Roman religion


July 5, 2022

The history of Roman religion dates back to the early 1st millennium BCE, but does not record until the early 3rd century BCE. fixed form. Like the vast majority of ancient religions, it belongs to the polytheistic folk and tribal religions. It is characterized by a multitude of rites whose purpose was to maintain natural and public order. In this it deviates from religions that aimed and have the salvation of the individual, such as Christianity. Its practice as an obligatory state religion of ancient Rome ended with the Edicts of Tolerance of 311 and 313 AD. in favor of Christianity. She disappeared at the beginning of the 6th century.



In the polytheistic Roman religion, with its phenomenological view of nature and its striving to preserve the Pax Deorum (the divine pretended peaceful order), originally-unlike the ancient Greek religion, from which it differed greatly--an anthropomorphic pantheon, where the gods and goddesses were experienced as beings with human features. The unnameable, in the proper sense “dreaded” gods and goddesses of Rome therefore remained shadowy. As a result, the Romans did not have an original, or only weakly developed, Roman mythology of their own. Nevertheless, the Romans did have a personal understanding of their gods and goddesses, and regarded them as individuals with a will of their own, but often, behind the divine act of will, the deity withdrew as such. For the essence of Roman religion, the business concept of power numen (pl. numina) was central, which means something like "divine works". This has been since the 2nd century BC. recorded. The divine, respectively numinous, will was able to express itself in all living beings, just as in natural and social events and actions, so that the Roman world through a multitude of abstract numina, mainly concepts of Roman values: aequitas ("honesty"), concordia ("unity"), gravitas ("seriousness"), honor ("honor"), libertas ("freedom"), mens ("spirit"), pietas ("sense of duty"), salus ("salvation"), sobrietas ( "austerity"), spes ("hope") and virtus ("courage") as function gods, which people observed cultically and socially-judicially. The developments of religion during the period of its existence did not essentially change the significant Roman, impersonal view of the transcendent and the inner attitude of the Romans towards their religion. Even after the profound monotheistic transformations of late antiquity, the concept of numen, the divine working for the divine form, could continue to be prominent.

The religion

The Romans associated the concept of religio with the verb religere (to reread, to repeat, to observe closely). The other, also possible, reduction to religare (to bind again, to bind properly) has been particularly accepted in the Christian milieu since the Imperial era. Thus, in the second case, religio denotes the personal bonding of people to a transcendent power ("God"), in the first, the careful observance of traditional cultic practices, which were intended to restore relations between the human and the "sacred" spheres. Outward intercourse with the gods had the reciprocal character of the do ut des mentality ("I give in order that you may give"): people performed ritual duties punctually and did something for the gods, whereupon one of these - not even above standing by the standards, but bound by them – expected something in return. Without this showing a defective interiority of religion, the concept of religio predominated in pre-Christian times as the sum of the entire cult practice, which bound people and gods together. Also concepts such as pietas (a sense of duty towards gods and people) have a meaning in the pagan world,