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  • 1 University of Zielona Góra
  • 2 Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń
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The article is devoted to the analysis of the historiographical background of the category of the so-called oriental cults/oriental religions created in the 19th century and developed by Franz Cumont. We discuss the role of this term in 20th-century historiography with the focus on the works of Tadeusz Zieliński that are important to the reception of the oriental cults metaphor. We argue that the concept of oriental cults/oriental religions in its original version is not an effective or useful research tool. However, as a historiographical concept it has fulfilled its role in a threefold way: firstly, it drew scholars’ attention to the vitality of ancient religious experience, secondly, it established the fact that Roman religion was a living organism, naturally adapted to changing political, social and cultural conditions, thirdly, it helped to understand the principles behind the construction of metaphors in the academic discourse.