Kingdom of Rome:

In the early days of antiquity, the Latin tribes of the Italian Peninsula had begun practicing all sorts of festivities and praising numerous deities for a bountiful harvest, ease of mind, as well as sharing a common goal and uniting under, or being conquered by the city state of Rome. Rome itself and its denizens had acquired a lot of the practices from its neighbors, be they traditions, way of speech or the similar deities they praise that would later create their pantheon of gods. Historic sources tell of numerous tales as to how Rome began creating its mythology, and the most popular one is that of the brothers Romulus and Remus. Shunned and expelled by their uncle who seized the throne of the early city state after their grandfather passed away, their mother was forced to abandon them to the wilds. Yet the brothers survived thanks to the den mother wolf that adopted them and began breastfeeding them, ensuring their survival. As the brothers came to maturity, they were able to reclaim their rightful legacy, but they started squabbling as to how the walls of the city should be built, which resulted in Romulus killing his twin brother Remus, solidifying his rule with the practice of fratricide, and creating the Kingdom of Rome. The early days of the Kingdom were marked with numerous events, most notable were the acceptance of Hellenic culture, traditions and deities that were retold in versions suitable to the Roman practices, but the fledging kingdom quickly spiraled into civil conflict as most of the citizen residing therein were plebeians, who alongside the women, had no right to vote, worship nor even be subjected to the law. After a short conflict, the plebeians alongside their electorate were officially the ones responsible for maintaining the social, political, religious and traditional worship of the various deities, as they were the pillar that brought all the classes of Rome together. Generals that sought to assure their victories in their conquests would often erect temples dedicated to various gods to be blessed by their favor, and as per tradition, would donate half their spoils of war to the temples. Cults emerged when a plethora of deities were gathered from all corners of the dominion of Rome, each dedicated to the augury, haruspicy, omens and prodigies of gods. They were to be its connection to the mortal realm and convey messages of blessings.But as is the norm, the cults began spreading the message of their god as being superior to that of the early pantheon and chief deities of Rome, resulting in superstitions and magics being frowned upon by the common populace, with authorities punishing such practices with rigorous laws Rejecting common sense and logic and succumbing to witchcraft was punishable.

Late Roman Kingdom

Republic of Rome:

As Rome conquered territories that included various peoples and their own mythologies, pantheons and religions, the Romans would allow the continuation of worship as per traditions to their subjects, to ensure the loyalty of those they conquered. Still, they required them to the pantheons and cults of Rome, which resulted in statues and temples dedicated to various gods being built in every corner of the Old World, as all of them were followed and worshiped. That resulted in another problem for the Romans. The monotheistic religions, like the Abrahamic ones of Judaism and later Christianity, rejected the plethora of deities and cults they worshiped, resulting in conflicts and wars of religious nature. The various practices that were done in order to receive the blessing of the god were either common or extreme in some regards. Prayers were seen as the most common way of worship. Sacrifices came in numerous ways, from fruits and vegetables alongside water and wine, to animal sacrifices of particular coloration and type to certain gods, to the very rare instances of human sacrifice being done as a form of punishment to the peoples that rebelled or fought against the rule of Rome, which resulted in them being banned and forbidden in practice.

Roman temple, known as the Temple of Diana, in Évora, Portugal.

Roman Empire:

With general Julius becoming the first Caesar of Rome, the Empire would begin an age of religious shifting toward establishing the imperial cult. The imperial cult had begun with the worship and deification of the deceased leaders of Rome, as well as the princeps or the first and foremost among citizens, offering them kingly or god like honors on the day of their triumphs and accomplishments. With Julius Caesar becoming the first and last one to reach divinity, while his successor Augustus further developed and spread the imperial cult to be a more stable and less ravenous cult worship of leaders. Therefore, he set up the framework for being the common Roman identity as secured the dynastic stability of future generations in the sea of never ending versions of worshiping deities. The cease in hostilities with the Judean religious followers came when the religion officially became a tolerated practice in the Roman territories, under the ever watchful eye preventing it becoming a superstition. With the appearance of Christianity, Rome would officially brand it as a novel yet superstitious sect of a cult of Judaism. Its followers refused to practice any other from of worship other than the ones agreed upon and shared with other Christians. With the Great Fire of Rome being blamed on the Christians’ behalf, the practitioners of such religion were persecuted without judgment, often resulting in them being executed or being thrown in the gladiatorial arenas to face off exotic beasts without a means to defend themselves. With the political and economic instability that followed Rome in history and the frivolity and decadence, the opulent imperials imposed their harsh rule to their downtrodden and poor subjects. Christianity found its followers there, quickly spreading to all corners and territories of the empire, securing its survival, as well as making sure it gets rid of the numerous cults and temples dedicated to various gods. In the western part of Rome, Christianity struggled to unite the citizens as various teachings of the religion squabbled among each other as to which version was right and just for all. This was not the case in the east, as it was a tool used by the emperors to secure the loyalty of their subjects via a common religion. Politics, economy and the military itself had become so intertwined with any deity worshipping in Rome’s history, that Christianity offered a common ground as to where all aspects of life in the empire would be united, thus ushering in the era of monotheism becoming the sole belief system in the Roman Empire.

Persecution of Christians in Rome