Roman State Religion Essay

2205 words - 9 pages

Unlike the majorities of other religions, the roman State religion was practical and contractual. ‘I give you that you might give’ was the principle of do ut des, thus the romans considered their religion more like a business contract between Rome and the gods rather than a religion full of love and faith. This made State religion depend solely on the knowledge and the correct ways of prayer, rituals and sacrifices, rather than on faith or dogma. Many requirements were necessary in State religion for prayers to be effective, such sacrifices and offerings. An account of this matter was made by Pliny the Elder when he declared that “a sacrifice without prayer is thought to be useless and not a proper consultation of the gods.” (6) Accurate naming of the god or goddess desired was also very crucial for a successful prayer, as each gods/goddesses has specific powers. Public prayers were conducted only by the priesthoods of Rome, where a clear ritual had to be enacted by specialists and professionals, loudly without fault. If a mistake was made during a prayer, the whole ritual was required to begin from the start, as the romans believed that the gods did not think that faulty prayers were worth accepting. Thus, by observing this, the attitude the Romans had towards their religion can be identified. Significantly as for state religion, the romans believed that their gods were only concerned about the correctness of rituals and that a virtuous behaviour to ensure the favours of the gods was not required. Correct prayers and the finest sacrifices being performed was basically all that was required for the romans to fulfill their side of the ‘contract’ and if the Romans did not obtain the favour of the god they prayed to, the priest was guilty of trickery.

Held by the members of the elite classes, the priesthoods in roman State religion had no principle corresponding to ‘separation of church and state’. Correspondingly, this meant that during the Roman Republic (509-27 BC), the same men who were elected as public officials were able to serve as augurs and pontiffs. A classic example of this was Julius Caesar, who became the Pontifex Maximus before being elected as the consul. By the Augurs, who were to responsible to read the will of the gods, the government announced that the expansionism of Rome was a matter of ‘divine destiny’. This obviously then led the Roman Triumph to a religious procession, where the victorious generals displayed his piety by willingly dedicating a portion of his goods to his gods. Consequently, Jupiter was one of the most glorified god in Rome during this expansionism, as he the god of war. As a result, Magistrates were able to build a number of new temple in Rome in order to ‘fulfill’ vows with the deities for assurance of their military success as Rome struggled to establish itself as a dominant power.
Through the understanding of the fundamentals of both Druidism and State religion, we can start to discover the attitude...

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