Religion in Ancient Rome

History of Religion in Ancient Rome

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Perspective


The history of religion in Ancient Rome includes both the ancestral religion that Romans used to define themselves and the religions and cults of conquered peoples. While the Romans thought of themselves as highly religious, they believed that their success as a world power depended on their collective piety (pietas) that fostered good relations with the gods. Indeeds, the Romans are known for their multiplicity of gods, and that earned the skepticism and scorn of Christians.

The Greeks introduced certain religious practices, such as the cult of Apollo, that became foundational. In fact, Greek myth offered a great deal of common ground for Roman art (especially Etruscan) and Roman literature to flourish in. Rome’s founding myth began with Romulus and Remus, and Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, intermediated with the gods to formulate the mos maiorum, “the way of the ancestors”, in the Roman identity.

Roman religion was based on the practical expedient of “I give that you might give”. This meant that religion depended on the correct practice of prayer, ritual, and sacrifice needed to please the many deities of the Roman state. But neither faith nor dogma had much to do with it, although Roman philosophers speculated on the nature of the divine and how gods interacted with humans. Cicero, who was a philosopher and an augur, believed that religion must most of all serve the purposes of social order. As the Roman Empire assimilated its conquered peoples, migrants brought mystery cults to Rome that tapped into ancient origins in Egypt and the Near East. Notwithstanding the persecution of Christians (or perhaps because of it), Christianity flourished best of all these imported cults, and with the patronage of Constantine, it became Rome’s official state religion in the year 380.

For ordinary Romans, religion was a huge part of daily life. As such, shrines to domestic deities abounded in springs and groves and sacred places everywhere. And the Roman calendar was filled with festivities, ceremonies, and rituals, and everyone (including slaves) participated. Women figured prominently in many such rituals, and they formed the Roman state’s most famous priesthood, the Vestal Virgins, who tended the city’s sacred hearth for centuries.

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Index

Religion Index | Christianity: OriginsApostles: John: Writings | Paul: BackgroundMissionsBeliefs | Peter | Disciples | Organization | Bishops | Church Fathers: Augustine | Creeds | Culture: Literature: ApologistsLiterary TraditionOrigenTertullian | Doctrine: Orthodoxy | Early Christianity: Moral CodeRitualSacraments | Gospels | Jesus of Nazareth: Life and TeachingsAchievementsFinal BreakDeath and TransfigurationScholarshipPerception | Scholarship: ModernHigher Criticism | Monasticism | Spread: EmpirePersecution | Triumph: Constantine | Judaism: BeliefsCommunitiesScribesSectsTemple of Jerusalem | Mystery Religions | Personal Religion | State Religion: CalendarCultsDeitiesMajor DeitiesFestivalsRitualThe State



history of Ancient Rome | religion

Religion

Christianity

Christianity

Christianity | origins

Christianity: Origins

Apostles

Christianity: Apostles

John the Apostle

Apostles: John

John the Apostle | writings

John: Writings

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Paul the Apostles

Apostles: Paul

Apostle Paul | background

Paul: Background

Apostle Paul | |missions

Paul: Missions

Apostle Paul | beliefs

Paul: Beliefs

Apostle Peter

Apostles: Peter

disciples

Christianity: Disciples

Up to Index

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | organization

Christianity: Organization

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | bishops

Christianity: Bishops

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Church Fathers

Christianity: Church Fathers

Saint Augustine

Church Fathers: Augustine

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | creeds

Christianity: Creeds

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | culture

Christianity: Culture

Up to Index

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | literature

Culture: Literature

Apologists

Literature: Apologists

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | literature | literary tradition

Literature: Literary Tradition

Origen

Literature: Origen

Tertullian

Literature: Tertullian

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | doctrine

Christianity: Doctrine

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history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | orthodoxy

Doctrine: Orthodoxy

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Early Christianity

Christianity: Early Christianity

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Early Christianity | moral code

Early Christianity: Moral Code

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Early Christianity | ritual

Early Christianity: Ritual

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Early Christianity | sacraments

Early Christianity: Sacraments

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Gospels

Christianity: Gospels

Up to Index

Jesus of Nazareth

Christianity: Jesus of Nazareth

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Jesus of Nazareth | teachings

Jesus of Nazareth: Teachings

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Jesus of Nazareth | achievements

Jesus of Nazareth: Achievements

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Jesus of Nazareth | final break

Jesus of Nazareth: Final Break

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Jesus of Nazareth | death and transfiguration

Jesus of Nazareth: Death and Transfiguration

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Jesus of Nazareth | perception

Jesus of Nazareth: Perception

Up to Index

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Jesus of Nazareth | scholarship

Jesus of Nazareth: Scholarship

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | modern scholarship

Christianity: Modern Scholarship

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | Christianity | higher criticism | higher criticism

Modern Scholarship: Higher Criticism

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | monasticism

Christianity: Monasticism

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | spread of Christianity

Christianity: Spread

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | spread of Christianity | Empire

Spread: Empire

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history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | persecution

Spread: Persecution

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Christianity | triumph

Christianity: Triumph

Constantine

Triumph: Constantine

Judaism

Judaism

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Judaism | beliefs

Judaism: Beliefs

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Judaism | communities

Judaism: Communities

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history of Ancient Rome | religion | Judaism | scribes

Judaism: Scribes

history of Ancient Rome | religion | Judaism | sects

Judaism: Sects

Temple of Jerusalem

Judaism: Temple of Jerusalem

mystery religions

Mystery Religions

history of Ancient Rome | religion | personal religion

Personal Religion

history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religion

State Religion

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history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religion | cults

State Religion: Cults

history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religion | calendar

State Religion: Calendar

history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religion | deities

State Religion: Deities

history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religion | major deities

State Religion: Major Deities

history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religions | festivals

State Religion: Festivals

history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religion | ritual

State Religion: Ritual

history of Ancient Rome | religion | state religion | the state

State Religion: The State

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Samples


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