Pagan religions believed in many gods and generally worshipped the earth, sea, sun, sky and various other elements of nature. The Romans were polytheistic and much of their lives were spent in a fervent effort to please their gods. This was because ancient Romans believed that their gods had great influence over their daily lives and fates. In order to placate the gods, the Romans believed that certain rituals and rites must be performed in appreciation of the gods works. As the religion progressed, so too did the rituals, this made it necessary to form priesthood’s with specific rituals and traditions. In keeping with the Pagan tradition the Romans had a deep respect for the earth and her cycles. The ancient Roman religion is one of the better known pagan religions.
Early Roman religion was based on spirits. The Romans did not build great mythologies like the Greeks, rather they believed everything had a spirit. These spirits were thought to influence for good or evil, daily life. The Romans therefore had to keep them happy through worship and sacrifice. If the rituals and sacrifices were performed properly the Romans believed the gods would be happy and help them.
Romans believed each God had a specific "field" of expertise. There was a god of the sun, Apollo, a god of the sea, a god of the sky and many others. As Roman life had many different aspects there were many different Gods. If a Roman wanted a good crop he would pray to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. The most important of all the spirits was Vesta the goddess of the hearth and home and the center of Roman family life. Each household had a small shrine dedicated to the household spirits. The Romans were great copiers. They borrowed many of their gods from the Greeks, but unlike Greek gods, theirs did not have the same definitely conceived personality, they were more cold and formal. The Romans lived under the gods and constantly tried to please them.
The Romans has a well defined state pantheon of gods. These were the official gods led by Jupiter, the father of the gods. Others included;
Mars; god of war, Ceres; Goddess of agriculture, Diana; moon goddess, Juno; goddess of women and childbirth, Minerva; goddess of wisdom and healing in war .
The Roman religion was based on rituals and sacred rites. These rituals had become very complex over the years and needed special people to perform them. This is where the priests came in. The chief priesthood’s were usually filled by distinguished statesmen or generals. Roman religion and politics were intermeshed. There were two types of priests;
• priests for the general supervision of religion
• priests of particular deities
As the Roman empire expanded it came into contact with new and different religions. Many were absorbed into the state religion. Religious tolerance was a policy among the emperors. They introduced a policy of syncretism designed to encourage the merging of pagan religions to unite people and effect greater political stability. This cemented and united the empire. So it came to pass that Romans could worship whoever they liked as long as it didn’t interfere with others.
The ancient Roman religion is one of the most well known pagan religions. It was worshipped not only by the Romans, but by the various communities which were absorbed into the Roman empire. These communities added to the state religion with their own specific beliefs until it was a truly diverse and all encompassing religion. Throughout the modern world, the ancient roman religion is known as one of the world’s first and most famous pagan religions. It is the Roman and the Greek religions which are the basic from modern pagans take their beliefs.
Courtesy of the Pagan Federation Website.