How did the Romans Worship their Gods?

Despite Rome being the central hub for the Catholic Church, the Romans were once famed for worshipping their ancient Roman Gods and Goddesses.

For centuries the ancient Romans worshipped these deities, believing that they helped found their land and continued to help shape each Roman’s life. They believed the Gods were prone to anger, and with their anger, terrible things occurred. To prove their devotion and to keep the divinities happy, the Romans underwent a number of practices and activities to honour their Gods.

What did they believe?

Religion was one of the most important parts of Roman daily life. They were first polytheistic, which essentially meant that they believed in a number of different gods and goddesses. They used largely Greek, but sometimes other foreign cult spirits to form their own unique list of deities. Religion and myth became one to the Roman people, with their gods becoming more anthropomorphic, i.e. with human characteristics. A strict devotion to the unyielding set of rituals was by far the most important aspect of Roman religion. As if the gods were angry, terrible things could happen, so the rituals kept peace with the gods and kept them happy.

Greek vs. Roman Gods

When hearing about the similar stories and gods of the ancient Romans, you probably will get a bit of déjà vu’. As a lot of the myths and characters are astonishingly similar to Greek mythology. Despite this, there are actually quite a few differences, with names, beliefs about certain events, and the importance of certain beings all different depending on the religion. re descriptive and elaborate both forms of mythologies have a major difference. Greek mythology is said to of told great stories of mortals who went on heroic adventures, whereas Roman mythology completely disregarded the idea of mortality. They said that only life after death is important, disregarding any mortal deeds.

The Main Gods

Although there were countless gods and goddesses, only a few were listed as some of the most important and powerful. Most particularly the twelve deities that formed the Council of 12. These were the main Romans gods and goddess’ that provided the ancient Romans with the powerful confidence to conquer, succeed, and prosper. Each God or Goddess was in charge of a different area of a Roman’s life, with marriage, agriculture, war, and even trading monitored by the deities. Jupiter was the main god of the council, listed as the king of all gods. With his wife (and sister) Juno, the protector of Rome and goddess of marriage, they ruled the world along with their council and other divinity collaborators. The council of 12 consisted of Jupiter, his three sisters Juno, Ceres, and Vesta, as well as one of his brothers, Neptune. The rest were Jupiter’s offspring, including Mercury, Vulcan, Mars, Diana, Apollo, and Minerva. The only remaining member of the council was Venus, who was said to of been born of the foam from the sea after Saturn castrated his father Uranus his blood fell to the ocean.

Temples and Sacrifices

Instead of churches and chapels, the city worshipped the gods in temples, also known as a pantheon. With each temple dedicated to a particular God or Goddess, with main indoor room housing an image of the deity. The main purpose of these temples was to hold the numerous sacrifices of animals or precious things. Although they saw blood sacrifices as the most powerful and the best way to communicate and honour the gods, they didn’t always use this method. Sacrificing fruit, milk, flowers, cakes, and treasured belongs commonly used. Food offerings could also be a part of a sacrificial feast in which people shared the food with the gods while consuming their own portion. For blood sacrifices, specific characteristics of the animal were important. For male gods, only a male animal was allowed to be used, with female animals for female goddess’. No blemishes on an animal were acceptable, and certain colours of types of species were used depending on the god to be an honour, for example, a black animal for the God of the underworld. The reason for the sacrifices could vary, including asking for a favour, an omen, fulfilling a vow, or even on an important anniversary.

Shrines

In Roman’s private homes, people honoured the Gods with numerous shrines, named lararium, with a figure of their favourite god. They often offered precious gifts to the shrine, with statues made to keep the god happy. If a shrine was within a private home, the God honoured would usually be related to protecting the home, marriage, children, or any other factor that the home possessed.

Festivals

The Romans celebrated special days for gods together by holding festivals to honour them. They filled streets with cheer and decorations, with sacrifices and parties in public and private areas. There were countless festivals every year, usually with multiple each month to celebrate and honour a certain deity.

Stories and everyday beliefs

The Romans were very superstitious people, believing any that bad happen was due to the god’s anger. If a person was unlucky, that meant the gods were angry at them, were if the person was lucky in life, the gods were smiling down upon them. Each deity was a part of the family, with each citizen telling stories or myths about them to keep them alive and in each other’s minds.

Special priests and priestesses

The priests and priestesses of ancient times were seen as pure beings, but they only had the authority to read and interpret signs from the gods. With action such as interrupting if the gods were happy with an event or a particular choice. They even had separate cults for particular beings, such as the Vestal virgins for the goddess Vesta, who were seen as pure beings in charge of working for Vesta who kept Rome safe.

Join the Ancient Rome & Colosseum Tour to learn more!

Language »