Print Сite this

The Development of the Roman Gods

The Roman Empire was anchored on a polytheistic religious foundation, meaning that the ancient civilization acknowledged multiple gods and goddesses. Wasson, however, notes that groups within the larger empire, such as followers of Judaism and early Christianity, honored a single deity. Apparently, coexistence between monotheists and polytheists was not always easy, as the groups were skeptical about each other. Conflicts could easily arise if one group tried to impose its religious ideals on another. The fact that monotheists are usually critical about each other’s deities is a reflection of how religious tenets might have influenced and affected life among ancient Romans. A critical review of the history of religion and the theory of gods in the ancient Roman Empire reveals that the people had a strong belief that deities played a major role in the establishment of the civilization and continued to influence all aspects of life.

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Religion has had a significant influence and impact on the development of many ancient and modern societies, which is equally the case with the Roman Empire. Wasson posits that the Roman Civilization thrived on polytheism from the beginning of recorded history. The people believed in an array of spirits and gods who served different purposes. In essence, Romans demonstrated tolerance towards conquered communities during their empire expansion because they embraced polytheism. Wasson notes that Rome added Greek Gods and various other foreign cults to its list of gods and goddesses, although they refrained from imposing their belief systems on conquered societies. Their tolerance was a strategy to hoodwink and avoid excess resistance from captured communities. Strangely, the foreign religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, would later overpower the Romans’ polytheism, an eventuality presumed to be one of the factors behind the decline and fall of the empire.

The development of Roman gods can be understood through a review of early religious beliefs and their influences on people’s lives. Wasson posits that the Roman religion was animistic, which refers to the belief that mystical spirits dictate and control all aspects of human existence and natural phenomena. Nevertheless, early Romans believed their ancestors, who operated as intermediaries between the living and gods, watched over them. Roman citizens adopted several gods from foreign communities, particularly those whom they encountered during the territorial expansion. For instance, they acquired the Capitoline Triad due to the encounter with the Sabine people, whom Romans attacked and kidnapped their women in a bid to populate conquered cities in France (North). According to Wasson, the Capitoline Triad comprised three gods: Mars, the god of war; Quirinus, the god who watched over the people; and Jupiter, presumed to be the supreme god. Romans worshipped these gods and the preexisting spirits at the Capitoline Hill temple.

Developments in the Romans’ view of spirits, gods, and goddesses affected their interactions and relationships with conquered communities. For instance, they adopted and included new gods, Juno and Minerva, to the Capitoline Triad following their encounter with the Etruscan, which was an Italian civilization (Cartwright). Even in the new formation, Jupiter remained the supreme god, whereas Juno was presumed to be his wife and Minerva their daughter (Grant). Cartwright notes that Romans merged different belief systems from conquered civilizations, such as the Etruscan, from which they adopted Juno and Minerva. Wasson argues that Romans were flexible and quick with the adoption of foreign gods, as they used this strategy for assimilation. They believed their association with foreign gods protected them from possible punishment and wrath. However, they seldom compelled conquered communities to embrace the Roman gods, much as they were active in manipulating other aspects of the captured communities’ cultures, such as social organization and governance.

The influence of Greek culture and religion on Romans was similarly instrumental in shaping the Roman belief systems and views about spirits, gods, and goddesses. North asserts that the Greeks had several colonies in the Lower Peninsula, which offered the platform for their interactions with Romans. Ostensibly, the Greeks continued to uphold their strong mythology, which infiltrated Roman’s flexible religious fabric. Wasson notes that Roman gods became anthropomorphic following the interactions between the two early civilizations. People would now define gods using human characteristics, such as love, hate, and jealousy. Nevertheless, religion and worship remained practical among the Romans, even as they assimilated various mythological perspectives from Greeks. In essence, they worshipped and performed rituals to please gods, many of whom presumably resided in temples built around cities. However, the fusion had an insignificant influence on Greeks’ perspectives of deities, as they were less willing to accept strange religious ideologies.

Gods and spirits influenced every aspect of life among Romans, making religion an integral part of their culture. According to Wasson, Greek gods and goddesses impacted the development of the concept of deities among Romans, which influenced their perspectives about life. Romans had increased contact with Greeks due to the expansion that saw the former acquire the latter’s territories in the Italian peninsula. In effect, Romans adopted numerous aspects of the Greek culture, including cultural practices and gods, which resulted in the two civilizations sharing many religious aspects. Grant posits that Romans rebranded and renamed gods and goddesses espoused from the Greek culture, although they upheld the deities’ characteristics and underlying mythologies. In essence, the purpose of renaming was to ensure that the gods suited the Roman context, which helped to align the concept of deities with culture.

