Old Roman Religion

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Outline the central beliefs of Old Roman Religion and Roman ideas about divinity. In what ways do these beliefs and ideas differ from the modern view of religion? The citizens of Ancient Rome had very strong religious beliefs. Old Roman Religion had many central beliefs such as keeping peace with the gods through sacrifice, prayer and divination, as well as keeping a reciprocal relationship with the gods. There were countless numbers of non-anthropomorphic gods and numen for all aspects of life and they were all worshipped using strict procedures. The beliefs and ideas of Old Roman Religion differ entirely from the modern views practised in the world today. The idea of pax deorum was crucial to the followers of Old Roman Religion. The phrase, literally translates to ‘peace with the gods.’ It was accepted that if a Roman approached the right god, in the right way at the right time, then the god would use his/her numen (divine spirit) to benefit the citizen, and if they neglected these things the gods could use their numen to harm them. For this reason, Romans attempted to keep pax deorum through the practise of prayer, sacrifice and divination. By means of prayer, the suppliant aimed to receive the goodwill of the god, but deciding which god to pray to was an important task in prayer. The Romans believed you must stick to the correct rituals, and as the gods had many different titles depending on their role. For example, Jupiter could be called Jupiter Pluvius when he was the god of rain or Jupiter Capitolinus when in his residence in his temple in Rome. In order to get around this difficulty, many people used lines such as “By whatever name you wish may you be blessed” and this particular example is seen in Horace’s Ode to Diana. Sacrifices were used as a means to get ‘onside’ with the gods and were an example of quid pro quo, meaning “something for something.” By sacrificing food or animals as holy offerings to the god, the citizens felt they should then be...
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