Top 10 Religion Practices in the Ancient Rome

Roman religion was followed from municipal to the individual family. Festival and Ritual were commonly practice and were taken as the occasion of great merriment. Roman had the religion of their own. The general celebration of different festivals were on the farms of the ancient Rome, which is also known as the Farmers year. Every Roman house contains the sacred file, with a belief that the lit fire will protect their family. However, when the fire went out, it was believed that something terrible will happen in the family. Romans had their own gods; Jupiter (Zeus), Juno (Hera), and Minerva (Athena) and many others. During the first century of AD, Romans profoundly copied their from the Greek gods, changing their name and attribute. There was a high religious move after the origin of Christianity. However in this article I am illustrating the major 10 religious practices in Ancient Rome mainly focusing before Christianity.

10. Sacrifice: Animal and Human Sacrifice.

animal sacrifice in ancient rome

Sacrifice was practice fundamentally in many of the ceremonies. It was believed that Roman received a good fortune if god was happy. In order to make the Roman gods happy, several sacrifice was practiced  in ancient Rome. Each sacrifice was highly ritualized.

Animal Sacrifice

  • The sex of the animal should be same as the sex of the God.
  • The white animals was sacrificed to the god of upper world,  whereas black animals was sacrificed to the God of underworld.
  • Before any animal sacrificed the innards was removed, to ensure the purity sacrificed was offered to God.
  • During the second Punic war, there was a promised made to Jupiter that every animal born from that period will rendered five years of more protection from Hannibal and his allies.
  • The most common animal sacrifice were suovetaurilia, or solitaurilia, which consist of a pig, a sheep, and an oxx.

Human Sacrifice

  • Human sacrifice was a rare practice to please the God. Gladiatorial contests were first introduced in Rome in 264 BCE in the honor of dead. First, contests were volunteer. Enacting a mythical struggle was practice and the death was rare. Later the slaves and criminal were used in the contests and sacrifice to the Manes behalf of the deceased.
  • The two rebellion solders who attempted an insurrection at Rome were sacrificed to Mars in the Campus Martius by the pontifices and the flamen Martialis. Their head was hung up at the regia.

9. Religious Festivals

Religious festival in ancient rome

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The several festivals were celebrated in Rome in the honor of God. Festival was celebrated throughout the Rome, the citizens were required to shut down their business in the religious ceremonies. The sacrificial meat was offered to the Romans in most of the festival. The most common roman festival celebrated in Rome were

Adonia (July)
The female member would climb on the roof of the house and plant the “Garden of Adonis” which mostly contains fast growing plants. The female take care of the plant for the 8 month and abandoned it. The women would mourn for the plant after they died. They also play the sacred play showing the wedding of Venus and Adnois, which was based on Greek Tradition.
Agonalia: January 1st & 9th
Romans gives figs,dates, honey sealed to the white jars to the god Janus. The gift of money to the family members was quite popular in this festival. 

The complete lists of Roman festival can be found here

8. Roman Copied Greek God.

Greek and roman gods

Roman copied the Greek’s God changing their name. The Greek god has major influence in the Roman religion. The first earlier Greek Gods adopted by the Romans were Castor Polydeuces in 484 BC. Later, Numerous god had been copied by the Rome. However, Roman use Marble building to create the temple, whereas Greek use Bronze.

Some of the Major God in Rome were influenced by the Greek

Roman God Greek Origin
Apollo Apollo
Ceres Demeter
Diana Artemis
Juno Hera
Jupiter Zeus
Mars Ares
Mercury Hermes
Minerva Athena
Neptune Poseidon
Vesta Hestia
Vulcan Hephaestus

See Also,

7.  Roman believed that every thing in the World was controlled by Numina

Early Romans believed that, they were the spirit like forced called Numina that controlled most of the aspect of their life. Romans believed that every things in the nature and the things around them were occurred by Numinia such as Lunar eclipse, solar eclipse, flow of river, any outcomes of battles and wars.

