Church And State In The Roman Empire

Essay, Research Paper

Essay Topic #2

As most of the civilizations studied so far in Western Civilization – the Romans were a religious people. From the rise of the Roman Empire to the fall of its institutions, there was always a backdrop of religious involvement in the affairs of the state and people. Polytheism seems to reign throughout the majority of the Empire. Although the book states very little about the religious affairs of the people, one can conclude that this society was totally influenced by their beliefs that the gods had a hand in all the affairs of the State and of the people.

When looking at how long the Roman Empire lasted one has to ask how. How did the Romans rise to become such a great empire? How did the Empire last? Was it luck? Was it that the whole region of the Mediterranean was weak and susceptible to being overtaken? The answer to these questions after studying the religion of the Roman Empire is most definitely not. The Romans believed that the “Gods” were with them. How could they loose a battle or not gain the upper hand on in a land dispute with the power of the gods fueling the winds for them.

Having the blessing of the gods did not come easy though. The Romans went through a great deal of trouble to please the many gods and goddesses they worshipped. Pontiffs were set to insure that the rituals of the state set forth to please the gods were performed correctly. Most interesting is the office of the augurs. These people seemingly had the most authority and power in the affairs of the Empire. Not one affair or decision of the state could be made with out first consulting the augurs.

It can be assumed that if no decisions of the state was made without first consulting the augurs. It can be assumed that the officers in the field of the battle carried with them an entourage of augurs. (Can you imagine a general going to the tent of a bunch of psychics to get his battle plan approved.)? By doing this the Romans made sure they would succeed in all their endeavors. If the augurs read the signs that the battle forthcoming was not approved of it did not happen. The gods obviously approved of most battle plans brought before them. This religious aspect of the roman civilizations helped make Rome on e of the great empires in early history. The most interesting about the history augurs reading signs is that the people believed. What the augers said was as good as gold. Imagine a general of one Rome’s greatest armies about to overtake a new rich territory. All he has to do is wipeout the last small standing army the territory. The general knows he his to be victorious. But wait just minute… the first officer has just returned from the tent of the augurs. The augurs have read the horse dung in the field and dung told them the battle is not to be won. They go on to say the army should retreat and head back for their own safe territory. One can assume there were many situations such as this although not as extreme for which the historian or student cam marvel at the faith of the people had in their beliefs.

The religious beliefs of the government obviously carried over to the home front in ancient Rome. Families were like a state within a state. They practiced worshipping and paying homage to the gods just as the rulers did. Slightly different was the families focus on which god or goddess was to be worshipped. The family had smaller things to worry about such as the state of their homes, how there storehouse would hold up to the famine taking place in the land, etc. An example of how they counseled with the gods is the way they went about saying a prayer to the god of Mars. (Who was the god of vegetation and the god of war.) They had to say every little part of the prayer correctly or he would not accept it. The security of the family depended on whether the gods approved of and accepted their prayers and offerings. The family believed that the gods controlled their fate.

Quite noticeable is the fact that Romans had many great successes over the thousand years the empire ruled. The great faith the people put into their beliefs seems to be the driving force behind the success of the Roman Empire. This is how Rome became so great. They paid closed attention to the gods and obviously, the gods smiled down upon them and blessed them with much success.


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