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10 Interesting Religious Beliefs & Practices in Ancient Rome

At the heart of ancient Roman religion are the festivals, practices, rituals, and sacrifices rather personal beliefs. The Roman religion was widely diversified ranging from the municipal, family, to individual level. Some of the standard practices in ancient Rome on important occasions encompass festivals and rituals. Religion was recognized as the greatest asset that played a fundamental role in Roman daily life. Religious festivals and ritual celebrations were an integral aspect of ancient Rome even before the advent of Christianity. Here are ten strange and interesting religious practices in ancient Rome.

Judaism & Christianity

The two formed the emerging religions in Rome that did not worship most of the Ancient Roman gods. The old practice in Rome involved the worship of many gods for different occasions and purposes. Jewish people interacted with the roman during the era of Augustan Principate, and Judaism and Jews were tolerated in Rome on a treaty with Hellenized elites. The diplomatic treaty did not recognize Judaism as a religion but as a superstition. However, with the legal enrollment of Judea as a client of the kingdom in 63 BC increased Judaism and Jewish in Rome.

Since Julius Caesar was a sympathizer of the Jewish and Judaism, thus, it was recognized as a religion practiced in ancient Rome. The roman investigation and research identified Christianity irreligion, rebellion, disobedient, novel, and atheistic subsection of Judaism. Both Christianity and Judaism defied the beliefs of the ancient Roman practice of worshipping different gods. They introduced the concept of worshipping one superior heavenly God who was the creator of the universe, humanity, and everything in the world. The practice of the two led to the fading away of the belief and worship of many gods in Rome.[1]

Religious Festivals

The Romans held different festivals and ceremonies in honor of the god. In ancient Rome, religious festivals were celebrated throughout Rome; people were required by Roman Laws to stop all activities and businesses for religious ceremonies. During celebrations, sacrificial meat was offered to the Romans. Some of the most common religious festivals in ancient Rome includes Agonalia festivals contacted on 1st and 9th January. The money gifts to the families is a primary feature during the Agonalia festivals. The festival involves offerings such as dates, figs, honey to the Janus gods.[2]

Temple & Shrines

Major religious ceremonies and festivals in ancient Rome were performed outdoors. Some such as processions began from, visited, or the procession ended at shrines or temples for the performance of the ritual, where the ritual offering is stored or where the sacrifice offering will be deposited. The Roman temples and shrines played instrumental roles in Roman religious’ practices. The design and architectures of the worship places are suited for various important occasions and ceremonies. Animal sacrifices were performed at an open part of the temple or shrine. The temples are instrumental in housing esse3ntial religious relics and deities as well as other instruments of worship and religious functions. During the ancient Rome, they built temples and shrines for each of their different gods such as fertility gods, Jupiter among others and its temples and shrines housed the gods.[3]

Superstitions in Roman Religion

Superstitions were among the most common practices in ancient Rome that depicted the relationship between various gods and human beings. The Romans held various omens and superstitious beliefs relating to bad luck or goods luck. Different activities, rituals, and practices in their daily lives represented a myth and belief. For instance, Bona Salus when someone sneezes bring blessing according to the ancient Roman superstitions, the women combing their hair with a dead man’s spear brings good luck especially freshly dead ones.

The Romans also believed in a superstition tell that picking up a throne horseshoes bring good luck. The bad omen also present great signs in the ancient Roman superstition practices. For one the cow is associated with bad luck. Snake fall in the backyard was associated with bad luck, black cats, entering the house with the left foot first was an association of bad luck. Unbelievable the split of the ceiling was a sign of bad luck in ancient Rome.[4]

Prayers, Oaths & Vows

Prayers accompanied most of the important sacrifices, ceremonies, and offerings in ancient Rome as request and plea to gods for success. In the ancient Roman traditions, offerings and prayers are offered in sacred places mostly by priests such as in shrines, temples or holy mountains. The prayers are offered to different gods from Thanksgiving or prayer for supplication to appropriate deity gods. It is instrumental that before the prayers and sacrifices are practiced, there is needed for identifying the type of gods or deity such as celestial (sky deity), the aquatic deity (water), and chthonic (earth deity), in the preparation of the prayers and supplications.

