1. Originally, Roman religion was quite different from the Gk. religion that later overwhelmed it. Its basic element was awe and anxiety felt before the divine (or numen), expressed in religious observances, mainly agricultural, without myth, theology, temples, or statues of gods. Its oldest gods were Jupiter and Mars. It survived mainly in the religious festivals of the Roman calendar.
2. Under the Roman kings, Etruscan (Gk.?) influence led to construction of temples and other anthropomorphic features. Under guidance of the Sibylline (from Gk. Sibylla, a prophetess) oracle at Cumae, It., a series of Gk. cults were introd., some not without opposition. At the same time, many earlier deities survived, with reassigned functions, so that Roman religion had many minor deities. See also Sibylline Books and Oracles.
3. By the time of the NT, Roman religion was thoroughly hellenized; it had philos. elements, many mystery cults and E cults, and a certain skepticism about things religious (cf. M. T. Cicero,* De natura deorum). In the period of the empire there is also a growth of ruler worship (esp. in the E Roman empire), the conflict of which with Christianity is reflected in Rv.
C. Bailey, Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome (Berkeley, California, 1932); F. Altheim, A History of Roman Religion, tr. H. Mattingly (New York, [1937?]); Ancient Roman Religion, ed. and tr. F. C. Grant (New York, 1957). EK
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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