herakles”, Roman guesses at “Celtic Mars”, etc.