Ancient Roman religion played an important role in the daily life of Romans. It involved using different significations to explain the events that took place in their lives, and they spent most of their time worshipping a variety of gods.
Although the ancient Roman religion was polytheistic, there was a time when Hellenistic Greece was considered a source of inspiration when it came to developing new traditions and customs. The Romans were people who fought in many wars and obtained many victories. However, they didn’t consider their victories to be consequences of their perseverance, but a result of maintaining a good relationship with their gods.
The priests had to respect all the rituals, including those that involved certain sacrifices. Even some of the most brilliant minds who were skeptical regarding the existence of supreme forces believed that religion helped to maintain social order. Cicero formed part of the intellectual elite who recognized the importance of religion in people’s lives.
Each Roman home contained a sanctuary or a shrine where those who lived in the house had to bring prayers and drinks as a sign of respect for their idol. Therefore, religion was part of their daily routine. These signs of appreciation for the gods were also shown in neighborhood shrines which were represented by groves and springs.
There were certain public rituals that could be lead only by women, and the state-sustained Vestal Virgins was the most prominent priesthood formed by women. They honored a large number of deities and they maintained a conservative lifestyle.
When Greeks arrived on the Italian peninsula they brought a series of religious practices and cults that influenced the Roman culture which adopted some of the Greek myths. Although there were many similarities between the Roman and the Greek gods, Romans remained faithful to their major god, who was Jupiter and who was above any other god.
Jupiter was helped by his wife Juno to rule the world and to maintain his position as king of gods. Juno was the goddess of the sky, so she was very powerful as well. Among other Roman gods, the most important figures were: Venus, the goddess of love; Diana, the goddess of hunting; Nepture, the god of the sea; Mars, the god of war, and Mercury who was the gods’ messenger.
People built temples where they brought all sorts of animals to be slaughtered in the name of gods, because, in the ancient Roman religion this was the most common way to worship them.