6 .  Roman worship different Gods.

jupiter roman god

Most of the ancient civilization used to worship different gods, Romans were unlike them. Each of the God has their own purpose and value. With the change in the empire, the new Gods had evolved.

Some of the popular Gods of Rome

Jupiter(Male): The main and master God of the Rome.
Juno(Female): Wife of Jupiter and Goddess of Women and fertility
Mars(Male): God of War.
Venus(Female): Goddess of Love and beauty
Minerva(Female): Goddess of Wisdom, art crafts, learning and industry
Neptune(Male): God of the sea
Ceres(Female): Goddess of harvest
Vulcan(Male): God of underworld
Diana(Female): God of Hunting
Bacchus(Male) :God of wine
Mercury(Male): God of messenger of Gods.
Vesta(Female: Goddess of the hearth and home.

5.  Superstitions in Roman Religion

Superstitions was hugely common in the ancient Rome to depict the relationship between gods and human being. Roman believed in a different omens present good luck or bad luck to the future. For example, Roman believed that, picking up a discarded horseshoe would grant them a good luck. It was believed that women will posses luck if they comb their hair from spear of dead man; The more fresh dead, the better. “Bona salus” was commonly used by Roman when someone sneeze as a blessing.

There were a large sign of bad luck as well. For example Romans believed that the crow will posses the ill omen. It was believed to be a bad luck to enter the house with the left foot first. It was also a bad luck to have the cow in top of your house. Snake fall from the roof to the yard was a bad luck, black cat entering the house and the house ceiling beam split, were the bad sign of natural disaster.

4. Prayers, vows, and oaths

prayer in ancient rome

Every sacrified and offerings to the gods required the prayer. The sacrified without a prayer, vow , or oath was observed as useless. Prayers were often spoken at a community, lead by the Priest. Prayer was very specific and should be exact. If there was small mistake in the prayers, the prayer had to be started all over again, or even the entire festival had to be repeated. Romans believed that, if the oath was broken, people would have refused to make bonds with you.

3. Funerals and the afterlife

funeral in ancient rome

The different methods for treating bodies has changed with time in any civilization in the history. Roman is no difference. There had significant change about the belief of treating bodies after death and the concept of afterlife especially with the emerge of christianity.

Roman follow very systematic way to treat the body. Relatives close the eye of the death body, calling the name of the clearly departed. The body was washed, and a coin was place in the mouth of the deceased. The coin was payed to the charon, who carry the dead across the rivers in the underworld.

Social status of the individual determined the length of time the individual were put on display. If the person was from the upper class family, the body were put on displayed for a long as weak. Lower class members were put on a display for only a day. The funeral was generally held at night to discourage the large public gathering. In the case of major political figure musicians were led the parade, followed by mourners family and relatives, who often carried portrait sculptures or wax mask of other death family members.

The funeral societies, called collegia, handled the proper burial of the body. They were paid monthly wages, Collegia guaranteed a spot in columbarium.

2.  Temples and shrines

Roman temples was one of the most versatile architecture design of the ancient era, based on Etruscan model. Romans temples were unique but had a huge influence from the Greek and Etruscan. The temples were typically frontal, on a high podium with a stairs. The temples were of deep colonnade portico in front of the cella. Most of the temples were built with concrete and bricks. It was later furnished with expensive stone and marble.  Roman had separate temples for each god, However, if multiple gods had to be worshiped in one temple, each of the god had their own cult image and cella.

1.  Judaism and Christianity, were two emerging religion that didn’t worship major Romans Gods.


There was a huge shift in the religion with the time. After the emerge of christianity, the concept of different god for the specific purpose slowly started to fade away. Jews and Christians  didn’t worship the Roman Gods.

Final Conclusion:

Religion in the ancient Rome was quietly diversified.  Religion was one of the biggest assets of the Rome that played a very important in the daily life of ancient Rome. There had been the numerous changed in the religion practices and belief with time. However, each of the belief and practice carry the different meaning.

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