Friday, July 09, 2010

The Roman Religion

The Religion of Rome:

The Romans had a practical attitude to religion, as to most things, which perhaps explains why they themselves had difficulty in taking to the idea of a single, all-seeing, all-powerful god. In so far as the Romans had a religion of their own, it was not based on any central belief, but on a mixture of fragmented rituals, taboos, superstitions, and traditions which they collected over the years from a number of sources. To the Romans, religion was less a spiritual experience than a contractual relationship between mankind and the forces which were believed to control people's existence and well-being. The result of such religious attitudes were two things: a state cult, the significant influence on political and military events of which outlasted the republic, and a private concern, in which the head of the family oversaw the domestic rituals and prayers in the same way as the representatives of the people performed the public ceremonials. However, as circumstances and people's view of the world changed, individuals whose personal religious needs remained unsatisfied turned increasingly during the first century AD to the mysteries, which were of Greek origin, and to the cults of the east.

The origins of Roman Religion:

Most of the Roman gods and goddesses were a blend of several religious influences. Many were introduced via the Greek colonies of southern Italy. Many also had their roots in old religions of the Etruscans or Latin tribes.

Often the the old Etruscan or Latin name survived but the deity over time became to be seen as the Greek god of equivalent or similar nature. And so it is that the Greek and Roman pantheon look very similar, but for different names.

An example of such mixed origins is the goddess Diana to whom the Roman king Servius Tullius built the temple on the Aventine Hill. Essentially she was an old Latin goddess from the earliest of times.

Before Servius Tullius moved the center of her worship to Rome, it was based at Aricia.
There in Aricia it was always a runaway slave who would act as her priest. He would win the right to hold office by killing his predecessor. To challenge him to a fight he would though first have to manage to break off a branch of a particular sacred tree; a tree on which the current priest naturally would keep a close eye. From such obscure beginnings Diana was moved to Rome, where she then gradually became identified with the Greek goddess Artemis.

It could even occur that a deity was worshipped, for reasons no-one really could remember. An example for such a deity is Furrina. A festival was held every year in her honour on 25 July. But by the middle of the first century BC there was no-one left who actually remember what she was actually goddess of.

Prayer and Sacrifice:

Most form of religious activity required some kind of sacrifice. And prayer could be a confusing matter due to some gods having multiple names or their sex even being unknown. The practice of Roman religion was a confusing thing.

Roman Gods and Goddesses

The first god was Zeus. Zeus was the king of all gods. It is believed that when he threw down his spear, thunder would rumble and lightning would flash. Zeus is usually seen with a lightning bolt in his hand. In Roman, the name for this god was Jupiter.

Next, there was Hades. Hades was Zeus's brother. Along with being Zeus's brother, he was also the God of the Underworld. Hades is usually represented as having people farming. In Roman, his name is Pluto.

Then, another goddess was Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and a mortal woman. In Roman, this god is called Venus.

Another goddess was Artemis. She was the Goddess of the Hunt, the moon, animal liberation, feistiness, and feminism. Diana is the name for this god in Roman.

Last, but not least, there was Hephaestus. Hephaestus was the God of Forges. He was also the husband to Aphrodite. This god is called Vulcan in Roman.

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