A review of the roles of various gods and goddesses gives a succinct glimpse of their influence on Roman culture. In addition to the three gods who formed the Capitoline Triad, which were Mars, Quirinus, and Jupiter, Romans adapted numerous other gods from Greeks. These included Venus, who was presumed to be the goddess of love; Neptune, who acted as the sea god; and Pluto, who was the deity responsible for the underworld. Wasson notes that each of these gods had a parallel deity among the Greeks, although the names differed. Preceding discussions indicate that the gods constituting the triad had unique roles and responsibilities. For instance, Mars was the god of war, whereas Jupiter oversaw all other immortals and humans. Based on the review of the various roles of gods and goddesses in the ancient civilization, it is apparent that all aspects of the cultural practice were attributed to a particular deity.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

The issue of god was so important among Romans that their rulers played a critical role in the advancement of the concept of religion. Leaders led the people in performing various rituals meant to please gods and goddesses, which occurred in temples throughout the empire. Wasson notes that Emperor Augustus Caesar was among the earliest rulers to serve as the chief priest from the imperial palace, which he occupied from 27 BCE to 14 CE. However, people worshipped from outside because they considered worship centers as holy grounds where deities lived. Grant asserts that rulers led the people in performing elaborate rituals, usually with the help of experts to interpret omens, whenever Rome contemplated going to war. A leader could not declare war or other major events before seeking the approval of concerned gods or goddesses. Hence, invoking the will of gods became an important component of the Roman culture.

The Romans’ consistency in seeking the authority of supernatural powers before making major decisions indicates their strong religious belief in the power of deities. Wasson asserts that the influence of the exposure to the lees-practical Greek mythology did not distract Roman’s commitment to sacrifices and rituals. Apparently, Greek mythology was primarily centered on intercession and meditation, whereas Romans embraced rituals. Seers intervened with interpretations of different signs, such as omens, before or during battles. Their views were considered critical because they amounted to deities’ messages. Wasson reports that Romans lost the First Punic War fought between 264 and 241 BCE because Publius Claudius Pulcher, who served as the commander, disregarded a diviner’s interpretation of omens. In essence, the emergence and development of the concept of Roman gods imparted all aspects of the people’s culture to the extent of attaching both their losses and victory in battles to deities’ intervention.

Trends in the development of the concept of religion and god among Romans can be attributed to their increased interactions with foreign communities. Grant notes that Romans borrowed and adopted many of their ancient religious ideologies from Greeks, Italians, and other groups that they captured during their expansion. However, they embraced foreign religious practices and ideologies, which lead to a gradual loss of their original precepts of god and religion to Christianity and Judaism. Resultantly, there are hardly any traces of Roman mythology, rituals, and religious practices in different parts of the world. Nonetheless, contemporary religions, such as Christianity, continue to uphold the trinity concept of deity. The view that a powerful being is mandated to oversee and protect humanity and the world exists in modern religions and cultures. Even so, the fact that some planets are named after Roman deities cannot be overemphasized, as their identities are a manifestation of the ancient civilization.

In overview, it is apparent that Romans had a firm belief in the power of gods, as they held by the view that deities played a critical role in the establishment of their civilization. In addition, they believed that spirits, gods, and goddesses were in charge of natural phenomena, including the existence of humans. Romans adopted numerous religious concepts about deities from conquered communities encountered during the imperial expansion. They acquired the idea of the Capitoline Triad comprised of three gods: Mars, Quirinus, and Jupiter, from an ancient Italian civilization called Etruscan, which they later supplemented with numerous other gods of the Greek origin. Ostensibly, gods and goddesses were important to both individual people and the state, as they influenced outcomes in personal and state endeavors, such as battles. Unfavorable circumstances were primarily attributed to the mood of a particular god or goddess. Hence, people made offerings and performed rituals to appease the deities. Nonetheless, many of the ancient Roman ideologies about deities have been abandoned because they were overpowered by monotheistic religions, such as Christianity.

Works Cited

Cartwright, Mark. “Etruscan Civilization.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2017, Web.

Grant, Michael. “Roman Religion.” Britanica, 2016, Web.

North, John. “The Religious History of the Roman Empire.” Oxford Research Encyclopedias. 2017, Web.

We will write a custom
for you!
Get your first paper with
15% OFF
Learn More

Wasson, Donald L. “Roman Religion.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2013, Web.

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2022, April 8). The Development of the Roman Gods. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, April 8). The Development of the Roman Gods.

Work Cited

"The Development of the Roman Gods." StudyCorgi, 8 Apr. 2022,

* Hyperlink the URL after pasting it to your document

1. StudyCorgi. "The Development of the Roman Gods." April 8, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "The Development of the Roman Gods." April 8, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Development of the Roman Gods." April 8, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Development of the Roman Gods'. 8 April.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.