Roman Private Religion

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  • Created by: MaaB
  • Created on: 13-06-16 18:47

Significant Events And Private Religion

  • Normal citizens would not take part in Roman state religion.
  • However, religion was involved in Romans' daily routine.
  • Specific numina were believed to protect different parts of the home and every family was believed to have a genius (guardian spirit).
  • The spirits of dead ancestors were also given special attention and the Romans carried out many rituals in private.
  • This was to try to ensure that they were at 'peace with the gods'. 
  • At the heart of Roman life was the belief in pietas.
  • This stands for a senseof duty theRomans felt - in particular , to their families, gods, and country.
  • This sense of pietas and the Romans belief in honouring family (dead/alive), was clearly demonstrated in the traditions associated with life's critical satges.
  • Births, marriages, and deaths were all of great spiritual significance.
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Religion And Daily Routine For Men

  • The Romans believed numina were everywhere and in everything:
    • Lares were powerful spirits protecting the home and family; Vesta watched over the hearth; Janus guarded the door; The Penates looked after the store cupboard; Genius - guardian spirits protected paterfamilias and ensured his fertility. Manes/kindly ones: spirits of the family's dead ancestors (special attention was given to them).
  • The paterfamilias would ensure that each day, prayers or offerings were made to the various powers and that the necessary ceremonies were performed.
  • Most homes included a lararium (chapel) to the numina in the atrium.
  • At shrine, offerings/sacrifices made and prayers recited by paterfamilias in ceremony.
  • The sacrifices often took the form of food and drink.
  • Believed that gods took required and humans could consume the rest.
  • The main meal of the day would be accompanied by sacrifices and offerings.
  • The fire of the hearth would be guarded by the women.
  • The hearth in the home had to be kept alight like ToV.
  • Before everyone slept, fire would be stocked, so it could burn alone at night.
  • In the morning, it would be built up anew - from what little fire there was.
  • The fire was meant to burn forever, and it was only when the family moved to another home, would the fire be put out with wine and a small ritual.
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Births And Marriages

  • Offerings would be made to different spirits, both during pregnancy and shortly after a child was born.
  • 9 days after a child was born, a ceremony called the dies lustricus took place where the child was named.
  • The naming of a child was significant as male children would be given both the tribal and family names of his ancestors as a mark of respect.
  • A bulla would be presented to children which was intended to bring luck and protection to the child.
  • A Roman marriage was also a time to demonstrate pietas and included a number of rituals and routines to show respect to the lares.
  • Weddings often took place in June as Juno was believed to be the protector of marriages.
  • The day before a wedding, a girl would offer her toys to the family lares (household spirits).
  • A wedding ceremony would begin with sacrifices and a priest holding the omens.
  • At important weddings, the Chief Priest would run the ceremony.
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  • Mourning/grief was open - Romans designed a flask to measure a woman's weeping - they would be expected to lament by tearing their clothes/hair. 
  • A close relative tried to catch the final breath with a kiss, then close his eyes. All present shouted the dead person's name and careful preparations began.
  • Bodies washed/anointed to prevent decay (rich men lay unburied for a week). Dressed in fine clothes and placed on a special couch in the atrium, surrounded by flowers/wreaths/candles.
  • The hearth's fire would be extinguished for mourning.
  • A herald announced a wealthy man's funeral and undertakers were hired.
  • Torch-bearers/hired mourners led procession e.g. clowns and dancers singing.
  • Pliny the Younger: "wax portraits were made to accompany the family's funeral procession. So whenever someone died, every member of the family who had ever existed was present."
  • Mourners wore portrait heads + dressed in ancestors' finest cloth to show status. Sometimes ancestors travelled by chariot or held by slaves in open coffins. The uncovered corpse lay on a coffin behind ancestors. Following them were living family-mourners and burials happened outside city walls.
  • For cremation the corpse was placed on a funeral pyre and mourners poured wine over ashes and put them in an urn. The urn/coffin was placed in a family tomb.
  • Inscriptions to remember the dead were made on the tomb - like gravestones.
  • They thought it was important to look after ghosts, and feared they'd be haunted if they failed to do so, so things the dead man might need would be left by the tomb.
  • Wine would be poured into special holes in the tomb and banquets would be held on the anniversary of the dead to remember them.
  • The poor had little ceremony and were quietly buried at night in a cemetery.
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