Religion in Pompeii and Herculaneum

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Religion in Pompeii and Herculaneum

By | December 2012
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Religion was an important part of everyday life in Pompeii and Herculaneum. It defined the way in which society went about things, and had a large influence in both towns. There were many differing religions available to the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum, ranging from foreign cults like that of the Egyptian god Isis, to cults that believed the emperor himself to be a god. All of these differing religions seem to be openly accepted and therefore indicates a fairly open societal mind when it came to religion. Evidence supporting this ideal teaches us about how they followed religion and the methods and locations for which they celebrated and worshipped associated deities. As religion was so integral to the people, it was important to have religion in the home. The lararium in the House of Vettii is an excellent example of this. A lararium is a room in the home in which the Lares or household gods of the house owners were worshipped. These proceedings were led by the paterfamilias or ‘father of the house’, who essentially acted as a priest within the home. Inside the lararium it could be any real kind of depiction of the god or gods being worshipped, including frescoes and small statues. Analysing this, it is evident that religion was part of everyday life, but not just in temples. It was on a more personal and intimate level, with the home occupants worshipping the gods most relevant to them. This ability to almost ‘pick and choose’ indicates a great deal of freedom within the ideas of religion and implies, in essence, a polytheistic society who is accepting of foreign ideals. Foreign god and goddesses seem to have permeated the religious scene in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Isis was an Egyptian god, who was seen to be the perfect mother, wife and the patroness of nature and magic by the Roman people. She was also said to be friend to slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, as well as listening to the prayers of the rich. She promised her devotees eventual...