The Role of Religion in the Roman Republic
Presented to [Prof]
From our modern Christianized bias,Ã¯Â¿Â½ Roman religion might seem strange because it is so different from what we are used to. The lack of division between religion and state meant that the interpreted opinion of the Roman god directly influenced internal and foreign affairs, including which bills should be passed and when Rome should go to war. Religion affected every aspect of Roman life except for the private morals of citizens. It was more of a public religion, with praying and rituals usually occurring in a community setting, such as public vows, and rites concerning house and field. With no internalized norms dictated by religion and enforced with guilt, Rome had a shame culture. Having mostly male high-ranking gods and officials impacted society by legitimizing its extreme patriarchy, though it is of course arguable that the egg came before the chicken.
Because of corruption among the aristocracy, Roman religion began to decline during the late third century BCE.
Before discussing the role of religion in the Republic, it is important to first discuss the religion itself. Roman religion was a mash-up of original gods and borrowed gods. Some of these borrowed gods came from conquered people, such as the Umbrians, while some early gods were from the Sabines, whose geographical situation allowed Sabinium to later become part of the modern city of Rome by 750 BCE. As for original gods, Rome had many. During the fifth to fourth century BCE these original gods were amorphous and nebulous, with no developed personalities. This shifted throughout the fifth to second century when the Romans discovered Greek religion, and incorporated their fully formed gods with narratives and corporal bodies into Rome religion.
Though it was heavily Hellenised, there...