Ancient Rome and Religion
Religion played a very important role in the daily life of Ancient Rome and the
Romans. Roman religion was centred on gods and explanations for events usually
involved the gods in some way or another. The Romans believed that gods
controlled their lives and, as a result, spent a great deal of their time worshipping
The most important god was Jupiter. He was the king of gods who ruled with his wife
Juno, the goddess of the sky. Other gods were:
After the reign of the Emperor Augustus (27 BC to AD 14), the emperor was also
considered to be a god and he was worshipped on special occasions. Each god had
a special festival day which was usually a public holiday. This holiday gave people
the opportunity to visit the temple for whichever god was being celebrated. At this
temple, priests would sacrifice animals and offer them to the god.
Temples to worship the gods were built throughout the Roman Empire. Temples
usually always followed the same building pattern. The roof was triangular shaped
and supported by great pillars. Steps led up to the main doorway that was usually
built behind the pillars. The inside of the temple would have been very well
decorated and there would have been a statue of the god in it. There would also
have been an altar where a priest would have served the god and made sacrifices.
People called augurs could also be found in the temples. These people used the
entrails of the dead animals to predict the future. The Romans took these predictions
very seriously and few ignored the advice of an augur.
Each family home would also have a small altar and shrine. The Romans had
personal household gods or spirits called 'lares' which were worshipped every day at
home. The shrine contained statues of the 'lares' and the head of the household led
family prayers around the shrine each day. The service was considered so important
that family slaves were also invited. It is believed that most Romans were keener to
please their 'lares' than the public gods such as Jupiter.