The prayers were recited for exactness, and if a mistake was made during the payer, the prayer or the entire ceremony is repeated because the Romans believed the prayer had to be got right with ultimate exactness. Similarly, oaths and vows were done directed on a specific god. The vows and oaths were a common practice in Roman religion in ancient Rome. For instance, there were sacred oaths and vowed to offer an offering to a deity or divine being.[5]

Romans Worshipped Different Gods

In ancient Rome, the Romans worshipped different gods and deities designated for various functions. The ancient civilization is associated with the worship of different deities and gods; the Romans were a different civilization. The Romans worshipped different gods that were associated with different purpose and value, and unique practices with each god. The ancient Romans copied different types of gods from the Greek gods and assigned new functions, values, and purposes to the gods. Changes in the Roman empire introduced different gods for various purposes. For instance, the master god of Rome Jupiter, Jumbo goddess of fertility, Mars war god, Vesta the was the goddess of the hearth and household, Pluto, Vulcan god of the underworld among others.[6]

Funerals & Afterlife

The ancient civilization had different methods and methods of treating death in history, and the ancient Roman Civilization is different from all of them. Culture influenced the practices associated with death and afterlife especially after the emergence of Judaism and Christianity in Rome. The Romans traded the death systematically with practices such as washing the death, placing a coin in the mouth of the dead person’s body, which they believe is paid to the Charon who carry the dead to the underworld.

The funerals for the death in ancient Rome was performed at night to discourage large crowds of people. Social class determined the time the deceased was placed on display upon their death. For instance, the high social class members of the society were put on display for a week before burial, while the lower social class members were displayed for a short time such as one day. The Romans believed in life after death, that is why they wash the death before burial or cremation.[7]

Human Sacrifices

The human sacrifices were rare, and it was offered in ancient Rome to please the gods. The practice of offering human beings as atoning sacrifices in Rome was the most repulsive among the Romans, and they avoided to use the word sacrifice when referring to such practices. In 264 BCE the gladiatorial contest was introduced in Rome to honor the dead, with volunteering specimen to enact the mythical practice. The contest was repeated later in 116 BC in preparation for the invasion of Gaul with uncertain religious objective and dimension.

When the death became scarce and rare to find, the criminals and salves were used in the contest as sacrifices to the Manes on behalf of the dead person. For instance, the Flamen Martialis and pontifices offered two soldiers who were accused of rebellion against Rome to Mars as sacrifices in Campus Martius. The practice was described by the Romans as the funeral blood rite to the Manes during the gladiator to the Roman military aristocrats and was therefore not treated as a sacrifice. However, the Christian scholars later termed the practice as a human sacrifice because of the cold-bloodlessness of the practice.[8]

Animal Sacrifices

Sacrifices in ancient Rome was a common practice. The Romans belied sacrifices are the primary means to appease and please the gods. Therefore, sacrifices were offered to the gods for different reasons and purposes. For one, making the Roman gods happy was believed to bring good fortune to the Latin community, the sacrifices were accompanied with different rituals depending with the purpose of sacrifice and the type of gods it is offered to. The animal sacrifices were the strongest offering in the ancient Roman kingdom with domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and pigs as prime candidates for various festivals, rituals, and cultural occasions. The sacrifices were for cleansing, cladding among other reasons.[9]

Domestic & Private Cult

The family dynasty with the authority and duties of the Roman citizen’s paterfamilias was created to recognize the owner of the family estate. Maiorum had the priestly powers that enable him to create such positions. He practiced his clerical authority and duties to his domestic penates, lures, old genius among other responsibilities that he and his family possess. The dependents under his custodian include freedmen, slaves, owed cult in his genius (critical spirit and generative power). The paterfamilias bestows power in his name, a measurable role to the household rite and obligations or honor on his children or offspring either sired or adopted. The obligations are also carried by the slaves he frees.[10]

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