|A scene from the Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii|
Syncretism was the chief characteristic of all Roman religion. This is seen most clearly in the assimilation of mystery religions.
Though the state religion was effective in stirring patriotism, it had little to offer those who lacked a share in the state, especially women and slaves. In addition, it did almost nothing to soothe the almost universal beliefs in Fate or Chance. Some Romans turned to astrology, others to a passionate belief in certain saviours who would comfort them in this life and give them a happy life in the next world. This explains the popularity of eastern mystery religions and the partial Hellenization of the official religion. The promise of a better life in the world to come was especially appealing to the poorer and more oppressed elements in Roman society. The mystery religions of the East catered for individuals, rather than for the state. Thus they could be seen as potentially subversive. They offered positive rewards of personal satisfaction.