Religion in Ancient Rome Religion played an important role in the everyday lives of the Ancient Romans an influenced many of their actions and routines. They were eager to please the gods and goddesses they worshipped so that they would benefit in return. The Romans sometimes went to extreme lengths for their beliefs, sacrifices being an example. The Romans worshipped thousands of gods, each serving an important role. The most important God was Jupiter, king of the gods. His wife Juno was the goddess of the sky. Some other important gods were Mars, God of War; Mercury, the messenger of gods; Neptune, the God of the sea; Minerva, Goddess of healing and wisdom; and Venus, Goddess of love. The Romans also considered Emperor Augustus to be a god and they worshipped him.
Kind of like how Christian saints have feast days, important gods had their own festival days which were usually public holidays. On those days, the Romans would visit a temple designated to that specific god or goddess and at the temple animals would be sacrificed (killed) for the gods. There were temples built all throughout the Empire, each dedicated to a specific god. Most of them were built the same way, with a triangular roof and steps leading up to huge pillars, behind which were the doors to the temple. The insides were extravagantly decorated with a statue of the god inside of it, plus an altar for the priest where sacrifices were made. Family homes also had small altars and shrines in them, and families had personal household gods that they worshipped every day. The shrines had statues of the gods in them and families prayed around the shrine each day. The daily service was so important to them that slaves participated in it as well.
As the Roman Empire grew, Romans would meet people who worshipped other gods and if those people happened to be good fighters, the Romans assumed they worshipped good gods and they would begin to worship those gods as well. As a result, many gods were added to the Roman religion over time and their names and personalities were changed to be more Roman. Worshipping Roman gods was a law for all Roman citizens, and they were punished if they didn’t. Christianity began in the Roman Empire but it was illegal because Christians refused to worship Roman gods. They had to meet in secret and if they were caught, they were arrested and often killed.
Despite potential consequences, Christianity appealed to Romans for a couple reasons. One was that Christians believed that people went to heaven when they died, which the Roman religion did not. People who worshipped the gods believed only the gods could go to heaven and everyone else went to the underworld. Another reason is that in Christianity, everyone considered themselves equal to each other. This especially appealed to poor Romans who were treated inferior to the wealthy and nobility because of the caste system. Christianity became legal in 313 CE when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.
The religion soon became the most powerful in Rome and it became the law that to be a Roman citizen, one must be a Christian.Sources: https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/ancient-rome/ancient-rome-and-religion/ http://rome.mrdonn.org/religion.html