The Roman Religion

temple_of_juno_girgenti

Temple Of Juno (Romanreligionl.info)

The Roman faith was the last non christian religion to have been dominant in the western world.  Since Rome had agrarian tribal origins, much of the spirituality of their culture reflected these roots, while expanding into an institutional religion that would be fitting of an empire and republican state.

The Roman people believed in many spirits, these spirits permeated the activities of everyday life, and the Roman people felt like they must appease them for good will and fortune. During early Rome, around the period of 500 BC, the Roman people were struggling to assert themselves as dominant over other groups on the Italian peninsula. For 200 years prior, Rome had been ruled by Etruscan kings, who had been ousted. The Etruscans, Sabines, and other tribes on the peninsula were eventually incorperated into the Roman melting pot, taking their own gods and rituals with them.

This early meshing of tribes would not only lead to a unified religion but also a unified culture. What would become the Roman religion was fashioned after the Greek pantheon. With familiar gods such as Ares, Zeus, and Hera being renamed to Mars, Jupiter, and Juno and so on. The adoption and appropriation of this religious and cultural structure is what brought the Roman people under the general umbrella of Hellenic culture in the Mediterranean.

“The Roman pantheon, was a revitalization movement within hellenic culture.” (John Mohawk, Utopian Legacies, Chapter 4)

In addition to providing a sense of spiritual security, many thinkers have believed that the Roman pantheon was mainly in place as a means of instilling a common order, and a common culture across the masses. In addition, it gave justification to often intolerable things such as war, disease, and other forms of suffering and destruction.

“But the quality by which the Roman commonwealth distinguishes itself most of all is according to me its opinion on the gods”. With these words Polybius begins his brief digression on Roman religion [6.56.6-15]. This verdict is not inspired by any deep personal conviction concerning the power of the gods but rather by the practical cultic use of religion for maintaining the cohesion of society. There was no better way to keep the masses under control.” (Jason P. Davies, Rome’s Religious History. Livy, Tacitus and Ammianus on their Gods, Chapter 1) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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