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Roman and Greek Religious Characteristics Essay


The ancient Roman and Greek societies practiced religious activities that had a number of similarities and differences. The similarities were premised on their beliefs in the existence of gods and the way they offered sacrifices. On the other hand, the Roman and the Greek societies differed on the use of prophecy and the manner in which they worshiped the gods. This essay analyzes the characteristics of the Roman and Greek religions. It also highlights their similarities and differences.

The religious similarities of the Roman and Greek societies are attributed to the geographical proximity of the two societies. First, the societies believed in the existence of several gods1. In addition, the two societies recognized that it was their duty to worship the gods. Secondly, they shared the same gods but called them using different names. For instance, the Greek name of Heracles corresponded to Hercules in the Roman society, the Greek god called Zeus was similar to Jupiter for the Romans, and the Roman god Pluto was analogous to the Greek god named Hades2 (gods of the underworld).

Secondly, there exist similarities in the way the Roman and Greek societies worshiped their gods3. Domestic animals such as cattle and sheep were roasted on altar as sacrifices to the gods. The worship was both public and private in the two religions. For public sacrifices, the Romans used the altars of the temples as worshipping places. On the other hand, private worship was at a household level of the Roman society. In the Greek society, worship had also private and public forms. During public worships, the Greeks offered prayers in the public hearth and home. In both Roman and Greek religions, prayers, singing, and feasting were common during worshiping4.

There are several religious differences between the ancient Roman and Greek societies. First, temple prostitution was practiced widely in the Greek society. It was common in the deification of the goddess of love, sex and desire called Aphrodite5. The Greek religion allowed female devotees of the goddess of love to have sex with men for money. The money collected was used to maintain and preserve the shrines and other places of worship. The origin of the temple prostitution in the Greek society is thought to have been influenced by religions of Egypt, the Levant and Asia Minor.

On the other hand, the temple prostitution was not allowed as a form of worship in the Roman religion. Although the Romans had gods and goddesses that were similar to the Greek gods, the practice used by the Greeks in deification of the goddess of love, Aphrodite, was unacceptable for the Roman society6. Priests, diviners, and political leaders of the Roman society did not approve sexualized worshiping of the Venus (goddess similar to Aphrodite). Instead, the Romans practiced a conservative worship in their houses by only offering sacrifices to the gods. Furthermore, the temple prostitution was an outlawed practice and committing it was punishable. The Roman leadership outlawed the temple prostitution out of the fear that female slaves could have had an opportunity to engage in sexual acts. The Romans believed that the places of worship were sacred, and hence they were not supposed to have access to them. In addition, the slaves were not allowed to enter or worship in the Roman temples. Therefore, prostitution was heavily taxed to discourage its adoption as a way of worship in the Roman society.

The Greeks believed in the divinity of prophecy. They had a long history of soothsaying and fortune telling. In addition, the Greeks consulted such oracles as Apollo’s oracle at Delphi to predict the future. On the other hand, superstitions and prophecy were uncommon in the Roman worship practices. The Romans believed in the scientific ways of making discoveries as opposed to consulting the oracles. At the same time, the Roman society outlawed any form of witchcraft and astrology in the worship of their gods7. The Roman religion perceived prophecy as witchcraft as the Romans considered it to involve the magic powers.

Thirdly, the Greek society gave much respect to their emperors8. They gave them divine honor by worshipping their rulers when they were still alive. This was anchored on the belief that emperors became gods after their deaths. On the other hand, the Romans never worshipped their emperors. They only believed that there were only true gods who deserved to be worshipped. Lastly, the Greeks practiced Bacchic rites, which were disapproved by the Romans. The Greek women were allowed to drink and dance to please their gods during the Bacchic festivals. The Romans were conservative in their religious practices. They never accepted external religions to influence their way of worship. This made it difficult for them to borrow Bacchic rites from the religions of the neighboring societies. The priest and political leaders were strict on any form of worship that was introduced to the Romans by other religions.

Bibliography

Jennings Rose, Herbert. Ancient Greek and Roman Religion. Leiden, Netherlands: Barnes & Noble, 1995.

Koenig, Harold, Dana King, and Verna B. Carson, Handbook of religion and health. London: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Kollman, Paul. “At the Origins of Mission and Missiology: A Study in the Dynamics of Religious Language.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79, no. 2 (2011): 425-458.

Prus, Robert. “On the Necessity of Re-engaging the Classical Greek and Latin Literatures: Lessons from Emile Durkheim’s The Evolution of Educational Thought.” The American Sociologist 43, no. 2 (2012): 172-202.

Rupke, Jorg. A Companion to Roman Religion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Footnotes

  1. Robert Prus, “On the Necessity of Re-engaging the Classical Greek and Latin Literatures: Lessons from Emile Durkheim’s The Evolution of Educational Thought,” The American Sociologist 43, no. 2 (2012): 172-202.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Herbert Jennings Rose, Ancient Greek and Roman Religion (Leiden, Netherlands: Barnes & Noble, 1995), 10-30.
  4. Herbert Jennings Rose, Ancient Greek and Roman Religion (Leiden, Netherlands: Barnes & Noble, 1995), 10-30.
  5. Paul Kollman, “At the Origins of Mission and Missiology: A Study in the Dynamics of Religious Language,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79, no. 2 (2011): 425-458.
  6. Jorg Rupke, A Companion to Roman Religion (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 500-515.
  7. Harold Koenig, Dana King, and Verna B. Carson, Handbook of religion and health (Oxford University Press, 2012), 87-89.
  8. Jorg Rupke, A Companion to Roman Religion (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 500-515.
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IvyPanda. "Roman and Greek Religious Characteristics." August 22, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/roman-and-greek-religious-characteristics/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Roman and Greek Religious Characteristics." August 22, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/roman-and-greek-religious-characteristics/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Roman and Greek Religious Characteristics'. 22 August.

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