The Roman religion tended to build on the Greek religion. They believed in many gods which they worshipped in temples. In the temples there would be a statue of one of the gods and the Romans would give food, flowers or money to the statues which they believed then went to the gods. Sometimes they would have a ceremony where a priest would sacrifice (kill) an animal in order to please the gods.
The Romans added more gods to their religion than existed in Greek religions. Some Emperors would say that they were gods and the Romans also believed in household spirits that would protect each family. In their houses they would have little temples or shrines that they could give food and drink to, as well as praying for protection and good luck for their family. The Romans also believed in the gods that came from other religions, and when they conquered these areas of land they would also worship these gods, such as the Ancient Egyptian god Isis.
The Romans had large public baths that they enjoyed bathing in and many of these were thought to have special healing powers.
Some Roman gods include:
- Vesta – the goddess of the fire
- Janus – the god with two faces who would watch who came in and out of family’s houses.
- Juno – the goddess who looked after women
- Saturn – the god of seed-sowing. He had a Roman festival called 'the Saturnalia named after him
- Venus – the goddess of love
Some of our words come from the names of the gods, such as 'Saturday' coming from the god Saturn and 'June' coming from the word Juno. The names of the planets in our solar system are also named after some of the gods that the Romans believed in.
When a person died they were buried with a coin placed on their mouth, under their tongue or on their eyes. The Romans believed that this meant that they could pay a ferryman called Charon to take them across the River Styx to the underworld, where Hades was. They were then judged and the good would go to heaven and the bad would go to hell.
In the video below, Emily talks about the theme of Roman religion and examines related artefacts from Leeds Museums & Galleries collection.
Some people began to believe in the religion of Christianity. In the Roman Empire Christians were killed, until 313 CE when Christianity was accepted as another religion and Christians were no longer killed. The Emperor Constantine who made this happen then became a Christian himself. Emperor Constantine was the first Christian
Emperor in the Roman Empire. In 392 CE Emperor Theodosius 1st banned paganism and Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire.